There aren't many pubs in The Junction – that definitive and relatively recent suburb of Newcastle where beautiful people always seem to have the day off to watch the world roll by between sips of coffee, beer or wine.
There is, however, the aptly named Junction Hotel, which juts out from Corlette Street to face the rattle and hum of Kenrick Street and Glebe Road seen through enormous bi-fold windows. On a Friday afternoon, around dinnertime, the front bar buzzes with voices excited about the weekend, the sound of drinks being prepared and poured, and the smell of good food emanating from the kitchen ... pan fried dory, beer battered chips, beef ribs, and steaks on the grill. Out back, in the restaurant section, twilight lights up bright turquoise and sandstone tones mixed with soft green benches, black chairs with white tabletops, and timber floorboards.
Patrons walk under high ceilings and a huge skylight and the blue illuminated bar’s shelves are stocked with all manner of booze for mixing up drinks, taps for pouring icy beer, and fridges with an inventory of affordable wines by the bottle and the glass.
Nearby is where you order food from an expansive menu that neatly balances typical pub grub with a voguish gastro twist. There are burgers and BLTs, garlic bread and prawn spring rolls, schnitzel, steak and chips, alongside king prawn linguini, dorper lamb loin, and rolled chicken breast with black truffle stuffing and Serrano ham. There are meals for the young ones, including cheeseburgers, fish and chips, and tomato, bacon and pea pasta. With our stomachs playing hunger games after a long week, we start with an entree of courgette flowers and salt and pepper squid followed by a Hunter sirloin and plate of slow-cooked beef ribs.
Electronic loops, bonny vocals and acoustic guitar reverberates above the sound of 200-plus people catching as they sip drinks and wait for their meals to arrive.
If you're looking for the wine list, locate yourself one of the, so-called, WiNE Pads. Swipe through the Junction Hotel's extensive list of libations, including Hunter wines, a few bottles of Grange, some Côte-Rôtie, and vintage Cristal Champagne.
The courgette flowers (gf/v) have been battered and fried within an inch of their life to make a crispy casing for a faded yellow flower stuffed with ricotta, truffle, honey and a tomato sugo sauce. The melded components within are nice, but the honey and sugo sauce together is quite sweet and tends to dominate the delicate flavours of the ricotta and overpowers the truffle. Alongside the crispy courgette is the perfectly cooked salt and pepper squid with a nahn jim dipping sauce. Firm to the bite and coated in a salt and pepper batter, the squid benefits from a quick dip in the sweet plum tasting nahn jim sauce and a squeeze of lemon.
Straight from the grill, the Hunter sirloin (250g) is served with Cafe de Paris butter, green vegetables, and beer battered chips; although there are other options, such as truffle or bone marrow butter, chats, fried brussel sprouts, mash, or salad. About a minute over medium rare, a slender piece of beef rests on crunchy chips that are nicely seasoned next to green vegies consisting of snow peas, beans, and broccoli. A small disc of herbaceously garlic and salty mustard butter melts on the steak, soaking it in a rich flavour. My dining associate devours it with delight as she eyes off my beef ribs.
The hefty flesh of two meaty bovine ribs soaked in a sticky honey and BBQ sauce barely hangs on the bone. The meat slides off onto the plate, where it's speared by my fork and impelled into my mouth to delight my carnivorous instincts. The delicate shoestring fries underneath the beef are crushed under the weight and are rendered limp by the sticky sauce.
Let's cut to the chase. For a casual Friday night, you could do a lot worse. There's plenty of fun to be had inside the Junction Hotel, with enough food and drink options to please pretty much anyone.
- What: Junction Hotel
- Where: 204 Corlette St, The Junction
- Chef: Warren Fouracre
- Drinks: Decent tap and bottle beers, good fine wine selection, cocktails etc.
- Hours: Mon-Sat: 10am-12am; Sun: 10am-10pm
- Vegetarian: Yes
- Bottom Line: $100 for two incl. drinks
- Wheelchair Access: Yes
- Do Try: Courgette flowers, beef ribs