Melinda Beswick’s smiling face has welcomed many a diner to Margan Restaurant for close to 10 years and her professionalism has ensured a good percentage have become repeat customers.
Her friendly and attentive manner, coupled with a quick wit and an in-depth understanding of Margan Estate’s wines and produce, helped to take the restaurant to a new, one-hatted level this year.
The time has come for Melinda to move on but never fear, she isn’t going far. She has taken on a combined sommelier and cellar manager role at Margan Estate and her restaurant manager role has been snapped up by Branxton’s Eliza Stevenson, who has recently returned home to the Hunter from a two-year stint at Notting Hill’s The Ledbury after winning the 2013 First Creek Front of House Scholarship.
Eliza’s fiance Thomas Boyd, who worked alongside Graham in the kitchen at The Ledbury, started off as an apprentice chef at Margan and quickly became sous chef.
Food & Wine has some exciting news concerning Thomas, too, but that can wait until next week. Sorry!
Mama-P on move
Popular Charlestown cafe Mama-P has opened for business at Charlestown Square’s food court for the summer months, in addition to their Pacific Highway shopfront just down the road.
You can find them at the former Pie Face kiosk.
“We were offered the opportunity just a couple of weeks ago, so we thought ‘Why not?’,” Mama-P owner Kylie Pheils told Food & Wine.
“We have such amazing, encouraging customers and we are always commended and thanked daily for providing healthier alternatives to the over-processed chain food stores we are surrounded by [laughs].
“We have managed to open up and start trading in about 13 days from first conception. We haven’t slept a wink and we converted our entire dining room wall into a missive whiteboard to plan how the whole concept would work.
“Luckily we have amazing staff and family and friends who all helped support us to get it up and running.”
Kylie said Mama-P had expanded their menu to include healthy smoothie and Acai bowls at the Charlestown Square kiosk.
“We’re passionate about offering people choices. No matter what lifestyle you follow or what food intolerances or allergies you have, we try to cater for everyone,” Kylie explained.
“We are predominately plant-based and vegan with all of our products being gluten and dairy free with no refined sugars added.
“We are still serving up our famous waffles and sweet potato toasts which are always popular and our renowned raw treats and whole cakes are what people keep coming back for again and again.
“So far we have had great feedback that this is a much-needed offering for all of the visitors and workers at the shopping centre.”
Swap and meet
Pickled & Pressed at The Junction has introduced a weekly swap meet where produce grown by backyard gardeners can be bartered or swapped. Head to the 98 Glebe Road shop between 11am and 2pm today (December 7) and get to know like-minded growers.
The new-look Exchange Hotel at Hamilton held its official launch on December 2. Goodtime Burgers are now being served at the venue, too. Definitely worth checking out if you haven’t already.
Coffee retail shop Slingtown opened in Islington on December 1. Chris Johnston, of Suspension, Good Brother and The Edwards fame, and his partner Steph are the brains behind the new venture and say the store will stock all sorts of goodies for the coffee lover in your life.
The kind folk at Nanna Kerr’s Kitchen in Pokolbin have been left scratching their heads after three, four-metre-long timber benches were stolen from their verandah on December 3. The benches have distinctive white legs.
This week is your last chance to grab a unique Christmas gift at Sacred Tree Markets at Nelson Bay (4pm to 9pm, December 9) and at Morpeth Public School (9am to 2pm, December 11). If you are keen to grab some ingredients for a gourmet Christmas lunch, head to Speers Point for the Lake Macquarie Farmers Market on Saturday, or Newcastle Showground at Broadmeadow for the Newcastle City Farmers Market on Sunday.
A family affair
Fourth generation Hunter Valley winemaker Bruce Tyrrell has been appointed chair of Australia’s First Families of Wine (AFFW), a collective of Australia’s leading family-owned, multi-generational wine businesses.
He assumed the chair from Yalumba’s Robert Hill Smith at a recent full board meeting in Adelaide, becoming the fifth chair of the esteemed wine group.
“I’m looking forward to a busy few years,” Bruce said.
“As a group, we have successfully communicated the purpose of AFFW with media and trade at home and around the world.
“Over the course of my tenure, I look forward to talking more directly to consumers, particularly domestically, to establish the AFFW as a trusted friend when selecting and drinking premium Australian wine.
“We will continue to engage with media and trade internationally to give quality Australian wine the profile and respect it deserves. And for those who know me, you can rest assured that I’ll have some opinions on all the happenings on the exciting wine landscape.”