Husband and wife team Andrew and Camille Sheather have returned to the Sydney Junction Hotel as head chef and restaurant manager.
The couple first met while working at the Hamilton hotel.
Andrew was 22 when he started working in the Sydney Junction's kitchen under his father, head chef Richard Sheather. When Richard moved on in 2008, Andrew became head chef and the hotel took on a new staff member from Queensland - Camille - who worked her way up the ranks to become restaurant manager in 2012.
In 2017 the pair made the move to sister pub, the Argenton Hotel, where Andrew accepted an executive chef position and shook up the menu. But they always had a soft spot for SJs; it's where they both started their careers, met and married. Andrew even prepped and catered for their wedding in the hotel's kitchen.
When the opportunity to return to SJs arose, the Sheathers grabbed it with both hands. They have been busy working on a new bistro menu, which was introduced this week - all the pub favourites remain, however there are some fresh signature dishes and share plates.
Last September hoteliers Clare and Campbell Rogers sold the Sydney Junction, the Argenton Hotel and Belmont's Gunyah Hotel to Sam Arnaout's Iris Capital.
State's best named
Restaurants, small bars, cafes, wine bars and caterers from Newcastle and the Hunter were well represented at this year's NSW Restaurant & Catering Awards for Excellence - and did us proud. The NSW regional winners were announced at a gala dinner at The Star in Sydney on Monday night. Here's what we know.
The Cottage at Scone: NSW Regional Restaurant of the Year (major award), Best Steak Restaurant and the hospitality consumer vote award; Josh Niland of Saint Peter and originally from Maitland: NSW Young Achiever Award; The Grain Store: Best Cafe/Wine Bar; The Convent - Circa 1876: Best Restaurant Caterer; Circa 1876: Best Contemporary Restaurant (Formal); Sprout Catering: Best Wedding Caterer; The Valley Restaurant at Easts Leisure & Golf, East Maitland: Best Restaurant in a Pub/Club/Tavern; Peterson House: Best Venue Caterer; Battlesticks at Scratchleys: Best Small Bar; Nagisa: Best Asian Restaurant; The Wild Herring at The Anchorage: Best Seafood Restaurant; Esca Bimbadgen: Best Restaurant in a Winery; Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley: Caterer of the Year (major award) and Best Function/Convention Centre Caterer. Il Cacciatore at Pokolbin received an honourable mention in the best restaurant (Italian) category.
The Cottage really is one of the Upper Hunter's best-kept secrets. Chef and owner Colin Selwood launched China Dollat Woolloomooloo Wharf, having previously worked at Bistro Moncur, Eastbank, Bayswater Brasserieand Armstrong's. He and his family moved from Sydney to Willow Tree in 2010 where he opened multi-award-winning dining experience Graze,at The Willow Tree Inn. At The Cottage, grass-fed beef is hung in a purpose built, humidity controlled dry ageing room for a minimum of six weeks. Charcuterie including country style venison and pistachio terrine served with beetroot relish and organic chicken liver parfait is also made in-house. Well worth the drive.
Farm fresh pork
Near River, on the NSW mid-north coast inland from Port Macquarie, is a farm selling ethically raised, rare breed heritage pork. Now, each Sunday at Baked Uprising in Maryville, orders of fresh pork and salumi from Near River can be collected. To join this buying group, text your mobile number to 0412 995 256. Each Thursday the farm's availability list is sent out via SMS to your phone, and you respond with your order and payment details. Pick up is from the bakery cool room on the Sunday before 2pm. It's as simple as that. Hungerford Meat Company at Branxton is also a stockist.
Near River, like many other farms, is doing it tough due to the drought. Its river, the Pappinbarra, has not had a consistent flow since the start of the year and owners Andrew and Therese now use a water bore as the primary source of water for their pigs while they are (reluctantly) forced to drink and cook with bottled water. This Friday, September 20, rallies are taking place across this country and throughout the world to implore our leaders to take action about climate change. If you think you're immune, Near River Farm is just 50 kilometres inland, and on the eastern side of the range. Food for thought.
After Dark opens next week
Bao Brothers After Dark, described as a "new and exciting dark contemporary Asian dining experience", is opening next Wednesday, September 25, at 701 Hunter Street, Newcastle. Read more about it in Saturday's Weekender.
Next level eclairs
Choux Patisserie has been travelling far and wide, spreading the love, but this week you'll find Nic Poelaert's eclairs a lot closer to home: at Charlestown Square (level one) until Sunday; and at the Olive Tree Market on Saturday, 9am to 2pm, at Maitland Regional Art Gallery.
De Iuliis wine dinner
Mike De Iuliis and his DeWine team are coming to Newcastle's Longworth House, armed with 10 of their best - and current - wines. Restaurant Mason Catering will be serving a five-course menu at the heritage-listed building they have occupied since the start of the year. Among the wines to be showcased are the award-winning 2017 LDR Vineyard Shiraz Tourigaand the 2017 Steven Vineyard Shiraz. Tickets are $150 ($130 members) at stickytickets.com.au.