From the wood-fire grills of Tamworth’s Workshop Kitchen, we discover what the best steak in the world tastes like. Here’s where to eat in Tamworth, NSW.
Far from the madding cities, but at the same time not that far from Sydney, Tamworth, NSW lures visitors to its broad streets with its famed country music scene.
But what the troubadours and touring fans may not realise is the incredible quality of food that’s within their reach.
Our recent visit to the First Town of Lights found us enjoying the sites like the Big Golden Guitar and the Tamworth Marsupial Park, but we also had a booking at the restaurant at our hotel – the Powerhouse Hotel Tamworth.
It proved to be a meal we won’t forget anytime soon.
The Workshop Kitchen at the Powerhouse Hotel Tamworth
We make our way to dinner from our suite at the Powerhouse Hotel Tamworth. The ivy-covered doorway to the hotel’s foyer hides not only the reception but also sight of the restaurant.
But we don’t need to see the Workshop Kitchen to know it’s here.
We breathe deeply as our noses glimpse the first will-o’-the-wisps of a wonderful aroma. It’s that umami smell of world-class steak sizzling on a wood-fire grill.
But we’re still early for our table, so we’re forced to wait.
Coal Bunker Bar
Thankfully, the restaurant isn’t the only hospitality feather in the Powerhouse Hotel’s culinary cap. Through its own double doors is the Coal Bunker Bar.
This little speak-easy style bar has a cosy vibe, sells local beers and serves an excellent selection of cocktails.
Jeremy the head barman mixes us up a couple of cocktails using Dobson gin – a little distillery a few Ks up the road – while we wait for our table.
The Powerhouse Hotel and its adjoining restaurant and bar have seen a fair few stars in its time. Being the only five-star hotel in a region known for its music will do that, I suppose.
Jeremy tells us he’s served the likes of the Beach Boys, Guy Sebastian and John Farnham have all stayed, eaten and drunk here.
He’s even had Angelina Jolie here when she was directing Unbroken a few years back.
As our drinks disappear along with the minutes till our table, we follow in Jolie’s footsteps and make our way to dinner, stomachs muttering with anticipation.
Tucked behind the impressive wall of wine – there are around 800 bottles here waiting for our attention – the expansive dining area of the Workshop Kitchen opens up to us.
Overlooked by the open kitchen, the comfortably spaced tables promise an intimate yet honest meal.
Our server Liz looks after us perfectly, with her friendly yet professional manner. Her first job of the evening: getting us to choose a wine. It’s not an easy mission – the wine list is amazing.
There’s everything here from Grange ($2,400 a bottle) to local and regional wine by the glass.
The other option is the Coravin selection. Corivan is a system that injects inert gas through the cork into the bottle as you pour, preserving the rest of the wine for several months.
It means you can have things like the beautiful Burgundy Christina chooses for just $22.
Next, Liz offers us one of the Executive Chef’s freshly baked mini loaves of olive, truffle and caraway. It’s the perfect entree with butter and fresh honey.
And then our table is set for main course.
The steaks at Workshop Kitchen
The Workshop Kitchen sources its meat from Jack’s Creek Beef – multiple winner of the World’s Best Steak award. And best of all, Jack’s Creek is just round the corner, so we’re eating as local as you can get.
Of course, the restaurant’s menu has many other dishes, but from the moment we arrived, we’ve only been thinking about the dry-aged steak the kitchen cooks.
The chefs cook all the steaks in the two wood-fire ovens and grills fuelled and lit every day with local ironbark, which imparts the most amazing smoky character to the meat.
Christina orders the scotch eye fillet – a surprisingly large steak for the cut – topped with a generous amount of rich, garlicky cafe de Paris butter. The steak is perfectly cooked and rested to medium-rare.
As she cuts into her steak, Christina lets out a sigh. The meat is so tender, she doesn’t even really need a steak knife. The flavours are as rich and tender as the texture, and the aromas of the woodsmoke are instilled into the cut.
I order the wagyu rump cap – a thick, oblong slab of dark-char crusted beef that has really taken on the ironbark as well. Although I ask for mine rare, there’s not a touch of blood on my plate and the meat maintains its firm, full-flavoured dense cut.
Instead of cafe de Paris, I have peppercorn sauce with my steak. It comes in a surprisingly deep miniature milk churn pot, and is rich and buttery.
All steaks come with a little rocket salad and a well-balanced dressing made with local honey.
We’re impressed that you also have the choice of two ‘small’ sides as part of your steak order – something you’d have to pay for in high-quality steakhouses in Sydney. As for ‘small’, I’d be interested to see what a ‘large’ side would be.
Country hospitality and generosity right there.
Christina gets the basket of chunky chips and the green beans with fetta and almond slivers. I can’t go past the creamy spicy jalapeño mash, which gets the approval of Liz, and buttered seasonal veg.
We’re so full after all this that we struggle to even think about dessert.
However, cheered on by Liz, we share a Filipino custard flan, which is a kind of rich crustless pie of set condensed milk custard. Think sumptuous, decadent, self-supporting Portuguese tart filling.
It comes with half a caramelised banana, coconut ice cream, chocolate soil, caramel sauce and a puff pastry tuille.
Liz was right, we did need to try it.
Stumbling back to our mercifully close room, we sink into the awaiting food coma and the wonderfully comfortable bed at the Powerhouse Hotel Tamworth.
What a meal!
You can book accommodation at the Powerhouse Hotel Tamworth or reserve a table at the Workshop Kitchen here – or even better, do both. We highly recommend it.
You can also see our full review and video walkthrough of the property here.