Best restaurants in regional NSW
Some restaurants are worth planning a whole holiday around. From award-winning restaurants to eateries with a view, here are eight must-visit foodie stops to book for two, plus where to continue the feast.
Bistro Livi, Murwillumbah
Why you should go: Infused with Mediterranean flavour and a MoVida pedigree, the softly lit Bistro Livi brings the fresh produce and relaxed attitude of the Northern Rivers region to the Art Deco M|Arts Precinct building in Murwillumbah. Think Spanish share plates, such as chorizo txistorra sausage with paprika, and buttered pork chop with soy shitake mushrooms and radish. Whether you find that or something completely different will depend on the season. The staff will be happy to advise on complementing wines, or you can experiment yourselves.
While you’re there: On weekend lunches, book a stool at the kitchen counter and enjoy the show at Ben Devlin’s Pipit Restaurant in Pottsville, winner of the Good Food Guide 2023 Regional Restaurant of the Year. And settle in for the evening at the classy Bar Heather, a natural wine bar in Byron with vintage vibes and an innovative menu from an ex-Sixpenny and Ester chef.
Muse Kitchen, Pokolbin
Why you should go: Pretty Pokolbin sets the scene for the romantic Muse Kitchen, situated in the gorgeous courtyard at Keith Tulloch Wines. As lovely as its surroundings, and ideal for a long, languid lunch, the Modern Australian menu at Muse is all about local and sustainable ingredients. The menu changes with each season and intricate dishes explore a diverse range of produce and culinary influences. As you would expect in the Hunter, the wine list is spectacular, especially the extensive shiraz options and other red varietals.
While you’re there: A cellar door tour is a must in the Hunter Valley. Drop by Harkham Wines for a chat and a taste of their Aziza brand of shiraz and chardonnay, and finish with a sip of their chocolate wine liqueur. More beauty awaits in bucolic Broke, where Winmark Wines’ winemaker Karin Adcock’s passions are revealed in the intimate accommodation, art gallery, sculpture walk and revered chardonnays.
Why you should go: Ates (pronounced ah-tess) serves a modern Mediterranean menu designed around a 150-year-old ironbark-fuelled oven and the quality of the Blue Mountains’ produce. Add to that top-notch wines and whiskeys and you have a regional memory-making feast set in beautiful Blackheath in the Blue Mountains. Menu favourites include house-made ricotta with broad beans and preserved lemon, and the wood-roasted pork neck. Or order the set menu and leave it to the virtuosity of head chef, William Cowan Lunn.
While you’re there: In Blackheath, stay the night at Kyah hotel and don’t miss breakfast (or lunch or dinner for that matter) at Blaq. Katoomba will also feed your soul - start with coffee and pastries from Black Cockatoo Bakery, head to Mountain Culture Beer Co’s Brewpub for a boutique beer and an American-style cheeseburger, and check out Pho Moi for Vietnamese noodle soups and a signature dirty coconut coffee.
Franco Pizza Bar, Thirroul
Why you should go: A pizza bar with a Good Food Guide 2023 hat and two current Wine List of the Year awards is a pizza bar to be taken seriously. Well, not too seriously, what makes diner-wine-bar-hybrid Franco’s in Thirroul so special is how fun it is. The two owners, both ex-Wine Library, give you the choice of an artisanal Italian set menu or the option to share a few pizzas like the eponymous Franco, topped with tomato, pork fennel sausage, ‘nduja, fior di latte, mushroom and olives. Top-notch service, 72-hour rested dough and a creative dessert menu make Franco’s a must.
While you’re there: Make the smart and intimate Cupitt’s Estate Luxury Pods in Ulladulla the base for your South Coast adventure. The King Bath Pod with a freestanding bathtub on the deck sounds about right. Cupitt’s also boasts an onsite restaurant, winery, brewery and fromagerie. About 15 minutes from Ulladulla is the not-to-be-missed neighbourhood bistro Small Town in Milton. You’re in good hands with chef Alex Delly – get the set menu to share.
Why you should go: Romantic by the inlet in Merimbula is a long lunch waiting to happen. Renowned for its seafood, Valentina adds a touch of Italian-themed mastery that will leave you wanting to stay on for dinner. Bright and airy with huge windows, billowing curtains, cream linen and a hat from the Good Food Guide 2023, this is a waterfront masterclass in presentation. A rotating menu features simply done, local seafood like truffle and squid ink salami, scallops with beurre blanc and black pepper, and chargrilled scampi with caviar.
While you’re there: Every couple and their dog are welcome for a casual lunch at Dulcie’s Cottage. The long bar in the 1920s weatherboard cottage serves up craft beers and cocktails, while the 1950s caravan knocks out unbelievable burgers. Still in Merimbula, spend the afternoon at in Club Sapphire with cocktails and live music under the maple tree, and don’t miss Broadwater Oysters on the foreshore of Pambula Lake.
Three Blue Ducks, Nimbo Fork Lodge
Why you should go: Hatched from a desire to create mindful, ethical, sustainable and deliciously simple food, Three Blue Ducks
While you’re there: Continue your high country hi jinx at Tumut River Brewing Co with a tour of the micro-brewery, a tasting of the ever-changing range of craft beers on tap (don’t miss the Bad Mofo West Coast IPA) and a great burger or pizza. After lunch, pick up free-range eggs, home-made jams, cherries, apples and other fruits in season at Mouat’s Farm near Batlow. Adventurous spirits will also enjoy the tour, tasting and workshop at Ladbroken Distillery by the stream in Tumbarumba, and a cold-climate tipple and Ploughman’s Platter at Courabyra Wines.
Why you should go: One for true food afficionados, the set tasting menu and matched wines at Charred in Orange is one of the most lauded wine and dining experiences in regional NSW. Boasting a Good Food Guide 2023 hat, the set-menu-only fine diner delivers six innovative and delicate courses with four matching wines, including both local and European drops. For example, your spanner crab, toum smoked butter and kombu emulsion is paired with the 2017 Gran Moraine Chardonnay from Oregon.
While you’re there: Basalt is an ideal romantic home base from which to explore the region, with three brand-new luxury accommodation studios overlooking a cherry orchard. Designed for couples, Orange Wine Tours’ full-day Lucknow Loop tour visits cellar doors at Highland Heritage, Patina, ChaLou and Mayfield Vineyards, and stops for lunch — and a little homeware shopping — at Larder and Home, overlooking Summer Hill Creek. If you enjoy your juniper, check out the gin tastings in at Parrot Distilling Co.
The Roundhouse, Newcastle
Why you should go: Perched atop the Crystalbrook Kingsley in King Street in Newcastle, the Roundhouse bar and restaurant is fine-dining with superlative views of the harbour, coastline and over the Hunter Valley. The Roundhouse chefs' partner with Novocastrian artisans, farmers and fisherman to produce top-end, modern Australian cuisine. Think line-caught local kingfish, Yamba prawns, Borrowdale pork bellies, Adina Vineyard olives and Pukara Estate olive oil. Expect a wine list as long as a vine.
While you’re there: Newcastle’s exciting food scene offers a cornucopia of enticing options. Start the day with coffee and a pastry at . For lunch, head to Scotties for a midrange seafood feast or Habesha for casual Ethiopian, and then settle into the set menu dinner at Flotilla. Or you could just spend the whole day within the three restaurants at the funky QT Newcastle. Try to find time to browse the shelves at Vera Wine and keep your spirits up at Earp Distillery Co.