Life & Style

The man behind Hamilton’s favourite food and wine venue

It’s that time again when we’ll be taking you behind the scenes with our favourite local business owners and creatives to find out where they go to eat, what playlist they’re listening to, where they take their out-of-town friends, and ultimately, what makes them tick.

For our fifth instalment of SPILL, we’re catching up with local hospitality whizz and kitchen mastermind, Tony Harrison of the Hamilton-based restaurant, Harrison’s food & wine.

spill tony harrison harrisons food and wine hamilton newcastle nsw
Tony Harrison

Firstly, what, and where would people across Newcastle recognise you from?

From the original Nor' Easter restaurant at Queens Wharf, Bistro Lowlands, Nor East restaurant at the Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club, and now from Harrison’s food and wine.

Where are you from?

I grew up in Charlestown and attended school in Whitebridge.

What made you decide to make Newcastle home?

I moved into town about 20 years ago. I love the beach, mountain biking Glenrock, and love Newcastle and its surrounding suburbs – especially now it’s growing so quickly.

Do you consider yourself more of an early bird or a night owl?

In my early days as a chef, I was a night owl. Now, I’m definitely an early bird – my daughter gets me up at 6am daily to play which I love!

Where’s your late-night hangout spot?

The Koutetsu or Coal & Cedar are favourites for a late-night swill.

What’s your coffee order?

Double espresso, followed by a triple shot long black half full takeaway in the thermos cup.

Speaking of coffee, which local venue knows your order off by heart?

The George espresso has my crazy coffee order upon entry, it’s a six-day-a-week place for me.

Tell me about your biggest career highlight…

Opening the original Nor East was a highlight and we won many awards. Finally opening my own venue is at the top, but we’ve still got lots of work to do here. I’m super proud of what Melisah and I have created here at Harrison’s and am excited for what’s in store for the future.

In your spare time, what are your THREE top favourite things to do in Newcastle?

1 – play tennis it’s a massive passion of mine
2 ­­– spend time with my wife and daughter
3 – take my dog to the beach, she loves it!

If you wanted to dazzle your out-of-town friends and family, where would you take them?

Probably the Flotilla – always such a nice experience.

Beer? Wine? Cocktail? Mocktail? What is your tipple of choice and where do you frequently visit?

Beer – Peroni
Red Wine – Pinot Noir
Cocktail – Negroni
Mocktails – never

I love the Young Street Hotel for beers in the sun, plus we can take the dog – bonus!

On the daily, what’s guaranteed to make you smile?

My family, I adore them.

What do you NEVER leave the house without?

Never leave the house without a thermos cup, and thermos water bottle, and my tennis racquets in the car (hehe).

We’re all about keeping it local here at HUNTERhunter – tell me THREE of your favourite local businesses that you live and breathe by and why you couldn’t live without them… 

The George espresso – solid coffee, great staff, and good food!
Equium Social – next level breakfast, it’s a once a week for us.
Vera Wine – knowledgeable staff, amazing wines, and keep learning through them.

What are you reading / watching / listening to now?

Swill magazines have been getting a flick through, as are Josh Niland’s books. I’m watching 61st Street, and listening to Hackney Diamonds by the Rolling Stones.

If you’re needing a short break away from Newcastle, where do you go and why?

Dalmeny on the South Coast. Think picturesque beaches, fishing, surfing, and oysters – it’s a slow sleepy town.

What’s your go-to playlist?

My wedding playlist! Melisah made it and its a ripper (Harrison Wedding). It has all our favourite tunes compiled.

What would you like to see more of in Newcastle?

I’d like to see more small niche venues, like Humbug and Arno Deli. Places like these are giving the city great character – they are genuine and exciting.

Lucky last – who would you recommend we interview next for SPILL?

I’d recommend you interview Luke Tilse of Young Street Hotel – such a character.