NewQuay promenade: a new food destination? Yes please!
By Julian Smith - NewQuay resident
If Melbourne has sister cities – Boston, Osaka and Thessaloniki are three – can suburbs have sister cities too?
If so, then NewQuay’s sister city would have to be … Newquay. The original one in Cornwall, England. This Northern Hemisphere Newquay is one of those quaint, characterful English seaside towns. The kind that are routinely inundated with pale-skinned, sun-seeking suburban Brits every summer. Newquay’s deep, sandy, crescent-shaped beach draws them in droves.
Like many English coastal towns, Newquay is also a fishing village. It’s just down the road from Padstow, where globe-trotting seafood chef and irrepressible omnivore Rick Stein bases himself for his northern summers. Stein’s Padstow seafood restaurant has been a drawcard for visitors from around Britain and the world for decades. In 2003, it helped earn him an OBE for services to tourism.
During the same driving tour on which I discovered the original Newquay, my eventual destination was Rick Stein’s restaurant. And, following a meandering 300-mile trip from London, his luxe accommodation above it.
My Stein dining experience was outstanding. Every course was sublime. I wish we had restaurants like that here. A bona fide gourmet dining destination or two would do wonders for Docklands’ standing. Chef Neil Perry recently opened his new restaurant in Double Bay, in Sydney’s waterfront eastern suburbs. Boom! Instant success. Good luck getting a table, at any time. With a star chef’s imprimatur, a tentpole restaurant can be a hit from day one. Alas, there are none in Docklands. But we can hope.
What we do have here in NewQuay is the welcome return of the former Fish Bar, on the promenade. It’s been reinvented and is now called Designer Food 101. After an interminable COVID-induced hiatus, it’s so nice to see this landmark little blue hut open again. You can take your fresh-cooked fish and chips to the tables and chairs outside. Sitting under the vast white square shade umbrella by the water, you gaze over the small flotilla of tethered boats as you wolf down hot salty white fillets with lemon juice and tartare sauce.
Inside, new owners Mel and Duke are renovating. They’re local residents who are evolving the business to also serve other popular fare such as pizza, chicken, wraps and burgers, but with a difference: you’ll soon be able to choose your own ingredients and design your own individual meal. Their manager is a smart, willowy young lady named Cassidy, who assured me that all ingredients are fresh—nothing is frozen. It may not be a Stein-standard menu, but their fish is nicely cooked and way more affordable than his. Besides, Rick Stein doesn’t do my personal favourite: potato cakes.
The most ardent local fans of fresh seafood would have to be the ever-optimistic souls who sit patiently by Docklands’ waterways. Gazing into the depths below, they hold drooped rods with limp lines, bucket, bait and tackle boxes at their feet. In the interests of their wellbeing, you’d hope that they’re catch-and-release anglers. I wouldn’t be plating up anything pulled from our murky waters.
Further along the promenade, our waterfront restaurants Berth and Cargo are humming once again. A continuous stream of enthusiastic coffeeistas and diners ebb and flow throughout the day and into the evening. It’s so good to see the resumption of gastronomic normality. The restaurants on the northern side of the promenade though seem to be enduring a more tardy return to business as usual.
After eating, it’s nice to take a leisurely stroll down the promenade to re-appreciate our impressive array of residential towers. Undoubtedly, the most maritime is the Palladio. Standing on the promenade and looking up at the stacked balconies that form the Palladio’s tapered, rounded prow is a bit like watching a huge ocean liner aiming itself right at you. I wonder if anyone’s ever thrown a streamer from up there.
The next most imposing edifice in NewQuay’s pantheon of architectural art forms is surely the Banksia building. With its round retro presence and white wave-accented balconies, it’s straight out of the Surfers Paradise developer’s playbook, circa 1975. This tower surely must have been erected at the behest of some suntanned, white-shoed, replanted Queensland renegade with a hankering for home.
NewQuay’s architectural pièce de résistance though is, without doubt, the double whammy at the western end of the promenade: the curiously named Marina Tower (singular). If you’ve imbibed one wine too many, you’re liable to cop an attack of reverse-vertigo on approach. Confronting you is the lurching, gravity-defying presence of not one but two towers, conjoined and leaning well off-centre in opposite directions. This building looks like it can’t make up its mind whether it’s coming or going.
Brave architects. No doubt they whipped up their daring design on the back of a bar napkin after a very long lunch. On a Friday. I’d love to have been there for the pitch to the financiers. I bet they all wore bow ties and congratulated each other on their daring creativity. Marina Tower is a quirky folly that’s far more at home in our NewQuay than Cornwall’s •