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MAITLAND'S Grand Junction Hotel is everything a great pub should be.
The family-owned and operated establishment had a much-needed facelift on the outside not long ago, but its charm as an old-school pub survives. Any live music fan would be hard pressed to find a better spot than their beer garden to kick back with a drink at one of their Sunday afternoon sessions.
The pub, lovingly known as The Junkyard, is proudly poker machine-free, too.
A spruce-up outside brought with it a revamp of the kitchen which has paved the way for chef Jamie Thomas, previously of the Town Hall Hotel, Finnegan's and several top pubs in Sydney, to take over in January and launch Winnie's at The Junkyard. Those familiar with the Winnie's brand will remember Thomas' love for Jamaican-inspired flavours that he served up at Finnegan's and, last year, as a drive-thru pop-up restaurant during COVID at the Town Hall Hotel.
Thomas fell in love with Jamaican flavours as a youngster growing up in North London, and it's a style of cooking that has stuck with him. He's particularly fond of jerk chicken.
"The part of London I was brought up in has a big Jamaican community, so the flavours aren't alien to me in any way," Thomas says.
"I have been making jerk chicken for as long as I've been cooking, 30 years, so it's something that has always been special to me. That's what started this whole thing with Winnie's - me eating jerk chicken from a very young age."
BBQ jerk chicken served with coconut rice, beans and pineapple ($20) is on the menu, and he's also adding it to pizzas and burgers. Check out the Brixton Original pizza with jerk chicken, green onions, cheese and corn ($16) or the Yard Bird burger with jerk fried chicken, slaw, pickle and cheese ($18).
Jamaican flavours dominate the menu, but Thomas points out that the food is not strictly Jamaican.
"It is not Jamaican in any sense apart from the inspiration for it," he says.
The snacks menu includes grilled corn with jerk mayo and coconut ($9) and ceviche with cured salmon, black bean puree, poppadoms, avocado, curry salt and lime ($15); while the mains include jerk sausages with rice and greens ($18).
The kitchen's new pizza oven offers a chance for Thomas to try something new and there's also burgers (including a vegan one with smoked jackfruit, vegan cheese, slaw and pickles for $18), bowls (curries and salads) and sides.
"I am aware of how many vegans there are in Newcastle that don't have a lot of choice, so I make sure I mention it on the menu," Thomas says.
"It was successful at Winnie's [Finnegans] and is equally as successful here. All the old Winnie's customers are driving up from Newcastle to here, bless them, not just once or twice, but a few times now."
Moving into the Junkyard kitchen is a bit of a long-held dream for Thomas who once lived up the road from the pub and fell in love with the dining room's high ceilings and the friendly clientele.
"It was kind of my local for a while. I have been speaking to the guys for the past five years to come and work here but the timing had never been quite right," he says.
"I wanted to find somewhere to do Winnie's again and when we did the drive-thru at the Town Hall, it went surprisingly well. It made me feel like people still wanted that style of food."
- Location: 88 Church Street, Maitland
- Food: Winnie's at The Junkyard is open from Wednesday to Saturday for lunch from noon and dinner from 5pm; open all day for continuous service from lunch to dinner on Sunday.
- Dish to try: BBQ jerk chicken. Winnie's also run a $10 burger night special every Thursday.
- Drinks: Eight beers on tap, mostly mainstream plus a couple of craft offerings. There's a cocktail menu and cocktail jugs available which are on special from 6pm to 8pm every Friday.
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