Heading to Newcastle for a sneaky weekend getaway, we were keen to check out a restaurant where a Sydney chef and Bacchus’ ex-restaurant manager were working. However as our trip approached everything changed when we heard both the chef and manager had resigned. Hmm where to now? It was only too easy to lock in a return visit to Bacchus.
Back into to the old Central Hall and once again we just loved it. There is a special atmosphere that a space like this brings with it; something that you will always enjoy about grande old venues, a sense that although it may now be a modern fixture there is something classic and nostalgic about it.
Cocktails – Negroni ($16.00) and Sloe Gin Fizz ($16.00).
We were definitely in the groove for some drinks to start the meal and see what the team at Bacchus had in store for us. Cocktails kicked things off with a somewhat customary, yet still delicious, Negroni for me and for Lex it was the familiar coupled with the foreign, a Sloe Gin Fizz. While I was quite content with my Bombay Sapphire Gin’d Negroni with a perfectly sized ice cube, it was Lex who was having a revelation. She loves her gin but usually just orders a gin and tonic. Her cocktail highlighted gin without tonic, a twist on the generic, the missing link, and something that could be her new best friend.
Mini dego, dego or large dego? It was a tough call but we decided to split the difference and go straight down the middle.
Degustation – $120.00 per person / with matched wine $195.00 per person
- Amuse Bouche
- Australian Asparagus, Curry, Curds, Grapes
(2007 Johanneshof Gewurtztraminer, Marlborough, New Zealand)
- Kingfish, Spanner Crab, Apple, Almond, Radish
(2009 J-Hugues & Ghislaine Goisot Cotes D’Auxerre Chardonnay, Burgundy, France)
- Margret of Duck, Pumpkin, Oats
(2010 Pittnaur ‘Dorflagen Villages’, Burgenland, Austria)
- New England Lamb, Farro, Black Garlic, Warrigal Greens
(2010 Mengoba ‘Flor de Brezo’ Mencia, Bierzo, Spain)
- Ginger & Autumn Fruits
(2009 Pressing Matters R139 Riesling, Coal River, Tasmania)
- ‘Chocolate & Honey’ – Ecuador Single Origin Chocolate, Tingira Heights Honey
(Campbells Classic Rutherglen Topaque, Rutherglen, Victoria)
- Petits Fours
Bread and butter.
I feel all meals should begin with bread and butter. It does sound simple but often this simple step is corrupted by restaurants with poor quality bread and butter, or overlooked by diners (sheer blasphemy). Bacchus seemed to have done two things with their humble bread roll. Firstly it looked a treat and secondly, most importantly, it tasted sensational. Somewhere between bread and scone there where tones of malt and butter flowing and even though it is a cardinal sin to finish all your bread before you’ve begun a degustation it was well worth it.
Normally I find the amuse bouche to be a little portal into the minds of the chefs. Well this amuse bouche was that and even more. Not only was this a not so little (loved the portion size) vision of the chefs but it was a homage to the history of Newcastle with coal set in its veins. The lumps of coal, aka brandade, were amazing, they just wowed us with how flavoursome and smooth they were. Not to be outshone, the avruga caviar lifted the amuse bouche to levels not often reached, flecks of dill and marigold flowers finished it off beautifully.
Australian Asparagus, Curry, Curds, Grapes.
2007 Johanneshof Gewurtztraminer, Marlborough, New Zealand.
It may have looked like a simple little pile of ingredients but this was nothing even close. There were a myriad of textures at play and each of them were able to impart something to the dish. Soft curd, toasty puffed wheat (someone in the kitchen has an addiction to this stuff) and quite a lot of dry ingredients I had no time to identify. Dry ingredients aside I found the fresh grapes to be the real hero of the dish, sweetly tart and ever so juicy they were the thing to balance out the curry element of dish.
Kingfish, Spanner Crab, Apple, Almond, Radish.
2009 J-Hugues & Ghislaine Goisot Cotes D’Auxerre Chardonnay, Burgundy, France.
I won’t lie, I love Kingfish, I really do, but I love it mostly when it is prefixed with a few magical words such as ‘sashimi’ and ‘Hiramasa’. My addiction to sashimi of Hiramasa kingfish aside I really do enjoy a well cooked piece of kingfish. Obviously I wasn’t let down, it was an immaculately cooked portion of fish, a well caramelised skin that had lost none of its flavour and was able to drive this dish from pedestrian to exceptional.
Margret of Duck, Pumpkin, Oats.
2010 Pittnaur ‘Dorflagen Villages’, Burgenland, Austria.
Moving on from spectacular seafood dishes into the ‘meat’ portion of the evening, one of my all time favourite ingredients was presented – duck. The duck breast was impeccable, cooked perfectly blushing pink and with a suitably crisp layer of skin I was in heaven. Pumpkin both pureed and baked had a great affinity with the tender duck. The oats were a unique addition that seemed to work much better than I imagined it would and I really loved the cups of onion, sweetened up in the oven making for an overall wonderful dish I would eat time and time again.
New England Lamb, Farro, Black Garlic, Warrigal Greens.
2010 Mengoba ‘Flor de Brezo’ Mencia, Bierzo, Spain.
Following on from the amazing duck it was time to get into bigger flavours and what better way to do it than with some New England lamb and black garlic. Another perfectly cooked portion of meat, the lamb was tender and bursting with flavour befitting the black garlic puree. I loved the crunch of farro and the freshness of the Warrigal greens and green onion. This was the dish of the night for Lex.
‘Tim Perrams Black Angus Short Rib’, Swede, Almond and Samphire.
2010 A.Retief ‘The Alias’ Mataro, Hilltops, NSW.
The team in the kitchen decided to send us out a little something that they had been working on, an additional course for us to try before dessert. A beautiful short rib of Black Angus from Tim Perram of Hunter Valley Premium Meats served with golden cubes of swede, a scattering of crushed almonds, samphire and basil and finished with a rich jus. The Black Angus was out of this world, I was in beef nirvana with each and every bite. There were quite a lot of things going on with the dish, and although the beef was particularly outstanding we both found the jus and the samphire tipped this over the edge of being a bit too salty. With a few more tweaks this course will be all kinds of awesome.
Ginger & Autumn Fruits.
2009 Pressing Matters R139 Riesling, Coal River, Tasmania.
With shards of vanilla bean meringue sprinkled on top of the ginger and fruit it looked quite quaint in the cocktail glass and upon first tasting it reminded me in a way to the Gingerade from Sepia Restaurant. Textually the meringue did this little dessert wonders and the combination of ginger and fruit made for a nice and refreshing little break from the bold flavours of the courses preceding it.
‘Chocolate & Honey’ – Ecuador Single Origin Chocolate, Tingira Heights Honey.
Campbells Classic Rutherglen Topaque, Rutherglen, Victoria.
Honey, not really something I eat, occasionally on toast but generally never anything more. When it comes to dessert I have one thing to say and that is: honey is a powerful ingredient. I always forget how dominant honey can be, and that it can become too much too quickly, honeycomb is where I draw the line. Lex on the other hand was in amazement with the depth of flavour in the honey and didn’t find it too much at all.
The chocolate was rightfully amazing and had a great bitterness to offset the super sweetness of the honey. The addition of honey granita to the dish at the table added a nice touch of theatre to it all (who doesn’t love the magic of liquid nitrogen?!) While this dessert was impressive I felt if they toned down the honey a bit it would have been even better.
By the end the petits fours were just too much to handle, so the team put them in a little paper bag so we could take them home with us. Lex destroyed them the next morning with a coffee and said they were brilliant… I guess I have to take her word for it.
As always it was macchiato to the rescue, anything we could do to help with digestion was welcomed.
Sommelier and General Manager Andrew Clifton-Smith once again did a superb job with the matched wines. We both loved every single pairing and especially the philosophy behind his choices. Servings were generous to the point where we struggled to finish them towards the end of the night (have we become lightweights?!)
Another smashing meal at Bacchus and I’m already wondering when we will get back up to Newcastle. This visit far surpasses our last visit for Steve’s birthday back in 2012. The level of execution was phenomenal, even when Head Chef Tim Montgomery was not working. It was great to see Sous Chef Tom Robinson and the entire team perform so well.
141 King Street
Newcastle NSW 2300
(02) 4927 1332
Bacchus Restaurant Website