Winnie’s Jamaican restaurant, at Finnegan’s Hotel on the corner of King and Darby, is breaking new ground in Newcastle with a funky fusion of mouthwatering Caribbean cuisine.
Riffing off the Rastafarian Ital diet with loads of vegie and vegan options and also boasting classic staples like jerk chicken and goat curry, Winnie’s is the brainchild of chef Jamie Thomas.
Born in North London, Jamie grew up immersed in Jamaican food and culture.
“I was cooking Jamaican food with my best mate’s mum and his family since I was a baby,” Jamie said.
“I’ve never known anything different and as I’ve grown older I’ve dug deeper into the cuisine and culture.”
Jamie is passionate about introducing the Hunter to this style of food.
“Jamaica has been this cosmopolitan place historically for centuries, so the food is really diverse, got great kick and super healthy,” Jamie said.
“There’s Spanish, English, French, Chinese and even Japanese influences.
“A lot of the dishes are grilled while the Rasta Ital diet is almost vegan in approach, avoiding processed food, additives, oil, salt and sugar – so it has that vegie dimension that will appeal too.
“From a chef point of view, you can give nearly any food a Jamaican twist and not crucify the fusion factor.”
Jamie moved up to the Hunter last year having run Queenie’s Jamaican restaurant at The Forresters Hotel in Surry Hills for 5 years.
He has partnered with best mate Luke Smith under the heading Two Poms Pty Ltd.
Luke is running the kitchen at Town Hall Hotel in Waratah, while Jamie, having spent last year delivering dude food at the transformative Family Hotel on Hunter Street, has set up Winnie’s at Finnegan’s.
“Newcastle is always looking to try something new and I think Novocastrians will love Jamaican food,” he said.
Finnegan’s has shifted focus from Irish themes in recent years but Jamie still sees symmetries.
“There’s a massive Irish culture in Jamaica, the locals drink loads of Guinness and both peoples are happy go lucky and love a celebration,” he said.
“I think most Novocastrians will relate to that.”
Visitors to Winnie’s will discover a bright, comfortable space with great food, awesome music and laid-back vibe.
Winnie’s Jamaican operates Tuesday to Friday for lunch (12-3pm) and dinner (6pm-9pm) and Saturday for dinner from 6pm till late.
“I’ll play Saturday by ear because we’re right in the entertainment hub of the city – the perfect place to meet, eat and kick on,” Jamie said.
“The bottom line is if people are hungry, I’ll be cooking.”
For more info, visit www.finneganshotel.com.au.