It is often said that you should never go into business with your family. Succeed or fail there will always be somebody either shirking the responsibility or unfairly taking the credit; if there is any left to take that is.
But what if it is your cafe that builds a family rather than your family establishing a cafe? Step into Pegs in Whitebridge and you will instantly know what I mean. For owner Mel Chapman, her closest allies are the ones she works alongside everyday. The first three letters of the cafe’s name are taken from her three young children. The “s” is for staff.
Over the six years she has spent focused on this restaurant, an uncommon camaraderie has developed in here. It’s something you can detect even in the coffee – a locally roasted blend, ground by a loyal and dedicated barista, pouring a meticulously patterned latte.
The specials are scribbled in ink on brown paper lunch bags. Above the cash register, near glass vases filled with native flowers, dangles upturned sticks blossoming with cotton. Everything is unvarnished and as nature intended. Behind that is a chalk-drawn message written by Mel herself, where certain words seem to stand out from the others. Intensely. Consistently. Regardless. Were it not so homely and cosy in here, the words might represent some brand of rigid mantra. Or maybe they do.
When the house-made gnocchi arrives, dolloped inside a herby bath of buttery ricotta, cherry tomatoes and basil leaves ($21), it says country cucina before pricey trattoria. In place of a syrupy richness is simplicity – in the way that the best pasta sauces always are.
Over the six years she has spent focused on this restaurant, an uncommon camaraderie has developed in here.
If Mel is the matriarch of this Whitebridge family, then you can imagine that barista Andy Price might sit at the other end of the banquet table.
“All my staff are special,” says Mel, “and Andy is a bit of a special soul, in the way that Pegs itself is special to me.”
And it comes as little surprise that the coffee itself is a bit on the special side as well. Roasted right here in Newcastle, the Smooth Criminal blend comes from another local family, the husband and wife team at Josie Coffee. The medium roasted Brazilian and Colombian partnership produces a great body that is strong without being overpowering. Mel tells me Andy has been pouring this coffee since the day they opened. Consistently. You can tell.
Pegs, 157 Dudley Rd, Whitebridge, Sat-Wed: 7am-5pm, Thu & Fri: 7am-till late.