Opening a restaurant is challenging at the best of times, let alone in the aftermath of a pandemic and during a prolonged cost-of-living crisis.
But from day one first-time restaurant owners Tim Atkinson and Kasia Idczak were determined to have fun.
They opened Urban Deli and Bar on Darby Street, Cooks Hill, in July 2022. It's a European-inspired restaurant, delicatessen and wine bar that is tailor made for a casual catch-up with friends over a cocktail or wine.
"There are always areas to grow and improve so I would say the past 12 months have been a good learning process, in terms of the market and needs of our guests," Kasia told Food & Wine.
"We wanted to create a fun working environment, so we are balancing fun and the challenges that we face with the current economy."
The couple have 30 years of hospitality experience between them. Urban Deli and Bar's various contemporary menus are not only influenced by the cuisines of Italy, France, Spain and Kasia's country of birth, Poland, but also the European way of dining.
Eating out doesn't have to be a formal, structured, sit-down affair. It can be casual and relaxed yet sophisticated. At Urban Deli and Bar the staff are a conduit between the customer and the food and drink offering, where questions are welcomed and suggestions offered.
To put it simply, Tim and Kasia know what they're talking about. And they know the meaning of good customer service.
Diners are welcome to grab a beer or a glass (or bottle) of wine and then decide what they feel like eating, whether it's a small share plate, large share plate, a set menu, or a charcuterie and cheese board.
There is an impressive and diverse delicatessen section from which diners can either choose a set charcuterie board or design their own from the more than 40 cheeses, meats, vegetables, breads and spreads available.
And if "people watching" is your thing, well, there are plenty of them walking along busy Darby Street.
Two dishes have been on the menu since Urban Deli and Bar opened - burrata and the beef carpaccio - at the request of diners, and Kasia doubts she will ever be permitted to remove the Polish dumplings from the menu either.
The beef carpaccio comes with lemon emulsion, fried capers, grana padano and rocket. It's easy to understand why it's a customer favourite.
At Urban Deli and Bar traditional (and often familiar) dishes are tweaked, just a little, and inevitably the end result is better than the version you know and love.
"I am very proud to have the opportunity to share my Polish background with guests visiting our venue," Kasia said.
"Polish food has so much tradition. The Polish dumplings, called pierogi, are one of our best-selling dishes.
"I love that they have a little twist from our Italian head chef Vito Sechi. Instead of traditionally used crispy bacon we offer crispy prosciutto as a topping.
"Mixing influences between our home countries is so much fun."
I recall, earlier this year, trying the Polish dumplings filled with soft potato and a white sauce, sprinkled with onion salt and served with warm sauerkraut and mushrooms. Delicious.
She is working on adding Polish meats to the delicatessen as well as "other goods like sweets, pickles and sauerkraut". You can pre-order takeaway charcuterie and cheese boards, as well as retail items, through their website (urbandeliandbar.com) and enjoy a 20 per cent discount.
"Our current menu is very summery; there is an octopus salad, pierogi, burrata ... for meat lovers we've got lamb with Sicilian caponata, and for vegetarians, eggplant parmigiana, just to mention a few," Kasia said.
"We also offer $25 lunch specials with a glass of wine and ready-to-go paninis between Thursday and Saturday [freshly-made sandwiches, toasties, baguettes and salads are also available for a quick lunch option].
"For spring and summer, we launched Happy Hour from Tuesday to Friday, 4pm to 6pm, where you get free pintxos with every cold drink. Pintxo is a traditional bite-sized snack served in bars in Northern Spain."
There's also a special steak frites (another dish Urban Deli does exceptionally well) offer on Thursdays, and on Tuesday the five-course Local Favourites Menu, designed to be shared, at a cost of just $65 per person.
Hunter Valley and Australian wines are on the wine list but the focus is on European wines.
"Tim's passion for 'Old World' wine started when he trained in London," Kasia said.
"Look out for premium Pinot from Burgundy, earthy Grenache and Sirah from the Rhone, juicy Sangiovese from Tuscany, and mineral whites from Sicily.
"We keep the cocktails simple with twists on classics. Spritzes are also a big focus as they are just so drinkable! Our point of difference is we use premium products and fresh fruit."
In the coming months the focus at Urban Deli and Bar will be on white wines, rose and chilled reds - but you are always welcome to order "a big red".
"We cater for anyone who wants to enjoy good food and a great selection of wines and cocktails," Kasia said.
"We organise a Long Lunch once a month on Saturdays. There is always a different theme, and we like to collaborate with local or European winemakers. We've had a Burgundy event with Stephane [Pommier] from Somm Wines, and we've partnered with Glen and Ash from Horner Wines.
"We have an event on November 18 with a seafood theme and a Greek wine pairing, and on December 16 we are hosting an Italian Long Lunch with dishes from our chef's hometown and an Italian wine pairing.
"Tickets are available for both events. There are more coming in next year so I would recommend keeping an eye on our social media platforms.
"We also participating in Newcastle Food Month in April so there will be events with cheese tastings and a few events that we will collaborate with Jessica McLeish from McLeish Winery in the Hunter Valley. It will be so much fun, we can't wait."