Vincent St. Kitchen & Bar is located inside an old ex-services club on the main street of Cessnock. It’s a bit of an odd situation, with all club branding removed, but the sign-in process still remaining.
Making enquiries about what we’re actually signing into with the friendly, welcoming staff, gets us an explanation that it’s actually a fourth building owned and run by the Cessnock Leagues Club (who also have a motel, leagues club and the Paxton Bowling Club).
While the architecture and walled-off (perhaps former) smoking courtyard here feels a bit dated, they’ve gone to some lengths to spruce up the interior and branding, kicking off with white neon signage set on a fake green feature wall.
It’s clean, modern and very spacious inside – the furniture they've selected swims in the cavernous spaces – pitched at a younger market than the usual all-ages leagues club affair. You also won't find any Cessnock Leagues Club branding anywhere, perhaps because they're trying to shake off any daggy leagues club association.
We’re here because the menu read as interesting, and Cessnock was well placed for a lunch stop on the drive back to Sydney from the New England region. Some of the beers we’d been drinking further North have also made the trip to Cessnock, with the interesting on-tap list boasting a New England Rypper Pale Ale ($7.90) that’s amber in colour with a hops-dominated palate. It makes the uncomplicated Mountain Goat Beer Goat Lager ($7.90) seem a bit pale and insignificant by comparison. These prices are for visitors by the way, besties (how the club refers to their younger members) pay a little bit less.
With dishes like Crispy Korean Chicken Bao ($18/3) the menu comes across as bold and trend driven. Three soft steamed bao are loaded up with fresh sprouts and vegetables, topped with a hunk of fried chicken, a tiny pinch of kimchi and a scattering of crispy garlic crumbs, all glued together with Korean barbeque sauce.
A well-priced Cider-Braised Pork Cheek ($22) is presented with a pat of corn puree dotted with kernels, purple heirloom baby carrots and some puffed crackling pieces to make up for a rubbery skin. It’s missing the menu-promised salsa, and I don’t get anything from the Sichuan pepper, though I do still like eating the blander-than-expected dish.
What the kitchen did get right, is a great herb butter, presented against slices of House-Made Sourdough ($9) with a pile of dukkah. To my eye, a bolder hand is needed with ingredients like kimchi and Sichuan pepper to get the balance of flavours right here, ensuring that dishes actually eat as well as they read.
Vincent St. Kitchen & Bar
201 Vincent Street, Cessnock
Ph: (02) 4005 6766