DINING REVIEW: Cowper St Diner

GO EASY: The St Louis pork rolls at the Cowper Street Diner reflect a menu that features comfort food done well. Pictures: Marina Neil
GO EASY: The St Louis pork rolls at the Cowper Street Diner reflect a menu that features comfort food done well. Pictures: Marina Neil

To me, Carrington feels like a little village on an island of its own. It’s not technically separated from the rest of Newcastle, but once you cross that bridge over Throsby Creek, you feel like you are leaving the hustle and bustle behind and settling in for a nice little holiday. 

The main drag, Young Street - looking achingly bare since the removal of the old trees, is where most of the action is, but around the corner on Cowper Street there are a few gems as well. Cafe Inu has become a firm favourite, but it’s the Carrington Cove Bowling Club that has lasted the distance, facing closure and financial hardship over its 70+ years. 

One of the ways it has come back from the brink is through the addition of a bistro. It has the American-sounding name of Cowper St Diner.  

The bowling club itself isn’t anything fancy or trendy so don’t visit expecting urban cool; this is a suburban club complete with sign-in book, meat raffles and fake indoor plants. Midweek, it’s full of bowlers and locals who have finished up with their games and are hanging around for a beer and a meal. 

The bistro is separate to the rest of the club and features around a dozen or so tables. There’s an outdoor eating area too, but spring hasn’t let the evenings warm up too much yet, so we stay inside. 

A table for two with a melted candle is sweet. Get your drinks back in the club area and order meals at the diner counter. It’s all very fuss-free and easy.

You can start with some bread or an entree, or if you prefer the look of the bar bites, then that’s fine too. Go for a half-kilo of spiced chicken wings with blue cheese sauce, devour a bowl of beer-battered onion rings or steer away from the deep-fryer and enjoy a light and fresh plate of salt and pepper squid with rocket and fennel. 

We start with St Louis pork rolls. They’re a pork variation on a spring roll, but this is crumbed then fried, rather than wrapped in pastry. Three big rolls arrive piping hot, filled with delicious chunks of pork with the fat still on, melted cheese and hits of chilli. They are served with pickles and slaw. They are crunchy and tasty and dipped in a sweet barbecue sauce are a mouthful of flavour. 

The special of the day are on a blackboard: schnitzel, pot pie, pasta, burger, pizza, fish. 

TASTY: The pork belly with avocado salad is rich and well-cooked.

TASTY: The pork belly with avocado salad is rich and well-cooked.

A brisket burger has layer upon layer of fall-apart beef,  gooey cheese, rocket and barbecue sauce. The addition of a spicy kimchi is confusing as it seems to clash with the cheese and sauce. A side of piping hot fries and creamy aioli completes the offering. 

The chicken schnitzel is one of the best I’ve ever eaten. I’m not a huge schnitty lover, but this was juicy, thick, full of flavour and had fantastic Panko and herb crumbing. Mushroom sauce on the side means it hasn’t arrived soggy and gives you an extra something to dip crunchy, fluffy chips in. If you love a good schnitzel for $14, swing by on a Wednesday for a top rendition.

BISTRO: The dining area is simple and straightforward.

BISTRO: The dining area is simple and straightforward.

There are other choices if you’d like something a little more refined – a baby pea risotto with toasted hazelnuts; a 250-gram scotch fillet with charred corn; pork belly with clapshot mash and pomegranate; or try the whole baked baby snapper with a potato and avocado salad. 

If you have room, there are sweets in a cabinet at the bar. Enjoy coffee and cake for $11. While the kitchen is taking a few risks and aiming to be creative, they’ve certainly got the essentials down pat.

Quick Bite

The essentials

  • What: Cowper Street Diner 
  • Where: Carrington Cove Bowling Club,  1C Cowper St N, Carrington. 
  • Hours: Mon-Fri 11.30-2.30pm and 5.30-8.30pm; Sat-Sun 8am-8.30pm
  • Contact: 4961 4140
  • Drinks: Beers, spirits and wines, plus a selection of craft beer on tap.
  • Vegetarian: Breads, bar bites,1 burger, 2 pizzas, 1 entree, 1 main.
  • Wheelchair: Yes.
  • Bottom line: Entrees $6-17; mains $16-30.
  • Do try: The schnitzel.