Summer in Newcastle is a beautiful thing. The beaches, the time off, the balmy nights. Yes Mr Porter, you were right; it’s summertime and the living is easy.
A great place to explore once the sun has lost the harshness of its bite is the Honeysuckle precinct. With its mix of global cuisine, pub-style food and more formal dining, the restaurants there are either stayers or fly-by-nights. What we haven’t seen for a while (ever?) is a casual seafood restaurant offering something other than oysters or fish and chips.
Enter The Kingfish. Not a martial arts movie, but a laidback open-air seafood restaurant catering for toddlers to grandmas and everyone in-between.
Feel free to pop in without a booking, but I wouldn’t recommend it on a summer’s weekend – this place was full by 7.30pm.
Grab a menu and order up at the counter when you’re ready. Some Sydney rock oysters or a bucket of Mooloolaba king prawns would be a lovely way to begin the meal, but I’ve eaten my weight in prawns over Christmas and New Year’s so I’m keen to try some of the other dishes.
Grilled scallops in the shell stay moist and bouncy without drying out – the lemon and herb butter melted over them is slurp-able and all of a sudden they are gone and I’m looking around for more.
A bowl of grilled Tasmanian baby octopus is perfectly charred and chewy and black and garlicky-good. The Asian-inspired pesto of chilli, garlic and parsley keeps flavours vibrant and exciting.
I couldn’t come to The Kingfish without trying the namesake dish, so citrus cured kingfish is up next. The ceviche is diced, firm, glossy fish, plus bitey slices of radish and cubes of creamy avocado to add texture and a buttery mouthfeel. A dill mayonnaise provides punch and overall the dish is fresh and flavoursome, but the serving is rather small in its enamel tray.
Larger plates are a combination of oven baked, battered and grilled briny catches, which is nice for those hoping to cut back the fat after the festive feasting. Try a whole roasted barramundi with salsa verde or snapper with red peppers and olives for crispy skin, flakey flesh and saucy finishes.
A plate of grilled Moreton Bay bugs comes with more of that garlic and herb butter. The hand-cut chips on the side of the three half bugs are perfect for mopping up all the juice.
The pride of Kingfish is surely their seafood platters. There are four to suit every appetite. Designed for two, they focus on cold, fried, grilled and mixed options from the menu. Select the cold platter and enjoy oysters, ceviche, king prawns, huge Alaskan crab legs and Moreton Bay bugs. A fry-up brings you calamari, fish, crumbed scallops (plus the potato kind), tempura prawns and seafood sticks. The mixed platter is a great way to sample a bit of everything from the menu and will see you through for the whole meal.
There are options for the kids, plus a handful of choices for those who don’t eat seafood. Head down at lunchtime for a battered hoki fillet wrap with iceberg, pickles and tartare.
The Kingfish is fully licensed and the drinks on offer are a selection of mostly local wines as well as tap and bottled beers, plus spirits and a nightly cocktail. I’m not 100 per cent sure how the staff keep track of the drinks you’ve ordered, but just be sure to stay at the counter for them once you’ve placed your order, as they aren’t brought to the table.
There was a rather long wait for food the night we dined, so hopefully the organisation will smooth itself out more fully over the coming weeks. It is peak dining season, after all. The young wait staff were doing an admirable job in busy conditions but I’m sure they too will become better oiled in time.
- What: The Kingfish Honeysuckle. 15-17 Honeysuckle Dr, Newcastle
- Contact: 4044 3011. thekingfish.com.au
- Hours: Lunch and dinner Tues-Sun.
- Owner: Garry Risteski
- Accessibility: Yes.
- Take note: Takes bookings. No BYO. Toilets in Honeysuckle Hotel.
- Bottom line: Share $6-19, large $16-28, platters $69-159.
- Must try: Grilled bugs with chips, or go for a platter.