The only thing better than inspired dining showcasing regional NSW’s in-season produce? Inspired dining with a watery backdrop. From the very north to the very south, the state dials up coastal drama. And along the way you’ll find restaurants that take their cues from the sea – and surrounds.
Chef Ben Devlin left NOMA in Copenhagen and Paper Daisy at Cabarita Beach to set up his own dining room in Pottsville on the NSW North Coast. Welcome to Pipit, an intimate establishment with just 40 seats. The centrepiece of the kitchen is a charcoal pit, and Ben uses wood-fired and charcoal cooking techniques to produce dishes that embrace Northern Rivers vegetables as well as sustainable seafood and poultry (for environmental reasons, beef is not served). The set menus (there’s one just for vegans) are well curated. Think baylobster tartare with marinated citrus, turnip and almond milk, or smoked oyster custardwith squid garum jelly. Plates are inventive and seasonal, so expect the freshest flavours.
Byron Bay’s most exclusive boutique hotel, Raes on Wategos, is matched in class by the town’s most upmarket restaurant. Raes Dining Room is helmed by chef Jason Saxby, who does wonders transforming local produce into Mediterranean-inspired dishes in three-course, or full-blown degustation menus. Dishes might include Davidson plum-glazed free-range pork scotch fillet with beetroot, rosella, red fruits and leaves. Or fregola pimped up with Byron Bay shiitake, black garlic, porcini XO and saltbush. As you can tell, Ben’s rather fond of native Australian ingredients, and incorporates them with aplomb. Step outside and you’re on Wategos Beach – the celeb-spotting here is always rewarding.
When you’ve explored Port Macquarie’s dreamy Town Beach, head across the road to fine-diner The Stunned Mullet. The vibe is relaxed but refined, and the modern Australian menu and impressive wine list have earned the Mullet accolades from well beyond the North Coast. It’s not every day you get to eat Patagonian toothfish, but you’ll find it here, alongside Tajima wagyu, Cape Grim grass-fed eye fillet and Moreton Bay bugs, with no shortage of excellent wines to match.
British celebrity chef Rick Stein opened his now-iconic restaurant at the clifftop hotel Bannisters Mollymook back in 2009. Not much has changed since – and that’s a good thing. The South Coast ocean views are as spectacular as ever, and the food continues to keep pace. Stein is a seafood specialist, so grab a table out on the deck and settle in for the likes of oysters Charentaise (have an oyster, a bite of spicy sausage and a gulp of white wine), Malaysian salmon curry or grilled local lobster with coconut cream. You’ll also find the classic combination of Stein seafood, ocean views and luxury accommodation on the North Coast at Bannisters Port Stephens.
If emu tartare, kangaroo rolled in wattleseed, or Murray cod with cauliflower and macadamia sound up your alley, you’ll love the menu at Bangalay Dining. While dishes are inspired by the restaurant’s natural coastal surrounds, they also hero native Australian produce, whether plants, fruits or proteins, making a meal here a journey through time – but with a modern twist. If you can’t bear to leave, check in to one of the luxury villas or multi-room homes, each individually designed with earthy hues to not distract from the real eye-candy outside.
Destination NSW acknowledges and respects Aboriginal people as the state’s first people and nations and recognises Aboriginal people as the Traditional Owners and occupants of New South Wales land and water.