Silo is one of only a handful of restaurants to resist the transient comings and goings of Honeysuckle's restaurant scene. What is its secret?
Located as close to Newcastle Harbour as you can get without getting wet (OK, Scratchley's is a bit closer), Silo is a place for brunch dates, lunch dates, and dinner dates with impressive views of our working harbour, especially at night when the lights glow green, blue, orange and yellow, sending shimmering lumens across the water.
There's space outside where you can sit (like David Beckham did) and relax on cane chairs and long white tables, underneath shady red parasols. Or, head inside and lounge around on long brown benches that run the entire length of one wall. These are next to more tables and chairs hosting famished Novocastrians in front of a long bar stocked with plenty of bottles of wine and spirits.
A lot has changed, both in Newcastle and the world, since Silo opened in 2004, except for the restaurant's red decor, which my dining associate and I silently admire while the rain teems down outside. We sit underneath one of a number of large Renaissance-inspired gold-framed mirrors and order drinks before properly perusing the menu. It reads well. Starters include things like grilled sourdough, local marinated olives, and Sydney rock oysters, while entrees feature watermelon salad, pork belly, scallops, salmon, and a vegetarian (pumpkin) ravioli with burnt butter, pine nuts, sage and blue cheese.
For main, there's plenty of protein in the form of snapper, trout, lamb and beef, with well-matched accompaniments. For example, snapper fillet with bean shoots, mint and crab and a chilli and lime dressing, or lamb served with harissa, polenta chips, baby carrots and red wine jus.
Drinks wise, the list impresses with a standard fare of soft options accompanied by a number of unique house-created cocktails, an easy-to-swallow beer list, and wines that will satisfy most tastes and budgets. I order a bottle of Mr Mick's 2014 Tempranillo from the Clare Valley, SA, to drink with my lamb, while my dining associate has a Gin In My Garden cocktail before sharing a glass of wine with me and a plate of whole baby rainbow trout.
The trout is served with roasted kipfler potatoes, peas, lemon butter and caper sauce. We begin, however, with a shared entree of confit pork belly accompanied by peach compote and watercress.
Knowing full well that the pork belly was ‘confit’, I still expected the skin to crunch and crackle, otherwise what is the point? Who wants to listen to Garfunkle without Simon, Stewart without Lennox? No one. Pork belly with crispy skin is the ultimate intrinsic food duality, yet this entree had a crucial constituent MIA. It was more like pork toffee that gets stuck between your teeth. The flesh was soft and tender, flavoursome and seasoned well, no doubt, but a little dry and would have benefited from a lot more sauce.
A Clare Valley Riesling would do well here, to cut an acid line through the richness, but alas, it was a rainy autumn night and I had chosen a fairly hefty red from the southern state in the hopes that it would complement the lamb ahead.
Within minutes, maybe seconds, of removing the remains of the pork belly, our friendly waiter was soon placing a plate of Cowra lamb in front of me, and a Snowy River whole baby rainbow trout in front of my dining associate, both with the aforementioned accompaniments.
Three slices of sear-marked lamb, cooked on the rare side of medium, are stacked upon two thick-cut polenta chips and a small dab of harissa paste, while three whole carrots, peeled, sit to one side. On the other side of the table, a whole baby trout steams, stuffed full of kipfler potatoes and drizzled with a little lemon butter and caper sauce, next to a random, though symmetrical, pile of peas. Both dishes, while fundamentally different, are full of flavour, but lack a little love and a lot of sauce.
The crispy salt and vinegar skin around the soft and fleshy trout is particularly pleasant, and the herbaceously seasoned lamb is especially tasty with the tiny smidge of harissa, yet, neither dish had that one dexterous X-factor that makes going out for dinner so exciting and pleasurable.
Silo has definitely not been buffeted by the fickle winds of foodie fashion, which, in one sense, is refreshing – like their cocktails. But, in another, a change is as good as a holiday. Perhaps Novocastrians just dig red?
The song remains the same, and that's fine.
- What: Silo
- Where: 18/1 Honeysuckle Dr, Newcastle / silolounge.com.au
- Chef: Ebonnie Newby
- Drinks: Soft drinks, beer, wine, spirits, cocktails
- Hours: 8am-late 7 days/dinner from 5:30pm
- Vegetarian: Yes
- Bottom Line: $150 for two incl. drinks
- Wheelchair Access: Yes
- Do Try: Cocktails (Gin In My Garden), baby rainbow trout