Foodies vote with their feet at annual Port Stephens seafood festival | FOOD NEWS

FINE DINING: Ludovic Poyer (left) behind the scenes at the Broughtons at the Bay gala dinner.

FINE DINING: Ludovic Poyer (left) behind the scenes at the Broughtons at the Bay gala dinner.

Last month’s Love Seafood festival attracted thousands of visitors to Port Stephens in what is traditionally a slow season for the region. The festival is only in its second year. 

Organisers say foot traffic along D’Albora Marina at Nelson Bay was recorded at 11,601 over the Farmers of the Sea weekend and close to 15,000 over the Fish & Fun weekend. 

“We’re now seeing groups of producers come forward with great ideas that have enabled us to grow the month-long festival into something really special,” Destination Port Stephens marketing manager Danny Eather said.

“Based on the success of this year’s festival we are well on our way to establishing Love Seafood as a flagship on the NSW events calendar.”

A gala dinner hosted by Broughtons at the Bay was a sell-out. The menu was put together by chefs Ludovic Poyer, of The Poyer’s at Lemon Tree Passage; Ben Way, of Little Beach Boat House; and Matt Keyes, of The Little Nel. 

Restaurants all over the region were also buzzing throughout August thanks to the popular Trawler to Table Signature Series of seafood lunches and dinners.

“There’s no question that being a part of Love Seafood has been a boost for our business over winter. It’s a great opportunity to showcase our little cafe to foodies from beyond our region and the festival generates a real groundswell of goodwill among local growers and operators,” Andrew Macdonald, owner of The Little Nel, said.

And Fish to Dish festival lunch and dinner menus were a winner for Little Beach Boathouse.

“Running special festival menus certainly seems to create an incentive for people to get out and try something new,” chef Ben Way said.

“What I love about the festival is the amount of buzz and enthusiasm it creates around the local produce.”

Brewery dinner

Lovedale Brewery held its first “spring dinner” last week and by all accounts it was a resounding success. Guests were seated in the Lovedale Bar at Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley, where the kitchen is right next door to the brewery. Chef Thiaggo Guerra designed the menu and head brewer Michael Capaldo paired each dish with beer or cider. Keep an eye out for the next event.

Lovedale Brewery Spring Dinner.

Lovedale Brewery Spring Dinner.

Mad Hatter fun

Novotel Newcastle Beach is throwing a Mad Hatter-inspired high tea on Saturday, September 30, 1pm to 4pm. The cost is $50 adults; $35 for guests aged 12 to 17; and $25 for the 5 to 11-year-olds. The ticket price includes high tea; a lolly buffet; tea and coffee station; selfie station; a take-home photo; games and prizes; and an activity room for the kids. To book phone 4032 3705.

Winery dining

Mount Pleasant is hosting The O’Shea Lunch on Saturday, October 14. Senior winemaker Adrian Sparks will be introducing guests to a selection of Mount Pleasant’s best vintages and award-winning wines while they enjoy a five-course lunch created by The Cellar Restaurant’s Andy Wright. Lunch starts at noon in The Lovedale Room, 401 Marrowbone Road, Pokolbin. Phone 4998 7505 or email mpwineclub@mcwilliamswines.com.au. 

Weekly specials

Two Mules at The Prince of Wales has launched a weekly specials menu and added a toy box to the dining space to make it more child-friendly. On Monday you can order a $12 schnitzel; on Tuesday a $12 burrito bowl; on Wednesday wings are half price; and on Thursday you can grab a burger for $12. And don’t forget, Two Mules staff pride themselves on their cocktails. 

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Reserve. Picture: Lisa Rockman

Reserve. Picture: Lisa Rockman

Food & Wine had the pleasure of sampling Reserve’s new spring menu the other day. Designed by chef Sam Alexander, it includes the salted cod fish fingers with seaweed tartare; house-made pork and mustard terrine with pickles; Spanish mackerel with baba ganoush, olive and zucchini; 600-gram sirloin with jus, garlic butter and hand-cut chips; butter-poached leeks with hazelnuts and pecorino; and chocolate mousse, milk granita, raspberry gel and fennel. 

Reserve. Picture: Lisa Rockman

Reserve. Picture: Lisa Rockman

Race to Burwood

If you can’t quite comprehend that Oktoberfest is almost upon us, you might be genuinely alarmed to know that the next event on the social calendar is Melbourne Cup. The Burwood Inn has a special Melbourne Cup lunch planned on Tuesday, November 7. For $75 per person you can enjoy champagne on arrival and a three-course menu while celebrating the race that stops a nation. Venues, feel free to let Food & Wine know if you have something planned. Just don’t mention Christmas.

Slow and steady

Browse the freshest of produce at the Slow Food Earth Markets Maitland on September 21 from 2pm. 

Back in business

Spoonbill Cafe has reopened at Hunter Wetlands Centre and is being operated by Greg Sinclair. It is open 10am to 2pm for cake, coffee and light lunches. 

Caribbean king

Winnie’s Jamaican at Finnegan’s now has a $12 lunch menu from Tuesday to Friday, noon to 3pm. It includes Jerk Fried Chicken Burger; Trench Town Salad; Channa & Aloo Rundown and a Jerked Hotdog. If you have no idea what any of these dishes are, go and find out for yourself. Chef Jamie Thomas will be happy to tell you a little bit about each one. 

Crab boil

Scotties at Newcastle East is hosting a Southern Style Crab Boil on September 23. Tickets cost $80 per person for this traditional share-style banquet. Be quick.