While the sun and surf are a given, it’s the diverse and sophisticated dining scene making waves in this vibrant coastal city.
Best Korean: CorEat1/11
Cultures merge at this East End newcomer, where chef Sunny Chae combines modern Australian influences with his Korean heritage. Dishes such as cheesy Wagyu cutlet with pineapple kimchi salsa or Hunter Valley mushroom and tofu with soy kombu sauce coax maximum flavour from the fusion, while yuzu gives Eton mess a citrus kick. The elegant dining room and a local wine list makes it worthy of a celebration.
35 Hunter Street, Newcastle; (02) 8376 2329
Image credit: Susuru
Best Japanese: Susuru2/11
Get your fix of noodles and dumplings, Japanese-style, at this yellow-hued canteen in the thick of the CBD. The menu dives deep into comfort food with a ramen list of pork, chicken or vegan broth customised with the likes of fried chicken curry, pepper shiitake or spicy miso butter. Gyoza swing from classic pork to Wagyu with cheese and all the way to dessert, with an apple pie filling topped with miso caramel sauce.
140 King Street, Newcastle; (02) 4049 8448
Image credit: Antojitos
Best Mexican: Antojitos3/11
The Californian sun shines on Steel City, thanks to expat Eric Flores and the buzzing taqueria he co-owns. Splashed with stencil art, the rugged warehouse space and its indoor Kombi van reflect a street-food menu that riffs on the greatest hits of Cal-Mex fare, from fried fish tacos to pulled pork burritos and loaded nachos. And while the mood is fun and fast, Flores’s exacting slow-food standards mean corn tortillas and salsas are made fresh each day.
11 Steel Street, Newcastle West; (02) 4925 3768
Best brunch: Estabar4/11
A wholefood haven opposite Newcastle Beach, Estabar’s mod-café menu celebrates regional producers. That could mean ethical eggs served with macadamia and miso pesto or local halloumi with pickled beetroot, hummus and tomato chutney in a veggie toastie. A seasonal creed also guides the freshly churned gelato: try blood plum or fennel and dark chocolate chip.
61 Shortland Esplanade, Newcastle; 0447 300 896
Best casual lunch: Merewether Surfhouse5/11
Eyeballing Merewether Beach (just south of Newcastle CBD) from its front-row position, this glass and steel pavilion rocks a lively atmosphere from morning coffee at the kiosk to late-night cocktails in the bar. For a lazy lunch, there’s no beating top-floor Surfhouse Italian, where the Med-style menu meets golden-sand views.
5 Henderson Parade, Merewether; (02) 4918 0000
Image credit: Good Brother Espresso Shop
Best coffee: Good Brother Espresso Shop6/11
Newcastle has started its day at this welcoming café for the past 12 years, thanks to brews to suit every taste and bags of beans to grab and go. Take a seat for a toastie – classic ham and smoked cheddar with housemade relish – or check the specials board for plant-based treats.
40 King Street, Newcastle; (02) 4023 3158
Image credit: Modus Merewether
Best brewpub: Modus Merewether7/11
An industrial-cool brewhouse with a rotation of 36 beers on tap (including the zero-proof Nort plus limited-edition pours), Modus also offers wine, cocktails and elevated pub grub – think spicy Margaritas, burgers and tacos. Those keen to go deeper can take a brewery tour that ends with a tasting paddle.
20 Merewether Street, Merewether; (02) 4011 5850
Image credit: Arno
Best deli: Arno8/11
Opened in 2022 by a chef with an Italian obsession, this Euro-classic deli is the perfect spot for a lunchtime porchetta panini or a grazing platter with a glass of sangiovese. The location, close to Newcastle Beach and the Hunter River foreshore, also makes it the ideal pre-picnic pitstop.
181 King Street, Newcastle; (02) 4926 1698
Best yum cha: Ginger Meg’s9/11
At this warehouse lurking down an inner-city laneway, a glowing industrial staircase proves irresistible Instagram bait. A vast cocktail bar and dining room are the mood-lit stage for pan-Asian eats and cocktails but for lunch on the weekend, head here for a parade of steamer baskets filled with fat har gow, pillowy fried chicken bao and crisp spring rolls.
212 King Street, Newcastle; (02) 4069 1888
Best fancy dinner: Flotilla10/11
This chic restaurant on the CBD’s western fringe has a magazine-worthy fit-out that includes leather booths and polished concrete floors. Head chef Jake Deluca’s mod-Oz set menu is just as appealing, while the minimal-intervention wine list brims with easy-drinking drops.
9 Albert Street, Wickham; (02) 4965 3885