Best restaurants in NSW
Located in historic cottages, convict-built pubs, at the foothills of mountains or overlooking beautiful bays and beaches, there are spectacular fine dining moments to be had in all parts of the state. With an emphasis on fresh, seasonal produce, many restaurants across regional NSW place strong importance on sourcing from local suppliers, with many operating their own kitchen gardens.
With such diversely beautiful countryside to choose from, it’s not surprising the title for regional New South Wales' most appealing restaurant setting is so hard to call. Is it the tree-shaded splendour of Harvest, a big old house in tiny Newrybar, just outside Byron Bay, where the menu features the best local produce? Perhaps it’s the new-look eatery at Blue Mountains Botanic Gardens Mt Tomah, Tomah Gardens Restaurant, where chef Sean Moran, of Sean’s Panaroma in Bondi, dishes up roast chicken and gravy and one of the best beef pot-pies around on a wisteria-covered balcony overlooking the superb grounds.
Is it the views down into the valley of vines at Bistro Molines, assisted by the Mediterranean-style cooking of one of the Hunter Valley’s culinary trailblazers, Robert Molines, or perhaps the bounty on the plate presented by executive chef George Francisco at Circa 1876? Also in the Hunter is Margan Restaurant, its reputation as one of the greenest eateries in the land enhanced by the sight of chefs nipping out to the kitchen garden for sage leaves to perfume the pumpkin ravioli, say, or the zucchini flowers that accompany the gazpacho with almonds.
Many of the top players create their own atmosphere. Biota Dining one of the best-reviewed regional restaurants in the country, sits in a residential part of Bowral, but its lush grounds create an elegant backdrop for daring menus where "smoked hen", creamed corn and grains or kangaroo with artichokes and garlic scapes are likely candidates.
Subo, meanwhile, is a beacon of good taste and good times on an otherwise quiet stretch of city street in downtown Newcastle. Chef Beau Vincent creates adventurous dishes such as duck from Young braised with soy and native Davidson Plum paired with cherry and sesame, or raspberries with pistachio sponge cake and licorice ice-cream; while Suzy Vincent selects the best wine pairings from the Hunter and beyond.
Talented young chef Alex Delly has opened St Isidore at Milton, just outside Ulladulla on the South Coast. Working with “happy farmers, happy free-ranging animals and produce grown with a little bit o’love,” Delly offers everything from a classic rib-eye steak with onion rings and horseradish to snapper with Thai-inspired son-in-law eggs, green papaya and chilli.
A visit to the Hawkesbury offers all the leave-the-city-behind relaxation with easy day-trip convenience. At Cottage Point Inn, top-flight chef Guillaume Zika serves contemporary eats such as butter-poached fish with gnocchi, capers and kale or smoked pork belly with black garlic, walnuts and grapefruit jelly as the river laps the fringe of the restaurant and kookaburras chuckle on the railing.