Oh no! Not another Newy burger joint. Surely, the last thing the culinary scene in this city needs is more dude foo... Wait. What? Tim Montgomery and Tom Robinson? Who? Ah, the hatted chefs from former Newcastle fine diner, Bacchus, Berardo's of Noosa, and Colin Fassnidge's former Sydney restaurant Four in Hand. Who else?
Burwood Inn's Ty Burford is the driving force behind the project, and, Tim Perram from Hunter Valley Premium Meats will be supplying the protein? Right, that sounds like it might just work. Go on then ...
On the ground floor of the ATO building, a place that might incite some to riot, Rascal promises “Burgers, Chicken, Anarchy”, set among yellow neon lights and black and white murals of burgers, shakes, fries, eyes and a lunatic cat. It's like Hungry Jacks for Millennials.
An American roadside diner vibe echoes throughout the space with booth seats and benches inside, with enough space to eat under the oak trees outside. A mix of hip-hop and soul music soundtracks the feasting as front-of-house staff frantically take orders while grabbing drinks, making milkshakes and delivering meals. But the real anarchy seems to be in the kitchen. The smells emanating from behind the white-tiled pass bring back memories of that long forgotten pioneer of the greasy feast, Big Al's (we hardly knew ye).
If you hadn't already guessed, the dude food trend abides at Rascal. You can choose from eight burgers stacked with a whole lot of love and contents, including, wagyu and angus beef from the Liverpool Plains, free-range chicken from Bannockburn, Victoria, plus bacon, cheese, salad and slaw, all dripping with sartorial house-made sauces, squished between soft-as-a-new pillow “custom buns” from Papa Al's Bakehouse, around the corner.
There's fried chicken with Korean variants and sides such as chips, slaw, tater tots, and a mac and cheese that's covered in crumbed Cheezels. Hungry hippos can stack on extra everything, plus there’s burgs made especially for the little rascals, all served with chips. The Cheeseburger is relatively cheap and, thus, destined to be an accountant's lunchtime vice, with caramelised onion, crunchy pickles, sweet tomato sauce and melted cheese stuck irresistibly to a thick, juicy patty, like a leech on a foot. Obviously, it tastes a hell of a lot better, as does the burger that bears the diners namesake. The Rascal is a tightly packed pile of beef, cheese, tomato, lettuce, pickle and tasty house-made sauce. The patty is cooked to perfection - slightly charred on the outside, and juicy pink on the inside - while the salad supplements are garden-fresh.
They say you are what you eat, so I tried The Jerk. Southern fried chicken breast loaded with slaw, cheese, pickled peppers, Caribbean spices and Jamaican jerk sauce wedged between a fresh cloud-like bun. Certainly spicy, most definitely crunchy, and hot enough to have you reaching for your drink.
The drinks menu reflects the diner vibe by offering shakes and spiders in the standard flavours, or you can spike them with a shot from the bar. Yes, Rascal is licensed. There are beers on tap and in cans and bottles, plus cider, soft drinks, and a modest selection of red and white wine from the Hunter. But if you're going to serve fried chicken, you’re gonna need a rosé, and if you're going to list wine, you need to indicate the vintage.
We finish with a plate of Korean fried chicken - three pieces of crispy skin avian that's moist on the inside, crunchy on the outside drizzled with a type of fermented soy bean saucecalled gochujang, served with slaw, and a bits of yummy pickled radish - plus, buffalo fries - hot chips drenched in a fiery blue-cheese ranch sauce.
To be sure, it's a bit of a trip seeing two remarkably talented chefs applying their trade to food as fast as this, but given the current fad for dude food, I guess it makes sense. I don’t think Rascal is at its best yet, but it's a hell of a lot better than the rest.
- What: Rascal
- Where: 1/266 King St, Newcastle, NSW
- Chef: Tim Montgomery and Tom Robinson
- Drinks: Soft drinks, spiders, shakes, beers and wine
- Hours: Mon-Tues 11am-4pm / Wed-Sun 11am-9pm
- Vegetarian: Yes
- Bottom Line: $50-$60 for two incl. drinks
- Wheelchair Access: Yes
- Do Try: The Rascal, Korean Fried Chicken