Newcastle Living Magazine
Meet The Harrisons
Sitting in the middle of Hamilton’s Tudor Street is Harrison’s Food & Wine. Combining various techniques from across the globe, Harrison’s is owned and run by husband and wife duo Tony and Melissa Harrison. Between running the business, getting married, and bringing a little girl into the world, the Harrision’s have had a lot on their plates – but have still found time to take the business from strength to strength.
The overall theme at Harrison’s is a broad scope of different foods, but Tony sums it up nicely as simply European fare. The idea itself initially stems from Tony and Melissa’s travels abroad.
“We’d been traveling together through different parts of America and Europe and after having different leases at large venues like Low Lands and the Yacht Club, I desperately wanted to down-size. We had a discussion about having a smaller place, somewhere where Mel would have space for hanging her art too,” says Tony.
“As she’s a pretty good painter, it would also allow me to do a smaller boutique style food offering. Not fine dining, but closer to a local weekly haunt where you go to get an à la carte lunch.”
Harrison’s menu is ever rotating, with Tony intentionally mixing things up every couple of weeks to keep the regulars guessing. This has created a bit of a stir through Newcastle, with word of mouth becoming their main form of marketing.
“The backbone of our booking structure every week is through word of mouth. So we keep the menu changing sort of every one to two weeks to change at least a dish or two. That way if we do have regulars, it doesn’t get too boring. We try to keep the menu pretty seasonal and pretty fresh.”
Tony says he was incredibly lucky to set up shop in Hamilton, with the location allowing him great regular clientele as well as furthering the area’s legacy as a meeting place for different cultures to share food.
“Hamilton’s always had a really strong reputation as one of the food orientated parts of Newcastle, plus it has a history of being a multicultural hub in Newcastle, stretching back to the early 40s.”
“There’s beautiful old homes so our clientele are older people that like to come out and pop into the bar, becoming regulars.”
The Harrison’s travels around the world have heavily influenced the menu. Parts of Europe and Africa have been interwoven into both the dishes as well as the techniques used to craft the dishes.
“We make fresh chicken pâté, hand shuck fresh oysters, a bit of Italian, French, Northern Africa, and Moroccan. So really a broad European influence on the menu combined with traditional techniques.”
“We don’t want to pigeonhole ourselves in that sort of area. It’s definitely got a rustic charm to it, the dinner is a three course set menu, you get three canape plates on arrival, followed by entree and main.”
Menu aside, Tony says the over aesthetic at Harrison’s is a bit like the food: a smorgasbord of different influences. This lends itself well to a cozy yet open feeling. One the customers seem to keep coming back for.
“The atmosphere is eclectic. There’s always nice music on, chandeliers on the roof that look gorgeous and the kitchen is very open. You can see and smell everything happening right there in front of you, so it’s got a charm.”
The walls themselves are a particular favourite for Tony, being continuously decorated with art Melissa has created from her studio. These pieces rarely stay on the walls for too long though, getting snatched up by customers.
“Everything on the walls in the restaurant is painted by my wife. She’s a part-time teacher and more than part-time artist. When we first met, art was a bit of a hobby for her. We’ve now been together eight years and it might end up that art will be her full time job at some point with the way things are going.”
“A major factor for Harrisons is sourcing quality local ingredients to really hit home the essence of the rotating seasonal menu.”
“She does commissions, working at Onwards Studio which is down at Broadmeadow. It’s a shared space, she exhibits there once or twice per year and then she’s also painted some items just for the restaurant. Unfortunately they all get sold because people come in and buy them – which is great for her but also sad because I want them to stay up on the wall.”
A major factor for Harrisons is sourcing quality local ingredients to really hit home the essence of the rotating seasonal menu. Tony says this means sourcing local fruit, veg, seafood and more.
“We work closely with Dylan Abdu from Newcastle Greens. He’s’ a farmer who has land out at Corinbon, so we use his stuff as well as the Newcastle City Farmers Market. We work very closely with Shane’s Seafood, who is the best seafood supplier. There’s a Sydney market direct six days a week off the auction floor, so we see very high quality seafood. They’re pretty much the industry leader. Anyone whos got any clout in the industry as a restaurant uses those guys. We also source beef and other meat locally as much as possible.”
When it comes to what’s next for Harrisons, Tony says that ultimately he’s looking to expand his offering in an intentional way.