What: Parry St Garage
Where: 106 Parry St, Newcastle, 2302; parrystreetgarage.com.au; 49291380.
Owners: Marc Allardice, Marc Cappellacci , Ryan Baird
Drinks: Wine, beer, cocktails, soft drinks, tea, coffee.
Hours: 7 days, 9am-late
Bottom Line: $88 for two (entree, x2 main, dessert, and drinks)
Wheelchair access: Yes
Do try: Pappardelle lamb ragout, Gregoris Soave (wine), and yoghurt pannacotta.
CONCRETE, cavernous, classy, and cheap. Parry St Garage is Newcastle's latest location for a gastronomic tune-up - breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
Opposite Newcastle's No. 1 Sportsground (not a meat pie in sight), towering steel doors greet you. Inside is a space that does exactly what it says on the tin. Parry St Garage was once a smash repairs, and printing press, which has been transformed into a space that somehow manages to balance cavernous with cosy, dramatic with understated, expensive with economical, and black with white. If Gotham City ever had a restaurant that was open seven days, and served pizza and pasta, beer and wine, cocktails, desserts and cheese, this would be the place.
You can choose to sit at the bar with a starter and a drink, or in the bar on one of the plush new Chesterfield lounges, or in the enormous black-and-white tiled, high-ceilinged, exposed brick, industrial-lit restaurant with tables able to accommodate groups of all sizes.
There were only two of us, this time, running restaurant reconnaissance for the fine people of Newcastle and the Hunter Valley. We were greeted at the front door and seated at the edge of the restaurant section on comfy enough stools where we could take in the grand scale of our surrounds.
To start we ordered a glass each of Balmain Bock Dark Lager and Birra Moretti beers, along with a serve of nduja (chilli infused, spreadable salami on crostini). The "enn-doo-yah" (nduja) arrives as five expertly portioned, bite-size bits of chilli spread across toasted bread and ricotta. Without forsaking flavour, the spicy salami fires the mouth with a pleasant heat that is balanced by the cool and soft ricotta cheese, while toasty textures provide a yummy, crunchy contrast.
For mains, we had the pappardelle, with wood-roasted lamb ragout and fresh mint, and a generously sized wood-fire pizza topped with potato, prosciutto, caramelised onion and feta.
The pappardelle was, how you say . . . al dente and we gobbled this dish up. Holding the rich, warm, lamb ragout was a cinch for this magically transformed mix of flour, egg and water. It was moist and soft, and simply soaking in flavour. If the lamb had been on the bone it would have fallen away, but instead it clumped in harmony with the pappardelle, assisted by liberal sprinklings of shaved Parmesan cheese.
The pizza is cooked in a blazing wood fired oven, up the back of the garage, and comes out hot, crispy, and topped with simple ingredients that are, again, full of moreish flavour. To be honest, and in the most pleasant possible way, the flavour of the pizza reminded us of cheese and onion crisps, with thinly sliced prosciutto providing a soft, chewy foil to the crunchy bianco base.
We accompanied our mains with a glass of wine each from the compact list of sparkling, white and red, and shall return to taste their cocktails, especially the Bacca Te Martini and Negroni. Parry St Garage also boasts a great selection of soft drinks and juices, coffees, teas, and a few Italian sodas, for those who like their drinks sans alcohol.
In search of revitalisation, after the comforting weight of the pizza and pasta, we ordered a serve of the yoghurt pannacotta with roasted pear and hazelnut, to share. The refreshing textual elements of the firm pear, crunchy hazelnut and creamy pannacotta combined simply, playfully, and above all, deliciously.
Despite the huge space that echoes with this town's industrial past, eating in Parry St Garage feels cosy, welcoming and warm, and is a sure sign of this town's bright gastronomic future.