Dining review: Hooked Restaurant and Grill

IT'S HEARTY: The Hooked Seafood Feast, which arrives on a three-tiered stand. Pictures Max Mason-Hubers
IT'S HEARTY: The Hooked Seafood Feast, which arrives on a three-tiered stand. Pictures Max Mason-Hubers

You don't need deep pockets or to be a member of the Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club to enjoy the new menu at Hooked Restaurant and Grill. Whether you've just stepped off of the rolling hull of a super-yacht, like Squall, or a more moderately sized boat named A Little Nauti, the terra firma at Hooked is a great place to rest your sea legs and get revenge on the one that got away.

With our imaginary boat in for scheduled servicing, my dining associate and I opted to walk along the Honeysuckle boardwalk to road test the food and fare at the recently rebranded restaurant, right next to the shipyard that overlooks the marina and the city beyond.

HARBOUR SIDE: So close to the water.

HARBOUR SIDE: So close to the water.

On this sunny afternoon, we managed to square away pole position by the window. Here, we watch people pass on a Sunday stroll, or a leisurely cycle, while boat owners prep and prime their vessels for an afternoon voyage.

The dining area’s decor hasn't changed all that much from when it was named The Galley. The greyish-blue hue of the hard-wearing carpet is still there, so too are the plastic weave-backed chairs and polished dark timber tabletops. The walls are white and adorned with nautically themed flags and posters. A couple of TVs are on, but are silent as they flash various images of sport and music. A gentle breeze drifts in off the water through huge concertina windows and out again, via the courtyard, where the cover band is setting up for their lunch-time set, next to patrons drinking and waiting for their meals. The place is packed with people out for a relaxing Sunday lunch by the harbour.

Drinks are ordered at the bar, where you'll find a good list of well-priced Australian wine and beer, plus cocktails and softer options. We start with a glass each of cold, lightly sparkling water, followed by a bottle of Tyrrell's, 2010 'Stevens' semillon to go with lunch. Speaking of, you pick up one of the large format pub-inspired menus from a pile, next to the counter, where you also place your order, collect cutlery and any condiments you might want.

There's bruschetta and a few variations on garlic bread to begin, followed by a selection of entrees, including antipasto (cheese, meats, olives, etc.), seared scallops, panko prawns, and Sydney rock oysters. If you want a light lunch, you can choose a chicken or beef burger, chicken schnitzel, lamb cutlets, or fish and chips. For something more substantial, mains feature confit duck maryland, whole baby snapper and the ship to shore reef and beef (300grams of porterhouse topped with lobster tail and Cafe de Paris butter). Vegetarian meals include most of the seafood options, plus roast pumpkin risotto and the roast pumpkin and couscous salad.

Considering it's a glorious afternoon, we're both quite hungry, we have a bottle of Hunter semillon, and we're pretty bloody close to the water, my dining associate and I order bruschetta to start then opt to share the Hooked Seafood Feast, or, a sailor’s take on high tea. It’s a three-tiered tower of fresh and fried seafood, including blue swimmer crab, oysters, fresh prawns, battered fish, salt and pepper squid, panko crumbed prawns, hot chips and seasonal fruit.

The bruschetta is served on three slices of toasted white bread topped with chunks of fresh tomato, chopped green basil leaves and large flakes of shaved parmesan drizzled in a balsamic reduction. It's a nice balance between savoury and sweet, and neatly fills the space between the water, the wine, and the arrival of the seafood tower.

Poseidon himself would be impressed with what's included in the stacked seafood feast. Top down, a chorus of blushing red prawns face skyward, encircling two broken blue swimmer crabs filled with fleshy, stringy white meat, next to a lap of fresh grey oysters on the half shell, interspersed by a yellow lemon wedges.

Beneath this is a plate of fried fish, some salt and pepper and panko encrusted crustaceans and crunchy chips. Down further we find crucial refreshment with a plate of sliced fruit - pineapple, honeydew melon, strawberries and blueberries.

It's an epic feast for the eyes and stomach. Each element is prepared well; the crab, prawns and oysters are fresh, the squid is peppery (firm to the bite and a little crispy), the fish is moist and flaky underneath the brittle batter, the panko prawns crunch, as they should, and the seasonal fruit refreshes the palate.

A sunny Sunday, down by the water, with a bottle of semillon and a stack of seafood in a relaxed atmosphere. What’s not to like?

QUICK BITE

  • What: Hooked Restaurant and Grill
  • Where: 95 Hannell St, Wickham (at the Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club)
  • Chef: Khynan Metcalfe
  • Drinks: Soft drinks, beer, wine, spirits, cocktails
  • Hours: Lunch and dinner 7 days. Breakfast weekends.
  • Vegetarian: Yes
  • Bottom Line: $130 for two incl. drinks
  • Wheelchair Access: Yes
  • Do Try: Seafood feast