A marsupial gets the munchies

Don’t you love portmanteau words? Those perfect linguistic hybrids where two words pack themselves together so snugly they create a new one; usually one we can’t believe wasn’t with us all along.

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Some of these blended words have moved so effortlessly into mainstream English that it’s hard to remember they weren’t always at our disposal: ‘dumbfound’ (dumb and confound), ‘camcorder’ (camera and recorder), ‘muppet’ (marionette and puppet) and ‘smog’ (smoke and fog). The word blog is itself is a combination of ‘web’ and ‘log’ and those who achieve fame in the genre are said to be ‘blogebrities’, which perfectly illustrates that some portmanteau words are on their way but not quite there yet.

One of those still a bit dodgy is ‘gastropub’, a portmanteau of gastronomy and pub. It was born in London in 1991 when two foodies took over an inner city hotel and brought restaurant quality food to a local watering hole more used to selling bangers and mash than quinoa and kale salad. But combining the word ‘gastro’ with any dining experience can be slightly alarming, so ‘gastropub’ is a word which is still finding its feet.

Helping it on its way is The Happy Wombat, the West End’s newest eatery, which proudly identifies as a ‘gastropub’. Located underneath The Quest apartment building it has wide front doors which open directly onto the street. It makes an inviting entrance because it’s a simple direct stroll from the footpath to the bar without having to push through any heavy pub doors.

Inside, with its friendly and comfortable atmosphere, it feels more like a bar/restaurant/café than a purely drinking establishment. A wall of potted plants makes a contemporary vertical garden and long shelves groan with board games, including Trivial Pursuit and chess, and curiously multiple sets of old Encyclopaedia Britannica’s.

The Happy Wombat’s owner and manager, Luke Tilse, describes the gastropub’s emphasis as being “strongly on Australian craft beer and good food” and although they serve lighter options The Happy Wombat does classic pub food well: pizzas, beer battered chips with the sausage rolls getting a gastropub touch – pork and fennel ones which come with an apple and pear chutney.

The ‘oh…lovely!’ moment goes to the venue’s added extra – its support of real wombats. On the bar is a collection box for Cedar Creek Wombat Rescue and the helpful and smiley staff members, Angie and Emily, explained that The Happy Wombat is matching every dollar donated to this wonderful organisation which assists sick and injured wombats.

For the past nine years an unofficial holiday, called Wombat Day, has been observed on 22 October. It’s about time it became official. So let’s celebrate those muscular marsupials by creating a uniquely Australian blended word – ‘wove’ (wombat and love) and spreading it, via The Happy Wombat, far and wide across the West End.

From 6.30pm on Friday 3 October The Happy Wombat is hosting a fundraiser for cystic fibrosis research and Carrie’s Place, a women’s refuge. Tickets are $40.00 per person. The Happy Wombat, 575 Hunter St, Newcastle West. Phone: 4926 2010
Email: reservations@thehappywombat.com. Web: http://www.thehappywombat.com
Facebook: The-Happy-Wombat. Hours: Mon: 7am – 5pm Tue – Thu: 7am – 11pm Fri: 7am – 12am Sat: 8am – 12am Sun: 8am – 8pm.

Kimberly O’Sullivan

Have you chosen the West End as your home or as the perfect place to run your business? Do you have a West End tale which deserves a wider audience? What inspires and infuriates you about the West End? If you have a story to tell I would love to talk to you! Here’s how to find me: kimberly@netspace.net.au; 0413 250 155.

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2 responses to “A marsupial gets the munchies

  1. How fantastic! I’ve yet to visit, but I hear good things.The diversity of Newcastle businesses is just blossoming. I love a business that supports good causes. (And I love the word ‘portmanteau’ too)

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