Tucked away off Newcastle's main drag, Hunter Street, Bank Corner is a cool, European styled café that looks like a movie set straight out of the 1920s. They specialise in coffee and small edibles, such as croissants and cakes, but they also serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If Tim Burton ever needed to shoot a scene where Batman was seen catching up with friends, and sipping on a strong black, this would be the place.
Out the front, Bellevue Street is lined with small tables and chairs set out along the sidewalk with yellow lamp lights illuminating the art deco 'Espresso Bar' signage above. Bottles of soft drink and beer line up like soldiers in front of the coffee machine, with cups and plates stacked high. The walls, are painted like a scene from an Egyptian caravan, or lined with stacked shelves. Out the back, in the courtyard, is where you’ll find some of Gotham’s finest, sitting beneath stairwells, barred windows and brick walls laced with pipelines.
At breakfast you can choose between things like fig jam, ricotta and pear on sourdough bread, or granola with yoghurt, honey and cinnamon. Lunch might prove to be just as tricky, especially when deciding between the prosciutto and provolone toastie or a healthy serve of the salad du jour, while dinner features an extensive selection of starters and mains that belies the small kitchen space behind the bar.
We head out the courtyard to sit under the stars and are greeted by the operatic strains of Verdi's La Traviata, projected onto a concrete wall. Apparently opera screenings are a regular thing here at Bank Corner. The dinner menu looks ambitious given the small kitchen space, but sound appetising nonetheless. We opt to start with the house-made chicken liver and pancetta paté, and follow it up with the crispy Atlantic salmon, with apple and fennel salad, plus the mushroom risotto with crispy pancetta, lemon and parmesan.
The paté arrives just as Verdi's first act reaches its dramatic conclusion. It's served warm with a side of toasted sourdough and spinach leaves. It's creamy, salty and a little gamey, and has a smooth texture that spreads easily over the crunchy toast slices.
There’s a decent selection of beers and soft drinks, but I think the wine list is too big, too expensive, and full of too many non-descript wines for such a stylish café. I think BYO should be an option here.
The salmon and the risotto come out at the same time, and space on our little table becomes a premium. The salmon is still pink around the edges, and the skin is definitely crispy, but it's been over cooked. The flesh clumps, rather than flakes. The apple and fennel salad is crispy and adds a lovely refreshing element to the dish, but isn't enough to save the salmon.
The mushroom risotto is generously portioned but the rice is firm, crunchy even. It has lots of tasty, savoury flavours, with a spike of pepper and a burst of lemon juice freshness racing through it. I could imagine a number of Hunter Valley semillons falling in love, then moving in, and finally starting a family with this dish, but sadly, none of them appear on the wine list.
I have to admit that I was unsure how well dinner could be, given the space and equipment restraints in the kitchen. The space itself is a wonderful place to sit and enjoy a meal in, the service was faultless, and the opera was a nice touch, but the food (and the wine list) would benefit from being stripped back and simplified a little.
Still... the coffee’s excellent, and if you want to meet with friends and feel like you’re in Europe, there's no place like it.