Over the years, Newcastle has shifted from its industrial roots to make way for a vibrant hospitality scene. Yes, still got a pub practically on every corner—many still holding onto the sticky carpets and live gig grunge of the 80s. And we love Newy for it. But, sometimes, a greasy counter meal just doesn't cut the mustard.
If you're planning a trip North—or, in fact, live in Newcastle—you'll no doubt want to know where to head for stellar seafood feasts by the beach, stuffed tacos in a no-frills warehouse, and fine dining degustations in up-and-coming 'burbs. And, lucky for you, the Steel City has it all—and then some.
Here are the best restaurants in Newcastle right now.
Bookmark this understated coastal diner for the fancy occasions. Headed up by Shayne Mansfield and Eduardo Molina, Flotilla uses fresh, seasonal and local produce in dishes like hay-aged quail with whey onions, fennel and stonefruit sambal, market fish with brassica, baby kale and fried oyster, and beef cheeks and veal tongue with cauliflower and bordelaise. Two courses will set you back $75 and three courses a cool $90, plus there are plentiful vegetarian options. However, we reckon the restaurant's Sunday Lunch is where it's at. For $75, you get a five-course set menu, which changes every month. Hot tip: try to nab a spot at the chef's table for the best seat in the house. Book here.
Grab your mates for a raucous Mexican feast at Antojitos and we guarantee you'll have a good time. The much-loved Newy restaurant dishes up Cali-Mex street food classics—burritos, tacos, nachos, and mulitas (double-deck quesadillas)—in a massive industrial warehouse. It claims to serve up 45,000 burritos and 35,000 tacos every single year—so, yes, it is popular and you will need to book ahead for a group. What makes it so good? The food is fresh-as, with the house-made, stone-ground corn tortillas and veggie salsas made daily. Plus, the no-nonsense space, red plastic trays, and paper plates make it the ideal spot to order that extra margarita and enough food to warrant loosening your belt a notch (or few). There are seven different aguas frescas on offer (with the choice of adding a liquor shot), plus cocktails, beers, and wine. Book here.
Cheese wheel pasta is never a bad idea—and you can now get your cheesy carb fix at Lock's Paddock. Located in the heart of Newcastle, this intimate restaurant raises a glass to Euro vino and Novascotian fare. If you're familiar with Potts Point diner Chester White, then some of the menu might look familiar—cacio e pepe and carbonara included. That's because husband-and-wife duo Nick and Rebecca are the brains behind this new Newy venture. Expect swingin' country tunes, lots of cured meats, pasta dishes, and plenty of wines by the glass. Walk-ins are preferred for smaller groups, otherwise book here for six or more people.
Subo has a simple goal: to serve delicious food in a relaxed environment. To do that, the Newcastle restaurant offers a six-course set menu (two entrees, two mains, two desserts) which changes twice a season. To find the 35-seater known to locals for its impeccable service, find a door that looks like roughly constructed exposed brick. The wine list is minimal intervention and entirely Aussie, bringing small, local producers to light. Book here.
Scottie's Seafood Restaurant
No trip to Newcastle is complete without a long, leisurely meal at Scottie's. The Newcastle East institution is just a short stroll from the beach, making it the perfect spot for a post-swim feast. It recently had a bit of a facelift, but still maintains its laidback beachy atmosphere in spades. You'll want to kick back at an al fresco table on a sunny afternoon, otherwise its white-wall and timber-heavy interior makes for a cosy dinner spot. Food-wise, it's all about fresh sustainable seafood—think whipped taramasalata on spicy prawn crackers, sea urchin carbonara, mud crab dumplings in saffron and makrut lime leaf broth, and your classic fish 'n' chips. Book here.
Popular Byron Bay restaurant Light Years has found another home in Newcastle, meaning you can now get its fun Asian fare a lot closer to Sydney. The sweeping Darby Street venue boasts a retro Palm Springs-inspired fit-out—think dusty pink hues, curved booth seating, blonde timber, marble benchtops, mosaic tiling, and lush greenery and palm trees. Matching the eclectic design is the cuisine-crossing menu, featuring dishes such as bao buns, mud crab dumplings, duck pancakes, prawn rolls with yuzu mayo, curries, Korean bo ssam-style steak, and plenty more. We suggest you order a couple of cocktails and settle into a curved booth, stat. Book here.
Nagisa Japanese Restaurant
Located in the harbourside Honeysuckle Precinct, Nagisa is a modern Japanese restaurant with cracking water views. For said vistas, you'll want to nab a spot outside and soak up the sun and sea breeze. Otherwise, the smart interior is minimalist heaven—complete with a teppanyaki bar. As for the food, expect top-quality sashimi, sushi platters, izakaya-style snacks, and larger plates like pork belly kakuni and wagyu striploin served with citrus kosho and pickled radish. To pair with your feast, there's a considered selection of Japanese craft beers and sake, award-winning Japanese whisky, cocktails, and wine. Book here.
If you haven't heard, a swish new hotel has opened on Hunter Street—and it's got multiple dining spots. Built into the 113-year-old heritage-listed former Scotts Limited and David Jones building, QT Newcastle is decked out with rich jewel tones and plush designer furniture, a rooftop bar and izakaya, and a groundfloor restaurant, Jana. Led by Michelin-trained executive chef Massimo Speroni, Jana is a fresh take on a modern Australian bar and grill decked out with an open kitchen and a dry-aged meat cabinet. It champions local produce, so expect a lot of seafood and top cuts of steak alongside simple (but incredibly delicious) small and side plates. Naturally, you'll find a lot of Hunter Valley vinos on the drinks list as well as fruit-driven cocktails and a concise selection of beer. Book here.
Ginger Meg's is a buzzy two-level Asian restaurant in the heart of Newcastle. Upstairs, you'll find the cocktail bar serving up $14 cocktails on tap and bar snacks like prawn har gow, duck bao, and mini barbecue pork buns. And every Wednesday and Thursday, the bar slings half-price food, $6 beers, and cocktails for a tenner. Meanwhile down in the restaurant there's a larger selection of pan-Asian fare, from betel kingfish sashimi and Sichuan salt and pepper squid to chilli caramel pork belly, noodle dishes, and an Indonesian-style seafood curry. There's also a reasonably priced set menu ($60) consisting of seven of the restaurant's most popular dishes. Not to mention it has vegetarians and vegans well covered, too. But perhaps the crown jewel of Ginger Meg's is its weekend yum cha—and you can even add on bottomless booze to really take things up a notch. Book here.
Image credit: QT Newcastle, Flotilla, Antojitos, Lock's Paddock, Light Years, QT Newcastle, Ginger Meg's