THE team behind popular CBD cafe Ground Floor and Italian restaurant and bar, Basement on Market St, has launched a third venture in Neighbours on Market St.
Diners at Basement on Market St won't have to look too far to find it.
The cafe, which is open for breakfast and lunch, is located next door in the space which was previously home to Three Bears Kitchen, hence the name Neighbours.
"It was a big appeal for us to secure a site next door because we are a cafe by day and then Basement is by night, so the idea of this is that the two run cohesively," Alicen Lewis, who owns Neighbours, Ground Floor and Basement On Market St with partner Jordan Mizrahi, tells Weekender.
Lewis says Neighbours on Market St is about offering "really beautiful food, not too expensive and not too fancy.
"This place is rustic, it's funky, more accessible and that was the idea, just to bring really good food, rustic food, to Newcastle," she says.
The couple began renovations on the space in December, muting down the colours in favour of a neutral palette and installing new kitchen equipment, including a Mibrasa charcoal oven from Spain, which is a key element in giving many dishes on the menu a distinctive smoky flavour.
From the house-smoked chilli pineapple chutney in the corn fritters with avocado mousse and watercress salad; bacon and egg roll; and jerk sticky chicken bowl with coconut black bean rice, lime pickled onions, chilli, coriander, cabbage and carrot, to the wood-fired lamb and chicken in the wraps and Middle Eastern plate; charred flavour is a big part of the menu designed by executive chef James Orlowski.
"James really loves rustic-style cooking, so he encouraged us to get the Mibrasa charcoal oven which is a real point of difference with our menu," Lewis says.
"Most of our ingredients are cooked on the charcoals, so it brings a smoky flavour that you don't get at a lot of other places."
Orlowski brings years of experience and diversity to Neighbours on Market St, from a stint in Peru where he ran a restaurant with his Peruvian wife and, more recently, as a chef at Three Blue Ducks in Sydney.
The classic breakfast menu includes Uprising sourdough or fruit toast; banana bread with cinnamon butter; and four types of bruschetta (bacon, prosciutto, salmon and vegan), while the signature breakfast offers coconut quinoa porridge; ricotta hotcakes; shakshuka; and Orlowski's speciality crab omelette with crispy Korean crab tempura, blue swimmer crab omelette, black sesame and spicy togarashi.
For lunch, there's panko-crumbed fish and chips; wood-fired steak sandwich with chips; ciabatta baguettes; bowls and wraps.
Those still missing Basement on Market St's original Israeli menu, the good news is their popular falafel is back at Neighbours, available on the falafel wrap; harvest falafel bowl; or the Middle Eastern plate served with hummus, mint yoghurt, pickled onions, chilli, cucumbers, cherry tomato, parsley, roasted chickpeas and charred pita bread.
"A lot of people were very upset about the falafel leaving when we switched from Israeli to Italian at Basement, so we have brought it back," Lewis laughs.
"Jordan has an Israeli background, so he has the most amazing recipes for hummus and falafel, so we wanted to offer that again."
Sydney's Ona Coffee is the cafe's coffee supplier, while Newcastle's Tea Collective is on the menu, along with cold-pressed juices, milkshakes and smoothies.
Breakfast cocktails are available from 10am, including Usher Tinkler prosecco and orange juice mimosas ($15) which will soon be offered as part of a bottomless brunch option, while the wine list created by Stephane Pommier includes a selection of Hunter Valley producers alongside winemakers from the US, France, Italy and Chile.
Opening during lockdown restrictions has not fazed the couple, who are celebrating nine years at Ground Floor this year and five with Basement on Market St.
They have successfully navigated their way through the Newcastle light rail project, Hunter Street Mall's development and the pandemic.
"It is a funny time to open a new business, but I think Newcastle, largely, has been pretty good. It's the new normal," Lewis says. "We did struggle a little when the light rail was being done, but it's amazing now."
Neighbours on Market St is located at 2 Market Street, Newcastle and is open seven days from 7am to 3pm.
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