Bells at Killcare, the five-star boutique resort on the NSW Central Coast, has revamped its restaurant (now called "the wild flower bar and dining") and menu.
Chef Sean Connolly, who is a business partner with Bells at Killcare owners Karina and Brian Barry, and also involved with The Bon Pavilion at Gosford, is leading the restaurant's exciting new culinary direction. A modern-European approach has been adopted with a little culinary "theatre" thrown in.
"We are going to unearth some of the incredible seafood from our local Hardy's Bay fishermen," Connolly said.
"We'll be creating more theatre on the floor with trolley service and table-side cooking including salt-crusted fish cracked open on the table and pasta tossed fresh in front of your eyes."
The dining room itself has been made over by former media and image consultant, the delightful Mark Patrick, who started his early career as an apprentice to Florence Broadhurst and has worked with clients as diverse as Dom Perignon, Moet & Chandon, Moschino, Belvedere Vodka, Rolls Royce, Mac, Elizabeth Arden and the Packer family.
The restaurant will continue to employ sustainable practices, with more than 15 per cent of the produce on its menu supplied from the 500-square-metre kitchen garden on the grounds, complete with bee-hives and free-range hens. Bells at Killcare is located at 107 The Scenic Road, Killcare Heights.
Buying local is on trend this Christmas. So is supporting farming families who are doing it tough. There are plenty of ways you take part, such as going to your local farmers' and artisan markets, checking out what's for sale on social media pages like One Day Closer To Rain (Drought), or going online to the NSW government's Buy Regional website. Regional boutiques, producers and experience providers are on the list at nsw.gov.au/buyregional. While browsing, some familiar names caught Food & Wine's eye: Pukara Estate; Hunter Belle Dairy; Bar Botanica; Springhill Beef; Hunter Valley Olive Co; Hunter Valley Smelly Cheese Shop; Upper Hunter Smokehouse; Farm to Fridge and Hidden Valley Clothing Dungog, to name a few.
Then there's weekend markets like Pelican Foreshore Markets, Newcastle Food & Flower Markets and Homegrown Markets. There's also The Olive Tree Christmas Market on this Saturday, December 7, at Civic Park in Newcastle where you can buy goods and products made by locals.
It is also a food-lover's delight. Many of the 180 or so stalls are food related and include the likes of Pudding Lane; Arolyn Grove; Urban Hum; Fat Wren Farm; Granny Mels; Mr Goaty Gelato; Covered in Crumbs; Soul Foods; Hello Lemonade; Sprocket Roasters; Silverskin Roasters; The Healthy Treat Company;The Tea Collective; Fruit Scoop; Bao Brothers; Viet Yum; Schillykickk; El Gringo;Nans Dumplings; Hajni's Hungarian Cakes and Marion's Cafe Mobile. Olive Tree Market founder Justine Gaudry encourages people to attend, knowing that any gifts you buy "will be unique on Christmas day, that you will be contributing to the local economy, and making a stand against mass-produced goods".
Portuguese street food
Soraia and Miguel Silva own Rafa's Truck, a Portuguese street food truck based in Singleton that is about to open a "pop-up" at Greenhills Maitland at the site of the former Le Wrap.
"We specialise in homemade Portuguese chicken schnitzels, homemade burgers and other traditional Portuguese snacks," Miguel told Food & Wine. "Our food is made from scratch on site using techniques and flavours from Portugal as background." The Silvas have a hospitality background and have "owned a couple of businesses in Portugal and here in Australia". Miguel says the food truck is "still a baby but growing by the day".
"We are a small family business that pride itself on quality, flavoursome, honest food. We will officially open on December 11 with just a few best-sellers and if all goes well we may get a permanent residence and expand our menu."
Check it out
Don't forget, The Corner officially opens tomorrow (Thursday, December 5) at Charlestown Square. Schillykick is popping up there for eight weeks, joining a culinary line-up that already includes Rascal, Bao Brothers, 4 Pines Brewing Company, Popolo Artisan Gelateria, Hunter Espresso and Lee's Yum Cha (opening in February).
Also, The Signal Box Newcastle opens this Friday, December 6. Bookings are now being taken.
A new leadership duo has been appointed at the Hunter Valley Wine and Tourism Association, with Christina Tulloch now president and Jessica Sullivan, chief executive officer. Former president Lindy Hyam said 2019 had brought considerable progress, such as an 11 per cent increase in visitors to Hunter wine country, the launch of the region's first major marketing campaign in 20 years and a silver award win for destination marketing at the NSW Tourism Awards.
As reported in the Newcastle Herald last week, hotelier Andrew Lazarus is the new owner of The Beach Hotel at Merewether. His portfolio includes The Eastern in Bondi Junction and Shoal Bay Country Club. "We are very honoured and humbled to purchase The Beach Hotel, being such an iconic Newcastle venue," Lazarus said. "My team and I have ideas about decor and functionality but change should only be made after we completely understand our clientele." His son Peter Lazarus, who has helped bring Shoal Bay Country Club back to life, will oversee the day-to-day running of the hotel.
Freebie of the week
Dive into Japan's diversely rich food landscape with 120 recipes from seven Japanese chefs and enjoy 24 stories of food artisans through the eyes of award-winning author Nancy Singleton Hachisu. In Food Artisans of Japan the author shares an in-depth knowledge and understanding of Japanese locales, the food and the artisans. Each chef was chosen because their food is soulful, they have a genuine connection to local ingredients and a common dedication to their craft.
Food Artisans of Japan is out now through Hardie Grant Books, RRP $55. Food & Wine has a copy to give away. To enter, send the words "Food Artisans of Japan" with your name, address and number to email@example.com. Entries close on Monday (9/12/2019) at 9am.