The 10 best chocolate milkshakes in the Hunter

BLISS: Brothers Flynn Peak, 5, and Elwood Peak, 7, each enjoy a shake outside Jim’s in Hamilton this week. Picture: Simone De Peak“We’re going shopping, Daniel. Now, if you behave yourself, we can get a milkshake after we’re finished, OK?”

My Mum’s negotiation tactics were simple and effective. Encouraging a seven-year-old Daniel to accompany Mum to the supermarket, behave, and help get the weekly groceries was as easy as mentioning the word milkshake. You know, those magical mixed beverages that first emerged as an American alcoholic whiskey drink in 1885, but eventually morphed into a more wholesome refreshment featuring milk blended by hand with flavoured syrups, like strawberry, vanilla, sometimes lime, banana, and, of course, chocolate …

Back in the day, a Wendy’s milkshake was good, a Frosty Boy was better. However, every Hunter boy or girl knows that an OAK milkshake was the ultimate reward for demonstrating good grocery shopping behaviour. Not even the famed Bell’s Milk Bar of Broken Hill can lay claim to a better tasting shake than OAK.

Even to this day, despite shifting sands, the march of time and the inevitable modern changes wrought by large corporate multi-nationals, whose typical “never mind the quality, feel the width”mentality has seen the demise of many transcendent works of esculent art – [which, in this case, has included the closure of the various OAK factoriesand milk bars around the region] – a 600ml carton of OAK Chocolate Milk remains matchless, peerless, and inimitable as a paragon of absolute ambrosial happiness and pure pleasure. The bittersweet chocolate flavours, with just a hint of caramel, borne on a textual swell of unctuous creaminess is, indeed, one of life’s great joys. OAK Chocolate Milk remains the exemplar of what wonders can be achieved when an amalgam of perfect chocolate flavoured syrup and full cream milk occurs. Quite simply, the best.

Remember Oak: Alexandra Davison enjoys an Oak shake in 1986 just before Oak closed its Peats Ridge milk bar.

Now, obviously, the OAK Chocolate Milk of which I speak quite fondly of is not technically a milkshake, in the hand-blended sense of the term. Regardless. For me, it remains the youthfully formative epitome of an embodied disposition that organises the way in which I perceive and react to the world of milkshakes around me. A reflexive benchmark of flavour and texture, if you will. My milkshake habitus. Thus, the perfect milkshake, as far as I’m concerned, is deeply chocolate flavoured, light and frothy, yet smooth and creamy, completely moreish and, ultimately, refreshing.

And so, it was with youthful experience of this habitual milk-based archetype in mind that for the past few monthsI have been searching and sipping and tracking and tasting to find the modern day paragons of Newcastle and the Hunter’s most delicious hand-blended by hand chocolate milkshakes.

As the following details attest, the results were obviously delicious.

10.THE FRIDGE & FRY PANThe Fridge and Frying Pan, Scone, is an oasis in the Upper Hunter. Basically, anything from the cooktop here is a welcome reprieve from the long white line. Its milkshakes are served in paper cups with bubbles and swirls printed on the outside that ideally match the liquid inside. Lighter than tan, tasting creamy, yet airy, and approximately chocolatey. A few more pumps will get you from decent to decadent.

9. SWELL AT BAR BEACHSwell (Bar Beach) offers a milk-based beachside break with a view. Tell me a better place to sip on creamy suds while watching gnarly surfers get pitted on glassy straws, and don’t say Byron Bay. A see through plastic cup holds scattered peaks of frothin foam that tastes like milky melted Easter eggs while chocolate streaks flow around the side wall like Mark Richards on a Bar Beach A-Frame. Choka.

8. THE DEPOTThe Depot’s ‘Freakshakes’ freak me out. Unless it’s to drink one, an engineer should never be allowed near a milkshake. Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. Give me a few dollops of chocolate syrup mixed with milk any day. Deliver it in an indented silver tin and I’ll love you forever. Sweet milk chocolate flavours, ice cold and frosty, soft and creamy; the modest milkshake equivalent of the cool side of the pillow.

7. BURGERFIENDBurgerfiend have not only taken Cessnock’s burger game to a whole new level, they’ve also managed to raise the standard of the Valley’s milkshake merchandise by diverging from the standard choc-syrup offering over to North American import, Hershey’s. Cocoa flavoured milk never tasted so bitter, so sweet, so… lactescent (it’s a word, look it up). The texture almost strays into thickshake territory… almost. Fiendishly good and much better with a burger.

Super: Jacob McIntyre of Doughheads.

6. DOUGHHEADSPersonally, Doughheads doughnutsdon’t do it for me. Their milkshakes, on the other hand, do … provided they’re ordered and imbibed before 3pm on weekdays. Served in glass tumblers with a ridgeline of earthly dark chocolate syrup smeared around the edge, foamy bubbles appear to dance on the surface, bursting and popping in time with the music overhead. A milkshake that’s more Kendrick than Kanye; not quite the Greatest Of All Time, but still, really, really great nonetheless.

5. POPOLOA single scoop of Popolo gelato would give a tub of over-hyped Messina a run for its gelataria any day of the week. You know it. I know it. And if you don’t know, now you know. Just imagine a scoop or two of Popolo chocolate gelato frothed together with a cup of full cream milk; a no brainer; buonissimo! Super creamy, super chocolatey. Now, just imagine one with Amarena cherries.

SWEETNESS: Sophie Edwards of Rascal.

4. RASCALRascal, well known to purvey the finest seared steer betwixt any milk bun this side of the Pacific Ocean, also just happen to froth up a damn fine shake as well. Poured into an ice-cold glass tumbler right to the top. A little thick, like their patty’s, but smooth and creamy with a lash of caramel sweetness layered underneath a liberal layer of chocolate… nearly, almost, like… an OAK(!).

3. THE HOOD MILKBARThe Hood Milkbar are merchants of mirth and of milk, and a chocolate milkshake from here comes toothsome as standard. What finer place exists where you can suck the froth off the top of a couple of cold ones? A pint glass arrives streaked with a ribbon of teared chocolate syrup; excitingly dark and bittersweet flavours blended with a firm and cheerful creaminess. What a delicious declaration of one’s dedication to dairy!

Classic: The shake cup at Jim’s milk bar is a blast from the past. Picture: Simone De Peak

2. JIM’S DAIRY BARJim’s Dairy Delite Health Bar in Hamilton has been slinging shaken milk for over sixty years. Unbelievable. Some say the chocolate shakes are made using old Jim Jamieson’s original recipe, once scribbled down in a crusty old notebook all those years ago. To be sure, a milkshake from Jim’s is a treat for taste and a tasty treat replete with rich milk chocolate flavours and a luscious, creamy mouthfeel.

1. THE LOCALELocated in New Lambton, The Locale is where you’ll find the Hunter’s best tasting blended by hand milkshake (not served in a 600ml dark brown carton). There, I said it. An ice-cold, bubble glass pint is filled to the brim with a delicate web of froth and foam that obscures a wonderfully joyful underworld of deeply bittersweet cacao chocolate flavoured full and creamy milk. A new paradigm for the milkshake bon vivant.

The best: Cameron Scott at The Locale.

CHEERSWe’ve come a long way since the whisky drinks and grocery shopping prizes of days gone by. These days, while wine and beer might offer me more complexity with pleasure, my mind, my heart and my mouth still reserves an especially fond space for the utterly unadulterated taste of chocolate and milk whenever and wherever it’s hand blended by hand, with love. What a wonderful drink a milkshake is; ingenious in its composition, elegant in its simplicity, humble in its sincerity, frothing with joyful, youthful and nostalgic spirit…