Welcome to the neighbourhood

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Good food creates good memories. Smell and taste are powerfully connected in our brains, which is why particular places or times in our lives are more often than not inextricably linked to the food associated with them. Weet-Bix with hot milk and dark brown sugar can, in a heartbeat, take me back to mid-winter childhood breakfasts.

Food and travel are also natural partners and I still associate particular cities or countries with the foods I ate there. My first visit to the USA was to San Francisco where, in an unglamorous part of town, I found an old, quirky deli/cafe which was clearly a favourite with the city’s older Jewish residents. Sitting at the cafe’s long green laminex counter I was intrigued by the menu: purple-coloured borsch, chicken soup with matso balls – and bagels.

It was all unfamiliar, but hunger and a sense of adventure spurred me on and I ordered the only thing that was recognisable, a donut-shaped bread roll with poppy seeds called a ‘bagel’. The waiter recommended I have the traditional filling of cream cheese and lox (smoked salmon). And how good was that chewy bread roll called a bagel? A = very, very good. Back in Sydney there was only one bakery which made them and they often ran out, which seemed to make the memory of that bagel even stronger. When I moved to the Hunter there was nary a bagel to be seen and my San Francisco memory was destined to be filed away in my brain’s nostalgia folder.

So it was a dose of happiness x 3 when I discovered that: Newcastle now had its first bagel bar (smiley face) called Papa’s Bagel Bar, that this bagel bar was in the West End (double smiley face) and that it had the homey vibe of a neighbourhood cafe (triple smiley face).

Bagel baking is for morning people. At Papa’s Bagel Bar it starts at 5.00am six days a week and its solid production til 7.00am, when the doors open for the breakfast regulars. It’s a busy time of day and the smell wafting down Hunter Street is simply divine. Papa’s turns out about 200 bagels a day, with eight types both sweet and savoury. If you just want to grab and go there are three choices of pre-made ‘bamwiches’ at the front counter including one which made me smile – cream cheese and smoked salmon. There’s an all-day breakfast menu and a lunch menu which kicks in at 11.00am. Coffee is the perfect bagel accompaniment, but if you are looking for an alternative Papa’s makes a ‘juice of the day’. On the day I visited it was spiced warm apple.

Papa’s Bagel Bar is the creation of owner Johno Quinn and head chef Angus Carroll and their whole-hearted commitment to the cafe makes its success all the more deserved. Johno loves to cook; he comes from a foodie family and started to work with food at high school, eventually working in a French creperie in Canada. His partner, Josie Dwyer, has lent a hand, styling the cafe right down to the planters on the tables and creating the cafe’s own hand made plates stamped with their logo. Johno is chuffed with how the business is growing; his vision of a place where nourishing, tasty home cooking is served in a neighbourhood cafe has struck a real chord with Novocastrians. He makes the connection: “Food. Memory. It defines a place.”

Papa’s Bagel Bar, corner of Devonshire Street (aka Devonshire Lane) and Hunter Street. Open Monday-Friday 7.00am-2.30pm and Saturday 7.00am-2.00pm. Facebook: Papa’s Bagel Bar. Instagram: Papas_Bagel_Bar. It has no sign on the street, but it is directly opposite Hunter Street TAFE. You can’t miss it, just follow your nose!

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 or 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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