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Newcastle Herald
Newcastle Herald
Lisa Rockman

A night to remember for Humbug and Yellow Billy at SMH Good Food Guide awards

Left to right, Yellow Billy Restaurant head chef Darren Price with sommelier Pat Hester and executive chef Sam Alexander. Picture by Simone De Peak
Humbug owners Michael Portley and Stephanie Wells. Picture by Marina Neil
Humbug chef Michael Portley in action. Picture by Marina Neil
Left to right, Yellow Billy Restaurant head chef Darren Price with executive chef Sam Alexander and sommelier Pat Hester. Picture by Simone De Peak

Newcastle restaurant Humbug and Pokolbin's Yellow Billy Restaurant have had a Monday night to remember at the 2024 Good Food Guide awards.

Humbug, owned and operated by husband and wife Michael Portley and Stephanie Wells, earned its first chef's hat, while Yellow Billy won a major award - Oceania Cruises Drinks List of the Year - and also retained the chef's hat it has worn with pride for the past year.

"There's more to a great wine list than a flashy cellar. The real magic happens when there's personality, consideration and imagination - and sommelier Pat Hester nails the brief," SMH writer Callan Boys said of Yellow Billy's wine list.

"There's a thoughtful focus on interesting NSW wines alongside thrilling local and international producers, many emerging and boundary-pushing. Beer, spirit and cocktail fans are looked after, too. A difficult menu to fault."

Humbug's Stephanie had this to say on social media:

"We are so grateful to our chefs and front of house team who work so hard to create a seamless experience for our guests. They bring spirit, energy, and passion every day, and it is such a pleasure to come to work every day and be alongside them.

"We also want to say a big thank you to all our wonderful guests who have come in and supported our small family owned and run restaurant. We love what we do, and the joy our restaurant brings to you really makes it all so rewarding.

"Mike and I are also so grateful to our beautiful families who support us and look after our boys while we work nights. Humbug would not be possible without the love and support from them.

"The next year, we will keep doing what we do best. We will work with the seasons and our amazing producers to bring you food that is heartfelt and delicious. We will also continue to present an ever-changing wine list that represents exciting wines made with intention and thoughtfulness from small family owned wineries, local and international."

Read more: Food Issue: Top shelf local dining in Newcastle and the Hunter Valley

The annual awards night in Sydney, this year presented by Vittoria Coffee and Oceania Cruises, was attended by 300 of the state's top restaurant talents.

Eighty-eight new restaurants made it into the 2024 Good Food Guide. Humbug was one of them, but Muse Kitchen (Pokolbin) and Stunned Mullet (Port Macquarie) lost their respective hats.

Muse Restaurant at Pokolbin retained its two hats, and the following restaurants held on to one hat: Bistro Molines, EXP. Restaurant, Flotilla, Humbug, Margan Restaurant and Yellow Billy Restaurant.

One hat is awarded to a restaurant scoring 15 to 15.5 out of 20; two hats to a restaurant scoring 16 to 17.5 out of 20; and three hats for a score of 18 to 20 out of 20.

Other major awards handed out were:

  • Oceania Cruises Chef of the Year - former Maitland chef Josh Niland (Saint Peter, Fish Butchery, Petermen, Charcoal Fish);
  • Vittoria Coffee Restaurant of the Year - Margaret, Double Bay;
  • Vittoria Coffee Legend Award - Kylie Kwong, Lucky Kwong, South Eveleigh;
  • Smeg Young Chef of the Year - Shashank Achuta, Brasserie 1930, Sydney;
  • Aurom Poultry Co. New Restaurant of the Year - Such and Such, Canberra;
  • Oceania Cruises Service Excellence of the Year - Alice Dwyer, Pipit, Pottsville;
  • Regional Restaurant of the Year - Bistro Livi, Murwillumbah;
  • Innovator of the Year - Shaun Christie-David, Plate it Forward;
  • NSW Regional Restaurant of the Year - Bar Heather, Byron Bay;
  • Bar of the Year - PS40, Sydney;
  • Sommelier of the Year - Max Gurtler, Oncore by Clare Smyth, Sydney;
  • Cafe of the Year - Happyfield, Haberfield; and
  • Critic's Pick Award - Malay Chinese Noodle Bar, Circular Quay and Ashfield.

Read more: Expect a warm welcome at neighbourhood wine bar

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