I once read a Kate Moss quote that said "nothing tastes as good as skinny feels". It's (unfortunately) the first thought that comes to mind as I dive back in to the plate of butter and bread set down for me at Restaurant Mason.
One of the top restaurants in Newcastle and the Hunter Region the couple behind it are husband and wife Chris and Ami Thornton with him running the kitchen and her the floor. On a Tuesday night it is almost a full house which says a lot about it because Newcastle is still more a Friday and Saturday night dining out city.
Service is very friendly and enthusiastic which is a refreshing change from anything too cool for school in the city. There is an a la carte menu, as well as 5 and 7 course tasting menus. We are going for the 5 course menu matched with premium wines.
Which brings me back to the bread. It's a black sesame seed house made bread served with blackened corn ash salt and a sweet confit garlic purée. And sorry Kate you were wrong, food tastes way better than skinny.
The amuse bouche is a beignet with labna and honey. We pop it in our mouths and it's creamy and crunchy with sourness from the labna and sweetness from the honey.
Goats cheese tortellini served with 2016 Howard Park Sauvignon Blanc Semillon, Margaret river, WA
The first course is a goats cheese tortellini with almond gazpacho, almond praline, olive crumb and purée and deep fried nasturtium flower petals. I didn't realise how much I almost expect a hit of pasture from goats cheese but it doesn't come here, it's subtly goaty here which means the other flavours come to the fore, more subtle ones like the almonds or bold ones like olives. And the crispy little leaves are a textural delight.
Charcoal Grilled Marron served with 2013 Bird on a Wire Marsanne, Yarra Valley, Vic
For the next course there was a choice of two dishes: a market fish or the marron (a $7 supplement for the marron). Given the choice I always choose shellfish. It's half a marron charcoal grilled with hand rolled cannelloni filled with marron meat, a cep velouté made with roasted chestnut, brandy thyme and white wine. On top is pine needle oil and grated chestnuts. We both love the earthy chestnuts and sweet lightly smoked marron that is meltingly tender.
Tart of mushroom, sherry vinegar onions, blue cheese and mushroom and parmesan cream served with 2015 Soho Road Vineyard Pinot Noir, Bellarine Peninsula, Victoria
The next course is a mushroom tart made with a sour cream and rosemary pastry with mushroom and Parmesan purée. There are fresh button mushrooms and dried shiitake mushrooms. This dish really shows that vegetarian dishes don't need to be milder in flavour than their meaty counterparts. It's boldly flavoured particularly with parmesan and thyme with sherry vinegar onions.
Glazed Pork Jowl served with 2014 Poggiotondo Chianti Superiore, Tuscany, Italy
The last savoury course is a Macleay Valley pork. There are two cuts of pork here. The jowl is confited for 10 hours while the pork neck is smoked with hickory wood for 12 hours. It comes with pork jus, goats milk yogurt, witlof, honeydew melon and brazil nuts. I love the glazed jowl while Mr NQN goes for the neck.
Java pepper Meringue served with 2012 Ross Hill Late harvest Riesling, Orange, NSW
You know that a dessert is great when you've eaten four breakfasts, two lunches, two afternoon teas, drinking snacks and a five course meal and you still have room for the dessert. This is a Java pepper meringue (a rather long pepper) served with mascarpone orange zest, orange curd, pickled plums, honey macadamias and nitro honeycomb. Usually honeycomb is difficult to eat with the wax but when mixed with liquid nitrogen it makes it crunchier and easier to eat. And by eat I mean finish every last drop. Sorry Kate.
So tell me Dear Reader, do you ever agree with Kate Moss's quote? Do you tend to go out for special occasions on Friday or Saturday nights only or do you do it on weekdays too?
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NQN and Mr NQN were guests of Destination NSW but all opinions remain her own.
3/35 Hunter St, Newcastle NSW 2300
Phone: (02) 4926 1014
Lunch Thursday to Saturday 12:00 – 3:00
DinnerTuesday to Saturday 6:00 – late