Flotilla ~ Newcastle

Jackie McMillan
4th Feb 2023

Dusky pink clouds make Wickham a surprisingly inviting place to dine. The pale blue of The Flotilla disappears into the sky. The building’s light industrial bones are enhanced by shaded front decks reminiscent of construction site scaffolding. Inside, the hard industrial remnants are softened by low lighting, slouchy tan leather banquettes and a syrupy warm welcome from restaurant manager Eduardo Molina.

We bond over wine. With a partner who works in wine imports, Molina tells me he’s a “high functioning, raging alcoholic”. He uses his lived expertise to steer us to the 2021 CRFT Arranmore Vineyard Chardonnay ($110). I love it: balanced oak, malolactic fermentation with enough acidity to drive it, a maritime salty lick and a coconut and vanilla-tinged nose you could get lost in. Molina also delivers extra snacks plucked from the baller menu ($120/person): punchy smoked fish rillettes in bottarga cream and caramelised butternut pumpkin beignets dusted with togarashi in a soy emulsion. They contrast nicely with the normal menu’s ($95/head) more delicate ajo blanco, a chilled white soup with soothing macadamia cream, peppery pickled celery and green grapes.

Head chef Jake Deluca celebrates the season with summer squash sitting over confit eggplant, smoked stracciatella, zucchini, and gremolata. While we both welcomed the amount of vegetables, my dining companion craved a bit more protein on the dishes. When it was there, it was fabulous, across Barigoule mussels and Cape Grim wagyu. The mussels, pickled in vinegar and white wine, are clever and original. Served with sweet onions and salt’n’vinegar chips, they are exactly what you want to eat after a day at the beach: nostalgia taken to the modern day. The short rib was marinated in lemon and buttermilk to break it down into a charred piece of ridiculously soft deliciousness against a textbook potato galette, sharp mustard and a pot of juicy zucchini on romesco. The star of the three small dessert courses was the poached blood plums with a breakfast-inspired collection of oats, yoghurt ice cream and milk tuille sails that will float you off into the night with another nostalgic grin.