Sleek, dark and mysterious. Ginger Meg’s X is one of Newcastle CBD’s newest restaurants and bars and, from first impressions, it certainly has the X-factor.
Without any obvious signage down a path from King Street, Ginger Meg’s is in the spacious former Kensington theatre site.
Once you’ve found the entrance and are brave enough to walk into the unmarked corridor, you’re greeted by a flight of neon stairs.
Climb up to a vast bar area, or stay downstairs and veer off to the dining room on the right to eat in the restaurant.
The sensory approach – sight, smell, taste – is pan-Asian.
With no border boundaries there is no pigeon-holing, no rules.
You’ll find everything on the menu from Chinese duck pancakes, to Malaysian satay; from Balinese pork belly, to Korean kimchi wontons.
The kitchen is taking the best bits from the classics and fusing them to offer reworked versions to become new favourites.
The decor is chic and luxe – think dark Brentwood chairs, booths with blue velvet and huge wall paintings by artist Adnate of women wearing Cheongsam – the dress of 1930s Shanghai, and Geisha girls.
With no windows, the venue is moody and exciting and transports you to another world
There’s an art deco feel in the restaurant – the kitchen can be glanced into behind a big circular window.
There are gongs hanging above us, reflecting the light sparkles thrown off the mirror on the walls behind us.
It’s visually stunning.
Upstairs in the bar area, slide into a booth and enjoy one of the on-theme cocktail creations.
A Ginger Buddha with gin, ginger, grapefruit and lemongrass is zesty and fresh and stimulates the appetite.
The espresso martini has a swirl of sweetened condensed milk – Vietnamese style and should keep you going for a long night.
You can order from the bar food menu; it’s smaller, but still substantial and perfectly paired with your drink.
Steamed pork buns (but more savoury and dark than the ones you get at yum cha), fried chicken with sweet chilli sambal for some fire, or just go with a bowl of old-school prawn crackers, this time with sprinkles of kaffir lime to add fragrance and freshness.
Open every night for dinner, the kitchen is run by head chef Jordan. It aims for authenticity, despite the no-rules approach.
But they’re having fun with their creations.
With Indonesian heritage, chef Jordan isn’t afraid to use spice and heat in unexpected ways.
The plate of kingfish tartare is a good place to begin.
The fish is firm and packed with flavour. The chopped flesh is mixed with lemongrass and kaffir lime and served in prawn crackers.
Fresh chilli on top provides quite a whack.
Be sure to eat straight away otherwise the juices make the prawn crackers soft and removes the textural experience.
Two chunky duck spring rolls are served cut and with a plum dipping sauce.
The flaky pastry is hot, crispy on the outside and slightly doughy inside – perfect.
They are stuffed with shredded duck, carrot and mushroom hunks.
The plum sauce is on the right side of sweet, leaning towards sour where it belongs.
Each bite is full of duck and flavour.
Another great sharing plate.
Honey and palm sugar fried king prawns sit on a bed of crispy white noodles and chopped spring onions.
The prawns are actually battered, rather than seared and, with the inclusion of honey and sugar, the sweet batter reminds me of doughnuts.
Each bite is doughnut and prawn mixed with nutty sesame and bitey onion.
It’s sweet and salty and I’d recommend sharing rather than keeping this to yourself.
There’s a lot of sweetness, so best contrast that with something savoury from the menu.
We go for the red duck curry.
It’s not the kind you’d expect from a Thai takeaway. It’s quite dark, almost brown in colour.
This is because the sauce is made using whole spices, as well as an added Indonesian influence in the form of pepper and cinnamon.
The duck leg is served with lychees to help balance the spices, along with coriander and lotus crisps.
It really packs a punch.
A side of rice is fluffy and welcome.
Palate cleansing fresh fruit and sago are on the dessert menu, but next visit I’ll try the chocolate spring rolls with dragon fruit and strawberry sauce.
Ginger Meg’s aims to be exotic and alluring.
The space certainly whisks you away to the back alleys of Asia, and the kitchen takes your tastebuds on the journey with you.
- What: Ginger Meg’s X. 212 King Street, Newcastle.
- Contact: 4069 1888. gingermegsx.com.au
- Hours: Mon - Thurs 5pm til late, Fri-Sun 12pm til late.
- Owners: Marc Allardice and Ryan Baird.
- Head chef: Jordan.
- Accessibility: Yes.
- Take note: No reservations.
- Bottom line: Starters $10-21, Mains $19-28.
- Must try: Duck spring rolls.