What: The Burwood Inn
Where: 77 Berner Street, Merewether; 4963 5000; theburwood.com.au
Owners: Ty and Julianne Burford
Drinks: Beer, Wine, Cocktails, Soft Drinks, Coffee.
Hours: Lunch: Mon-Thurs 11-2, Fri-Sun 11-2.30, Dinner: Sun-Mon 6-9.
Bottom Line: $75 (two mains plus sides) plus drinks.
Wheelchair Access: Yes.
Do Try: Roast pumpkin wedge side, Cape Grim sirloin with horseradish creme fraiche.
THE family-owned Burwood Inn was refurbished in 2011 and, ever since, has been the unofficial home of the best steak in Newcastle. Unless you take notice of the SMH Pub Food Guide 2014, and then it's probably official. Either way, it's my view that The Burwood Inn is the official home of the best steak in Newcastle.
The refurb takes its cues from the art-deco era of the early 20th century, mixed seamlessly with scenes from a Mexican stand-off, ala the final act of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
The restaurant out the back is dimly lit and furnished with wooden tables and chairs and a couple of long comfy bench seats, while rustic walls are adorned with modish animal skulls, and light fixtures that wouldn't seem out of place at the old BHP Steelworks, or, indeed, a gastro-pub.
The bar out the front doesn't seem to have been touched, maintaining its original classic Aussie pub vibe, complete with the standard array of Lion Nathan beers, TAB and pokie facilities. This is sure to please the many locals who've been coming here for a schooner well before The Burwood Inn became a place for aspirational types and restaurant reviewers.
In between the bar and the restaurant, you can sit in the lounge area, and sip on a wine, cocktail, or beer, while you share some edibles from the impressive Small Plates menu, which includes duck and pistachio terrine, lamb ribs, chicken wings, and pork and spring onion gyozas.
It was a bit of a family affair this particular Friday night and we were heading straight to the restaurant section of the Inn. I had to book a few weeks in advance, more out of courtesy than anything else, to ensure they could serve the eight of us, which they did no trouble.
My trusty dining associate accompanied me this evening and we ordered from the steak menu, which caters for all tastes and budgets, from the $26, 300g Collinson rump, to the $56, 250g Rangers Valley wagyu sirloin. All steaks are served with hand-cut chips and green beans, which are just as crunchy as one another, plus a choice of saucy adjuncts, including; truffle butter, smoky chipotle barbecue sauce, port jus, green mustard, and a few more.
One family member dared to be different and wanted to try the slow-braised wagyu and mushroom pie. If it tasted as good as it looked, it would have been delicious, and by all accounts, it was. Everyone else chose to have steak, perhaps, subconsciously, being influenced by the brilliant pun inscribed on the wall . . . ( "Not eating here is a big missed steak").
My companion and I ordered a portion each of the Cape Grim sirloin (300g) and the Rangers Valley wagyu. Requested, cooked and served medium rare, both cuts of meat melted in the mouth upon entry, with the authentic flavours of the beast, as yet untouched by the accompanying sauces, sending signals of pure pleasure to the brain, which in turn readied the stomach for some prime protein nourishment.
All meals arrived on black slate tiles, which double as plates and feature a clever little rimmed sluiceway to catch the spilling sauces once they've been poured over the meat. The port jus is a firm favourite of mine, but I think I'll have the horseradish creme fraiche the next time we eat there, because, when it was combined with a fork full of Mayfield pristine beef eye fillet, I had a moment.
We accompanied our mains with a few sides; small chips with rosemary salt and aioli, and roast-pumpkin wedge, gremolata and spiced seeds, which was soft, textual and warming on a cold winter's night.
We didn't stay for dessert . . . actually, we weren't asked if we wanted any. But, to be honest, we probably would have struggled trying to fit any more food in. We were thoroughly satisfied by the food we'd just shared as a family, just like old times.
If you're not in the mood for some red meat, they also offer a list of delicious-sounding non-steak related foods, such as the char-grilled chicken, seafood laksa, and spiced vegetables and mixed bean chilli . . . but, when the steaks are this high, why risk it?