Frank Fawkner is setting a new standard at EXP. restaurant | FOOD NEWS

GOOD CAUSE: Frank Fawkner, of EXP. restaurant, is taking part in two collaborative dinners to raise money for OzHarvest. Tickets are on sale now. Picture: Dominique Cherry
GOOD CAUSE: Frank Fawkner, of EXP. restaurant, is taking part in two collaborative dinners to raise money for OzHarvest. Tickets are on sale now. Picture: Dominique Cherry

Frank Fawkner has been kicking culinary goals since he opened EXP. restaurant at Oakvale Wines in 2015. 

Last year his Pokolbin restaurant was ranked 75 in the Delicious 100 list and was compared to the likes of Brae and Fleet by a prominent food reviewer. Fawkner launched Fawks Foods and his black garlic production has “already doubled”, he told Food & Wine.

“We work closely with the likes of Newcastle Greens, Hunter Farm Collective, Wollombi Providore, Mark Alyward, Redgate Farm and Clay Canoe. The newest and most exciting partnership is with Maher Knives, who are making new steak knives with native wooden handles for the restaurant, and James Watson who is binding kangaroo leather folders and coasters.”

As for the menu, the layout has been changed and now starts with a series of smaller dishes inspired by the seasons – seven snack-style dishes designed to be eaten with your hands.

“This way we have the freedom of changing and evolving them daily depending on what local produce is available,” Fawkner said. 

“Also, we are working on a new dessert. One of my favourite ice-creams to eat at home is a Magnum Ego. We are creating a native version with wattle seed ice-cream, lemon myrtle caramel and eucalyptus chocolate.”

Fawkner is collaborating with Joel Bickford from The Gantry and Ben Willis Aubergine for two fund-raising dinners (February 8 and March 1). Tickets are on sale now, go to exprestaurant.com.au/events for details. 

And his biggest achievement to date? “Our little baby Hugo. He is amazing.”

Wine dinner

Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley is hosting a five-course dinner on February 17, expertly paired with some of award-winning winemaker Neil McGuigan’s favourite drops. Tickets $99 per person.

Coffee break

Cafe2U’s newest franchise partner, Jarrod Kidd of Mayfield, had a busy first week on the road serving free coffee to the region’s emergency services from his mobile coffee van. He was joined by fellow Cafe2U franchise partner Rebecca Beetson from Raymond Terrace.

“Fuelling the fire brigade with much-needed caffeine is the least we could do for those putting their lives at risk to protect the corner of the world that we call home, and it’s exactly what being a local business owner is all about,” Kidd said.

He starts his daily route at 6.30am and serves customers until 2pm, and says he has already noticed some familiar faces joining him for coffee each day.

Cafe2U was recognised for its premium, exclusive blend in 2016 at the Golden Bean awards and was placed in the top 10 ranking brands at the annual 2017 Topfranchise Awards.

BBQ festival

Shane Jacobson and Magda Szubanski’s new film The BBQ will screen at the 2018 Yak Ales Barbecue Festival (February 10 and 11) at Central Coast Stadium, Gosford.

Weekend passholders are invited to enjoy this comedy about the quest for the perfect steak on February 10 at 7pm.

The festival also features four-time world barbecue champion Myron Mixon, three-time world barbecue champion John David Wheeler of Memphis Barbecue Company, Mike Johnson and Christina Fitzgerald of Sugarfire Smoke House, St Louis.

There will be barbecue cooking and butchery demos, a barbecue cook-off sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbecue Society (the world’s largest organisation of barbecue enthusiasts), bands and more. For more information go to bbqfest.com.au.

New date

Organisers of the annual Trevor Drayton Scholarship luncheon and presentation at Carrington Place have changed the date from February 18 to March 11. Venue owner and chef Scott Webster will be a “celebrity guest chef” on board cruise ship Serenity Solstice which departs Newcastle on February 18. 

The Trevor Drayton Scholarship was established to recognise the career of the late Hunter winemaker, Trevor Drayton, and is dedicated to assisting young people wishing to pursue a career in the wine, food and hospitality industries.

At the luncheon guests can enjoy live music, a selection of fine Hunter wines and boutique beers, all matched with dishes prepared by Webster and his kitchen team. They will also have the opportunity to bid on a small number of exclusive auction items. Tickets to the luncheon cost $75.

Burger bar

Mister P’s Burger Bar closed its Pacific Highway, Charlestown, restaurant this month but will be re-opening a pop-up store in Charlestown Square in February. Owner Katrina Phillips said it was located at “the old Noodle Hut across from the bus stop” with “plenty of parking just metres away”.

Sizzler lives on

Newy Burger Co has brought back the “Sizzler cheese toast” buns this week due to popular demand. Sizzler has just one restaurant in NSW these days but many a fan piled their plate high with Sizzler’s signature cheese toast at the buffet back in the day. Or, if you are watching your waistline, you can replace a bun with a “lettuce wrap”. 

Pop-up paella

Carrington Fare’s next pop-up paella night is on Friday, February 23. It costs $22 to eat in and $20 to take away from 6.15pm. Bookings are recommended. 

Ramen on the run

Susuru Ramen and Gyoza Restaurant is now offering takeaway for lunch and dinner, and you can order from the full menu. Any guesses as to how long it will be until they deliver to your door?

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