My favourite restaurant in Newcastle used be be located at 14 Pacific Street. It was called East End Enoteca and it ticked all the boxes: fantastic food; great (and affordable) wine by glass and bottle; informed service; a relaxed, convivial atmosphere; it was close to home; and I could take anyone there, for any occasion, and know they’d enjoy it. It was easy, dependable, unpretentious dining. I was pretty disappointed when the owners decided to move to Melbourne.
A few places have come and gone in the space since then, but I’ve still not found a regular haunt, a place that isn’t too rich for midweek dining, but special enough to be excited about visiting on a Saturday night.
But now Supper Lane has come along.
The brainchild of Baked Uprising’s Alice Lees and chef Kyle Liston (aka the Cheese Mongrel), the menu, obviously, has a focus on bread and cheese, but the dishes themselves are designed for sharing between the table. If you’re sick of sharing, that’s fine – the menu features smaller and larger plates that can be treated as entrees and mains.
It’s a long and narrow white-tiled space, with Scandinavian-style tones in the furnishing and rustic flair with touches like thick linen napkins. There is less formal dining around the main bar and cheese cabinet, with pockets of tables dotted throughout.
The wine list is brief with just one on offer for each variety. Whether this is because it’s early days or to stay on par with the pared back simplicity of Supper Lane’s approach, I don’t know. Fortunately, the lone pinot noir is smooth yet spritely, and works well alongside all our dishes.
The food begins with a bang. A chicken liver parfait is so smooth and mousse-like, but maintains a slightly fatty composure. As is usually the case, more bread is needed to accompany the generous slab. Plum ketchup adds a tartness, making it just gorgeous.
Bread and butter pudding immediately catches my eye. Bready custard is comforting and simple, but this is a savoury version with prawns, tarragon, saffron and onion. Despite the soft eggy pudding texture, the prawn and saffron flavours come through strongly. It’s served with peppery iceberg, the unsung hero of the lettuce world.
A plate of asparagus spears are dotted with burrata (creamy mozzarella) and roasted earthy hazelnuts. The grass-green spears are delicious and sweet, with a lovely bite, but they are too long for our plates and hang onto the table.
The chicken and egg is a modern take on a Scotch egg – a poached egg encased in mince and deep fried. The skill is in keeping the yolk runny despite the double cooking and these googies are poached to perfection. Surrounding the gooey-yoked egg is a matcha- flavoured chicken purée and a coating of sesame seeds. It sits on a bed of corn purée and kernels, It’s inventive and well-executed, but without that crispy deep fry and despite the seeds, it’s lacking in texture.
No visit is complete however without indulging in a cheese board – whether it’s at the beginning or end of the meal or if you just wander in for a glass of wine and a few cheeses to nibble on, it’s delightful. From a selection of more than a dozen, we try the Brillat Savarin (a soft cow’s cheese), the Etivaz (a hard Swiss cheese), and the Bleu d'Auvergne (a French blue cheese). They are served with selection of Uprising sourdough (every slice is divine, especially the fruit loaf), muscatels and Cheese Mongrel paste. I’m pleased to see their recent introduction of an Australian Marrook Farm Bulga to the international offering.
Supper Lane has managed to tick a lot of boxes in the short time it has been open: great food, great service, great atmosphere. It could well be my new favourite place.