Dining Review | The Flying Tiger | Daniel Honan

EXOTIC AND FUN: The Flying Tiger's multi-level dining space is lush, green and dramatic. Hunt it down in Hunter Street.
EXOTIC AND FUN: The Flying Tiger's multi-level dining space is lush, green and dramatic. Hunt it down in Hunter Street.

At long last, hotly watched restaurant and bar The Flying Tiger has crash-landed into the Newcastle social scene. Promising the urban stylistics of Melbourne's Cookie with the air of Sydney's Ivy ... sorry, ‘ivy’ ... the owners have, at last, landed their concept of a “fun, interactive ... in your face” social space, fit for a city of revitalised Novocastrians.

So, what's it like?

SPANISH TOUCH: The Flying Tiger's salmon with romesco sauce.

SPANISH TOUCH: The Flying Tiger's salmon with romesco sauce.

Incidentally, The Flying Tigers were a volunteer group of US fighter pilots, famous for flying the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk fighters. You might recall the plane's nosecones were painted with sharp teeth and fierce eyes that made them look more like a menacing flying shark than a flying tiger. But, I digress.

At 231 Hunter Street, Newcastle, wedged between The Lucky and Momo Wholefood, The Flying Tiger is a sprawling, multi-level dining space featuring a light, bright, jungle-themed outdoor area, complete with aircraft crash site/airy mezzanine, that contrasts well with the dim and darker spots of the two bars, and separate dining rooms upstairs. For folks who still enjoy the florid aesthetic designs of Ed Hardy, yet feel as though such ostentatious “artwork” would be better served, in 2017, by bringing it to bear among the steamy jungle-esque surrounds of a cinematic joint like Jimmy Wah's of Saigon, which is then curiously complemented by the occasional spot of classic cubist visuals from the Art Deco era ... The Flying Tiger nails it.

 Spicy lamb ribs with herb yoghurt.

Spicy lamb ribs with herb yoghurt.

Joining in with the notorious Hunter humidity, the sound of slow, bass-laden reggae dub-step fills the outdoor dining space, where wooden stools gather with galvanised oil drums that act as table tops and anchor points for rope hung with fairy lights between each drum. A series of alcove timber booths decorated with fresh flowers line one wall, while a long timber bench stretches along another wall clad with gunmetal grey Colorbond. The plane wreck, vines and other plant life make the space feel wild and tangled, but the newness and cleanliness of the rest of the fit-out interrupts any illusion of authenticity. Perhaps, with time, this new space will feel old enough to be able to tell a dramatic tale or two.

Two bars are split between the levels. The bottom bar's shelves are lit hot neon pink and stocked to the rafters with all manner of spirits; vodkas, gins, rum, whisky (and whiskey), mezcal and tequila. Local and national tap beers ($7.5-$9) pour clean and cold, alongside a fairly decent wine list ($8 glass-$138 bottle) with classic cocktails ($15) to boot. Due to licensing restrictions you will need to order something to eat if you want to drink alcohol.

Speaking of food, The Flying Tiger's menu is as tasty as it is puzzling. Rather than following the logical progression of the South-East Asian jungle theme, ala Jimmy Wah's, the kitchen shape-shifts between various proteins, cooked on a Japanese yakitori grill. A few pieces of skewered salmon are served just charred with a slightly sweet, Spanish romesco sauce ($16), while the middle-eastern spiced lamb ribs are tasty and all but slide off the bone ($16).

So too are the steak and onion skewers with mushroom ketchup sauce ($14). Such flavours, however, seem to me to be more at home on a backyard barbecue in the Mediterranean, than at any restaurant-cum-jungle crash site I can think of. Focaccia, empanadas, popcorn chicken, share platters and antipasto boards with cheese, cured meats, crisp bread and pickles ($12-$38) all feature on the snack menu, while pea and potato croquettes, beef carpaccio, confit chicken, roast lamb rump, and duck ragu ($28-$36) all appear on the restaurant's three-course bill of fare, upstairs.

Dining among its offbeat, brightly coloured decor, in a jungle courtyard filled with lush green vegetation, coupled with the sticky Hunter humidity, The Flying Tiger feels exotic and fun.

QUICK BITE

  • What: The Flying Tiger
  • Where: 231 Hunter St, Newcastle
  • Drinks: Beer and wine, cider, cocktails, spirits and soft drinks
  • Hours: Tues-Sat 12pm-12am, Sun: 12pm-10pm
  • Vegetarian: Yes
  • Bottom Line: $90 (lunch, including drinks)
  • Wheelchair Access: Yes
  • Do Try: Spicy lamb ribs