Wednesday, December 18, 2013


I think calling Subo my neighbourhood gem is a big stretch since it is located in Newcastle, about 2hrs drive from Sydney. So I'll call it my regional gem.

Run by a husband and wife team, Subo does exactly what they aim to do "provide high quality, delicious and interesting bistro food in a relaxed, contemporary and modest setting". Their menu focuses on local produce and changes monthly. 

Subo on Hunter Street
The most elaborate decor for this small, intimate restaurant is probably its front door, made of blocks of wood that could easily be mistaken as a brick wall from a few paces back. Inside, the brick wall theme flows through the venue, exposed bricks breaking up what otherwise would be a simple but functional room with polished concrete floor, whitewashed walls and dark wood dining furnishing. The overall feeling is minimalistic, relaxed and inviting, with a bit of funkiness thrown into the mix. I spotted a few animal head wire sculptures on the wall, but what caught my attention were the giant wooden pegs near the entrance, they made pretty cool cloth hangers.

Greeted at the door, we were led to our table by Suzie, the "Su" in Subo, it just so happens we were seated in her section for the night. We gave the 5 course tasting menu a quick once-over and confirmed that we were happy with the dishes. Substitutions can be made if you are allergic to, or have a strong dislike towards certain ingredients on the menu.

The December menu is Christmas themed, so we kicked off the evening with Tasmanian Salmon Smoked In-house with Hickory. The salmon had a lovely smokiness to it, without being overpowering, so you are left to fully appreciated the freshness of the salmon. The Yuzu kosho mayonnaise and fennel fronds were excellent companions to the fish.

Sherry and Brown Sugar Glazed Ham
Glazed ham is probably one of the things I look forward to the most at Christmas, so I had high expectations for the Sherry and Brown Sugar Glazed Ham accompanied by pumpernickel, native muntries, riberries and gravy. It was the first time I had muntries and riberries so it was pretty exciting for me. The native muntries, little berries that looks like mini apples, gave the dish its subtle sourness which offset the sweetness of the glazed ham perfectly. The riberries had a clove taste to them, reminiscent of the flavours of a traditional Christmas ham. The grainy, coarse texture of the pumpernickel was a complete contrast to the soft, tender ham and gave the dish more character. The only way I could sum up this dish was, Christmas on a plate!

Roasted Mandagery Creek Venison
The main course of Roasted Mandagery Creek Venison was served with pepperberry, juniper, parsley root and parsnip puree, shio kombu and pinenuts. And it came with a side of stuffing. I'm usually not a fan of stuffing, but this one, made of sourdough, celery, garlic, onion and thyme, was delicious. I just wish I didn't have to save room for dessert. Even though Suzie smiled and told us that we shouldn't feel obligated to eat everything on the plate, but the truth is, when the food is so delicious it feels like such as waste to leave even a crumb behind.

Following the savoury dishes was the pre-dessert, Mulled Wine Granita with buttermilk granita on top. I love mulled wine in winter so a granita version of it in the summer is such a treat and brilliant idea I might add. It was so very refreshingly delightful. Dessert came in the form of Brandy Baba. It was served with vanilla custard, confit quandongs with candied orange and a few extra splashes of St. Agnes Brandy at the table. Need I say more? 

Suzie volunteered to "peg" herself for our photo,
brilliant, don't you think?
At the end of our meal Suzie came over for a chat and her responses to my questions only highlighted just how much they cared about what they put on the table. When I asked her why they stopped offering the a la cart menu alongside the set menu, she explained that with a small team they found it hard to offer food at the quality they wanted, by removing the a la cart menu they can focus on the set menu and serve only their best.  

With its contemporary bistro setting and fine dining quality food, Subo has a strong local following and well deserved 2 hats from the Sydney Morning Herald's Good Food Guide. While the decor may be minimalistic, the food and service are anything but. It is also one of the best value for money restaurants I've come across. The portions are so generous, there is no chance of anyone going home hungry. Food coma on the other hand, is very likely.

So was the 2hr drive to Newcastle just to have a meal at Subo totally worth it? You bet!

Subo: 551D Hunter St, Newcastle West 2302   Subo on Urbanspoon