The Fernleigh Track has attracted countless lycra-clad cyclists and joggers to a little cafe in suburban Adamstown over the past six years.
But there is more to Fernleigh Cafe than coffee and a pit stop.
One of Newcastle’s best-kept culinary secrets takes place there every Friday and Saturday night when a tapas menu is offered. Cafe owner Lachlan Beed loves thinking outside the square when it comes to food. It keeps him on his toes and is a bit of fun, too.
Diners can bring their own alcohol, if they wish, and there is no corkage fee. It’s an intimate, friendly social gathering in a cosy setting rather than a fine dining affair. The cost is $45 per person. This month’s theme is a 10-course Spanish feast with dishes including the Port Macquarie oysters with chorizo crumb and blackened sea trout with orange yoghurt.
Tom Ryan is head chef and ingredients are sourced locally whenever possible.
Beed’s working history ranges from McDonald’s manager to courier to kite-surfing instructor. Food and hospitality, though, is in his blood. His family ran a cafe in Wagga Wagga for many years.
But it was in the United States that Beed’s love of cooking really took shape. His recent Cajun tapas menu is a case in point – it included cheesy muffaletta dip, Bubba’s gumbo, Creole bourbon chicken and beignets.
“I lived in New Orleans and Wyoming for a year and that’s where I really learnt to cook and began my love affair with great food,” he told Food & Wine.
“Our tapas nights follow a theme for about four weeks. We've just done Cajun tapas and before that Greek, Turkish and Georgian. We try to take all the familiar elements and do things a bit differently.”
Beed “married a Newcastle girl in the ’90s” and adopted her home town as his own.
“I would ride my bike past a little corner shop in Adamstown near Storage King and Pet Barn that always had a for sale sign on it,” he said.
“When the Fernleigh Track was finished I thought opening a cafe would be cool – there are plenty of people who live and work around the area as well as the people who come from everywhere to use the track.
“I like to take sow’s ears and turn them into silk purses. It’s fun and there is a good opportunity to capitalise with a bit of rethinking. We’re a lot more than a bike riders’ hangout.”