Carrington Place, Carrington

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In the past couple of years this industrial backwater close to Newcastle’s CBD has been bounding from strength to strength. And so has its eponymous pub and its popular dining room. In the Sydney Morning Herald Good Pub Food Guide, 2011, Carrington Place was awarded best pub in the region.

There’s nothing like a stone hearth grill to bringout the best in grilled meat and fish, and in season, pizzas and slow-cooked dishes like the lamb shank to fill the tortellini. Even better, you get to see the chefs slaving over the hot oven from all parts of the dining room and

smell the aromas as you enter.

The menu is still tightly structured and seasonal, with four to six daily specials according to product availability, and the servings are still copious.

An entree special of pork belly is large enough to double as a main for a dainty eater.

But it’s melt in the mouth tender with a high proportion of meat to fat and a fairly crisp skin. Spicy apple relish on top, and caramelised red onion jam underneath provide perfectly balanced accompaniments.

Never fear, there’s a good selection of more delicate starters, even two vegetarian ones.

Barely cooked beetroot is served carpaccio style, in finely sliced petals under a sprinkling of tangy goat cheese, with a thatch of micro cress salad on top and aged balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil dotted around.

It’s very pretty but even with the balsamic vinegar and the cheese, seems to me to lack flavour.

You can’t go past a nice piece of steak; choose between centre-cut grain-fed eye fillet at 200 grams or cattleman’s rib eye at 500 grams.

The rib eye would probably have the most flavour but the size defeats me, so the eye fillet it is. I am not sorry. It’s well-rested, perfectly medium rare inside and well-seared outside – as you would expect from a stone

hearth grill. The vegetables – a spear of broccolini, a meaty grilled mushroom, a small cob of corn and some roast pumpkin – share the cast-iron sizzle plate with the meat. A jug of red wine jus served separately is poured with a flourish at the table.

Scalding hot, crisp, salty house fries served in a bowl to one side are pounced on by my dinner partner, but fortunately there’s plenty for two.

Market fish of the day is jewfish. It has lovely moist flesh and excellent flavour but may have sat just a little too long under the tangle of snowpea sprouts, because the skin could have been crisper. Tatziki and a wedge of lemon bring a suitably acidic dimension and perfectly

roasted chats soak up the buttery sauce.

The word ‘‘sundae’’ jumps out from the dessert list and brings back somany childhood memories it’s impossible to resist. And this one has it all. Fragrant, poached white peach on the very bottom of a classic glass; vanilla ice-cream; more peach; bright red strawberries; whipped cream; and to top it all, crunchy sugar-honeyed almond slivers. Wow.

Don’t think of this as just another pub.

It also serves jolly good food.

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