RESTAURATEURS of Newcastle, take note. Talulah Bar is the benchmark for all casual dining restaurants in this city.
Cool ambience: Check.
Professional service: Check.
Great drinks list: Check.
Beautiful food menu: Check.
Everything in its right place . . .
Located in the cosmopolitan confines of The Junction, Talulah has been a humming hive of activity at breakfast, lunch, and dinner for many years. At night, a moody red glow shines out from a row of light boxes, located above bench seats, which faintly illuminates dark timber furnishings, patterned walls, and abstract paintings hung above the entrance. A web of fairy lights light up the ceiling for diners outside, while quiet blues, roots, and rock music plays soft and gentle on the cool night air.
Share plates and tapas is still a big focus, but lately, chef Cooper Thomas has been introducing more complex main plate dishes onto the menu, and focussing even more on local, fresh produce. From the savoury starters to the sweet finishers, the seasonal smells and comforting flavours of autumn are showing at Talulah.
We start with toasted sourdough, served with a very creamy cultured butter, some sweet olive oil, and a smoky mix of pumpkin seeds and dukkah.
Next, the king prawn stuffed zucchini flowers with sweet corn puree and snow pea tendrils is a fantastic combination of intense flavour and finely balanced texture. Two soft and succulent stuffed prawns are reached by crashing through a crunchy shell of herbaceous fried zucchini flower. Sweetness and spice holds back the richness of the puree and makes for one impressive curtain raiser for what follows.
Pedro Ximenez is a Spanish white grape variety that makes a deliciously sweet wine, which has been used to braise the Cape Grim beef cheek in our next dish. Teeth are not required; as the protein here is so soft it practically dissolves at the touch of a knife and fork. Accompanied by carbonised and crispy charred broccolini, which adds a touch of sweet texture to a fairly soft dish, the meat rests on a bed of soft cauliflower puree and is so flavoursome, so rich, and so unctuous, that you now finally understand exactly what that word means.
The wine list is impressive, with a great selection of by the glass options, plus a few New World heavy hitters gracing the premium section, including an '02 Tyrrell's Vat 1 Semillon, and the Man O' War Dreadnought Syrah. My dining associate and I will be going back for a cucumber and thyme margarita, and a Hendrix's Mistress cocktail before the month's out. This time, however, we stick with wine and drink a bottle of the thirst quenching Grosset, Polish Hill Riesling (2015), which tastes like green apples, lemons and lime on ice.
Perhaps chardonnay would have been a better match with the Hunter Valley Chicken, served with parsnip puree, caramelised pear, and walnuts, but we weren't in the mood to match food and wine; we just love drinking riesling.
How succulent, soft, juicy, and tender can one hen get? Layers of flavour run through this dish like sedimentary rock. From the skin to the flesh, all the way down to the bone, this bird is seasoned with a palette of delicate herbs and spices that make Mum's Sunday roast look like amateur hour.
The pear is firm, not crunchy, and sweet alongside the broken, crispy walnuts and peppery parsnip sauce, which is just magnificent.
We finish with the dessert special: Figs Three Ways (one brûlée'd, one carmelised, and one served natural with homemade honeycomb and pistachio gelato). Fresh, firm, and fleshy figs served sweet and savoury, with a touch of spice from the gelato. A great ending to a delicious meal with incredible flavour and smart sophistication.
What: Talulah Bar
- Where: 52 Glebe Rd, The Junction, 4969 2060, talulahbar.com.au
- Owner: Garth Ashford
- Drinks: Cocktails, Beer, Wine, Soft Drink, Juice, Tea, Coffee
- Hours: Mon, Tues, Sun: 7am-4am, Wed-Sat: 7am-Late
- Vegetarian: Yes
- Bottom Line: $100 for two (not including drinks)
- Wheelchair Access: Yes
- Do Try: Zucchini Flowers, Hunter Valley Chicken, Figs Three Ways
Correction: The original version of this story incorrectly stated the chef was Anthony Kocon. Anthony Kocon operates the East End Hub restaurant in Newcastle.