Drawn to the relaxed coastal life, warm weather and incredible food offerings, Sydney chef Christine Manfield’s new home in the Tweed ticks all the boxes. Read her guide to this delicious region.
Christine Manfield is one of Australia’s most celebrated chefs, famed for her award-winning former Sydney restaurants Paramount and Universal, and beloved cookbooks on Indian cuisine, desserts and cooking with spice. After relocating to the Tweed in 2020, Manfield has been celebrating the region through meaningful, sustainable tourism partnerships.
Why do you think the Tweed region has become such a gourmet hub?
The Tweed has a wonderful food community of progressive minds and forward-thinkers that punch way above their weight, helping to elevate the overall food experience. Agritourism is high on the agenda here, and it’s been rewarding to tap into the world of local food producers.
The Tweed is known for its premium produce – where can visitors go to meet the farmers and taste the produce?
We are blessed with several farmers markets each week, including further afield in the Byron region. Murwillumbah has a small market each Wednesday in the showgrounds on the edge of town. I alternate between the market at New Brighton on Tuesdays and the Byron Farmers Market on Thursdays – you’ll bump into all the local chefs if you go early enough.
Picone Exotics (at Byron Farmers Market) grows a fascinating array of tropical fruits picked [only] when fully ripe and in season. Jumping Red Ant (at Byron Farmers Market) and Summit Organics (at Mullumbimby Farmers Market) both have beautiful seasonal vegetables from their organic farms in the Tweed. Deb Allard’s cheeses and dairy products from her Burringbar farm pop up at each of the markets. I stock up on native ingredients at Playing with Fire Native Foods at New Brighton or Mullumbimby markets. The best fully flavoured tomatoes come from Coopers Shoot Tomato Farm, with many different heirloom varieties. My eggs come from Woodland Valley Farm; they also have a terrific food shop called PastaBah in Murwillumbah where they make pasta and egg-based products and sell other food products from local artisan producers.
I also can’t forget Kat Harvey’s outstanding cheese shop in Murwillumbah, a city-style food store that has taken it up a few notches, educating and inspiring locals on a daily basis. Her cheese toasties are mouthwatering and addictive, an easy flavour packed lunch treat if you find yourself in Murwillumbah.
What does the perfect day of eating out in the Tweed look like to you?
For dinner, my favourite experience is Bistro Livi for next-level relaxed dining and informed service. It’s always a joy to dine there.
Our neighbourhood hangouts for flavour-packed, no-nonsense food for when I don’t feel like cooking are Number 35 Kitchen & Bar in Cabarita, and Monday bistro nights at Pipit in Pottsville. If food friends are staying, it’s always a treat to experience the forward-thinking, innovative menu at Pipit that brings new meaning to hyper-local produce and carbon neutral, full-circle practice [a dining philosophy focusing on minimal waste, house-made ingredients, and supporting the local community].
What are some must-do food experiences in the region?
My friend and industry colleague Samantha Gowing, an expert in nutritional cooking and wellness, hosts private cooking classes by appointment in Tweed Heads at Tweed Cooking School.
Take a river cruise with Tweed Eco Cruises to catch mud crabs and have lunch on the boat, cruising from Tweed Marina to Stotts Island.
Visit the extensive fruit orchards of Tropical Fruit World, where they grow exotic fruits from around the world. Take a farm tour followed by fruit tasting – a great activity if you have kids in tow.
Since relocating to the Tweed region, I have hosted small-group, immersive food adventures showcasing the Tweed region, meeting local farmers and producers, and collaborating with Minjungbal mob for meaningful dialogue and insights. [For information or to make enquiries on private tours, check Christine’s website.]
There are some fantastic Aboriginal food experiences in the Northern Rivers – do you have any favourites? How have they changed the way you cook and eat?
I collaborate with and recommend Arabella Douglas of Currie Country for immersive cultural and culinary experiences (including cruises and events) that speak of the region and offer a deeper insight into ‘Place, Taste, Story’ [the importance of understanding Aboriginal culture, diversity, shared history and food systems].
Having knowledge of the rainforest’s native ingredients has broadened my flavour palate with a better understanding of provenance and seasonality, and using First Nations produce on the table.
If you were to plan a foodie road trip in the region, what towns would you suggest and why?
Follow the Tweed River from Fingal Head to Murwillumbah then onto the hinterland towns of Chillingham (Buck’s Farm), Tyalgum for the best (if it’s the weekend), or to the river towns of Uki (great coffee at Bastion Lane Espresso), Burringbar and Tumbulgum (Husk Distillers).
Aside from the food, what are your other favourite parts of the Tweed you love spending time in?
I take house guests to the Tweed Regional Museum to see the latest exhibition and to the Tweed Regional Art Gallery and Margaret Olley Art Centre. If it’s the winter season, nothing beats a boat ride out into the ocean for whale watching. A leisurely river cruise any time of the year is a fascinating way to explore the region and take in the sights from the water.