RESTAURANT REVIEW: Foghorn Brewhouse - for the true brew-lievers

What: Foghorn Brewhouse.

Where: 218 King Street, Newcastle, 2300, phone 4929 4721,

Owner: Shawn Sherlock.

Drinks: Beer, wine, soft drinks, coffee.

Hours: Seven days, from 7.30am weekdays and 11.30am weekends. Open until late.

Vegetarian: Yes.

Bottom line: Three dishes $60, plus drinks.

Wheelchair access: Yes.

Do try: The beers, the porterhouse steak and the buffalo wings.

A MOANING siren sounds from the nearby harbour and disturbs the still night air above Newcastle. It carries all the way to one of our town's latest dining establishments, Foghorn Brewhouse, located on the fringes of the CBD. Out the front of this gigantic bricked warehouse, a sign reads "Pizzeria & Diner". A bold move, especially when you consider that Napoli Centrale (which, probably, makes Newcastle's best pizzas) is less than a siren sound away from Foghorn's front door. But, the clue is in the name. Foghorn is a brew house that brews its beers in pretty much the same place as the people who end up drinking them. So, the air miles are pretty low; in fact they're non-existent.

Foghorn Bewhouse: Soak up the atmosphere. Picture: Peter Stoop

Foghorn Bewhouse: Soak up the atmosphere. Picture: Peter Stoop

For a brew house, the food menu is rather extensive, and it's not all about the pizza. There are cheese steaks, grinders, burgers, buffalo wings, fries, hot dogs, and other Americana themed edibles. There are also a few salad choices, for those wanting to reserve their calorie consumption for the beers. In fact, Foghorn reminds me of the kind of place that would exist in Portland, Oregon, except that it doesn't have a decent transport system operating nearby.

As my dining associate and I entered the double wooden doors on a recent Saturday night, we were greeted by the cavernous rumblings of a room full of Novocastrians. Their voices reverberating off the exposed high ceilings, concrete floors and all metal light fixtures, probably lamenting the current state of sport in this town. Even if they weren't, the TVs, which hang from the roof and played this night's match-ups on mute, offered a casual reminder, anyway.

The dining hall was heaving and there wasn't a single seat available for us, right away. Instead, our names were taken down and we were encouraged to have a drink at the bar while we waited. No dramas. Yet, before we'd even sipped on the first strains of this new Newcastle nectar the phone rang and we were directed to our seats. There's no table service. Food is ordered at a single station, which can make the process of placing an order a bit slow, and even more so when they're busy.

We were both feeling hungry, so we took advantage of our fortunate position to be eating in a first world country and ordered a half-serve of buffalo wings (hot), a 300 gram Hunter Valley steak infused with Foghorn Revolution Porter beer, and three slices of pizza (pepperoni, ham & pineapple, and Noah's Ark Barn, which has bacon, sausage, meatballs, and chicken) to see how they compared with their neighbours from Napoli up the road.

The hot buffalo wings do exactly what it says on the tin. The extremities of this mysterious New York avian are literally soaked through with hot sauce to give your lips that deliciously satisfying sting. There's a bit of blue cheese dressing and a couple of strips of celery served on the side for those who can't handle the heat.

Beer and steak is a bit of a no brainer. Steak soaking in Porterhouse beer is a genius combination straight out of the Mensa International cookbook: 300 grams of soft and juicy medium rare beast rests on a pile of salty, hand-cut chips, and a steamed medley of broccolini, green beans, snow peas and corn on the cob.

To confirm, the pizza at Foghorn is more traditionally American in its offering of Italian pie than the Neapolitan's down the road, and that's a good thing, because it would be hard to compete. The three slices we ordered were outstanding examples of this simple fare that, unless you're named after a set of ivory tiles, is pretty hard to screw up. Baked in Foghorn's solar-powered pizza oven, the bases were soft but firm; soaking in rich tomato passata with each and every one of the toppings evenly and generously portioned, with just the right amount of cheese on top to hold the pieces together.

Foghorn Brewhouse is worth a look, even if you're not hungry for hot wings, steak and pizza. The beers are very good, especially the James Brown Ale. There's sport on the TV, it's full of Newcastle's finest, and there's not a pokie room or bain-marie in sight.


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