DINNER at Rosa Grine’s childhood home always meant quality time and home-cooked favourites.
The importance of eating wholesome meals has stuck with her throughout her life.
The former owner of Oscars cafe at Pokolbin, who now runs Happi Chicken in Kurri Kurri, has expanded to Newcastle with the opening of Happi Kitchen in Wickham.
Like Happi Chicken, which has an emphasis on cooking wholesome, homestyle meals to cater for time-poor families, the cafe’s focus is on offering a convenient alternative to fast food.
What I’m doing is providing that alternative where you do have those baked dinner options, so we will cook dinner for you and we’re doing it at an affordable price.Rosa Grine, Happi Kitchen owner
“My main goal here is to provide dinners for evenings,” Grine says. “Parents are time-poor these days - by the time they’ve finished work and gone to swimming lessons, they get home and it’s too late to start cooking meals.
“What I’m doing is providing that alternative where you do have those baked dinner options, so we will cook dinner for you and we’re doing it at an affordable price.”
She spent a while searching for a space in Newcastle before taking over the site formerly occupied by chef Scott Webster’s deli and cafe, Throsby St. Providore. The expansive deli offered a generous floor plan that has allowed Happi Kitchen to set up a cafe area at the front, complete with plush lounges, selling coffee and sweet treats.
There is table seating at the back of the cafe to cater for dine-in meals, such as Happi’s 1/4 chicken with chunky potato bake ($12), pork or beef roast with vegetables ($14), chicken roast with vegetables ($10), or pasta of the day ($7.90 for small, $13.50 for large), as well as 12-inch pizzas ($18-26).
The menu also has burgers, schnitzels, toasties, wraps, and salads, along with chicken meal packs, which range from $29 for a barbecue chicken, large chips, small salad and gravy, to $43 for a family meal pack with a chicken, roast potatoes and pumpkin, steamed vegetables, gravy and small potato bake.
The cabinet is stocked with fresh salads (Caesar; pumpkin beetroot and feta; coleslaw; potato; pasta; fruit), as well as a range of indulgent cheesecakes that Grine has become famous for at the Kurri Kurri store, including Tim Tam, Malteser and strawberries and cream.
The classic caramel cheesecake topped with proper caramel, made from condensed milk, is worth every single calorie.
All meals are available as takeaway or can be delivered to Wickham, Maryville, Newcastle West, Islington, Tighes Hill, Carrington, The Hill, and Cooks Hill.
As well as lunch and dinner, Happi Kitchen is launching a buffet breakfast on Sunday, which will be accompanied by live music in the cafe.
There’s also a kids menu and a play zone in the cafe.
Born and raised in Kurri Kurri as the eldest of six kids, Grine grew up eating hearty meals that her Yugoslavian father, Oscar, prepared every day for his family.
“My father grew up very poor, so it was very important having six children that we grew up having wholesome food every day,” Grine says. “We used to get up at five o’clock in the morning and Dad would already have a baked dinner in the oven for us because he was getting dinner on early so that we could take a baked dinner to school.
“That was a big thing and I think that’s what drove my sisters and I into being such foodies.”
Grine opened her cafe Oscars - which she named after her late father - in Pokolbin at Hunter Valley Gardens in 2002 before she sold it in 2011 to take time off to help care for her mother Apolonia, who was better known throughout her life by the nickname, Happi.
It felt only natural to honour her mum when she opened Happi Chicken in 2014.
“We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel with food,” says Grine, who works in the kitchen alongside her three sisters and sister-in-law. “For us, it’s important that all of our food is fresh and it’s got plenty of flavour. I just believe people deserve better than fast food. We’re old-school.”