As a new generation of ambitious chefs make organic and artisanal produce their focus, inspired regional restaurants are popping up across the state. And what does that mean for us? Two words: destination dining. We’ve scoured the NSW countryside for the regional eats you can’t afford to miss.
An hour and a half north of Sydney, Bells at Killcare epitomises beach chic; think blue and white striped awnings, manicured gardens and French provincial furnishings. The aesthetics are only part of this Killcare destination’s equation with Stefano Manfredi drawing on his northern Italian heritage and the produce from the property’s kitchen garden to create an interesting, European-leaning menu.
‘Fresh-off-the-boat’ seafood and a warm South Coast charm are the draw cards at Mollymook’s Rick Stein at Bannisters. Blending classic French and English seafood dishes with hallmark Mediterranean and Asian ingredients, the only thing that may trump the menu are the ocean views.
A relative newcomer to the restaurant scene, Bombini is quickly making a mark on the North Coast food scene with its modern Italian fare and home-grown ingredients. Chef Cameron Cansdell (formerly the head chef at Bells at Killcare), together with his wife Hayley Hardcastle (who ran front of house at Bells), have perfected a classy but casual atmosphere inside an old weatherboard house in Avoca.
Set in a former surfer motel on Cabarita Beach, Paper Daisy is the in-house restaurant of boutique hotel Halcyon House. Overlooking the resort pool, the airy dining room is graced with views of the beach and its spiky pandanus trees. Coastal fare and earthy dishes from the wood fire grill feature on Ben Devlin’s Modern Australian menu.
Perched on the edge of the magnificent Jamison Valley and overlooking the World Heritage listed Blue Mountains National Park is Darley's Restaurant. The fine diner is located inside the luxurious Lilianfels Resort & Spa, and the dining room has a reputation for being both elegant and comfortable, with warm plates and open fires to keep the mountain chill at bay.
Biota Dining has brought high-quality food and service to the Southern Highlands, with a menu that's as modern as its Scandinavian-inspired decor. The restaurant takes the words "locally-produced" to a new level; many of the ingredients on the Biota menu are grown metres from patrons' tables. Just 90 minutes south of Sydney, Biota is well-worth a day trip.
"Eating locally is good for the earth, good for taste and good for the community". It is with this motto in mind that Racine Restaurant has established itself as one of Orange's most respected eateries. Owner and head Chef Shaun Arantz, along with wife Willa, have brought a little taste of France to the town using high-quality local produce. The food is sophisticated and elegant, as are the views of the surrounding vineyards on the foothills of the famous Mt Canobolas..
Zin House is located on the biodynamic and organic Tinja farmlands of Mudgee. You won’t find foams, droplets, smears or deconstructed dishes on the menu here. The kitchen is about serving real food cooked freshly, from scratch. Seating is all communal, at large farmhouse tables, with plenty of personal space and a long leisurely approach to dining.
For breezy, comfortable fine-dining in Newcastle, look no further than Subo. The restaurant is the brainchild of husband and wife team Beau and Suzie Vincent, who, between them, have put in the hard yards at Tetsuya's, Guillaume at Bennelong, Bistro Guillaume and Claude's. The contemporary a la carte and degustation menu options will impress even the most discerning diners with dynamic and colourful compositions and intriguing contrasts on the plate.
Just 90 minutes from Sydney, the quaint village of Berrima is home to Eschalot, one of NSW’s finest restaurants. Housed in an historic sandstone cottage, the art-filled dining room delivers an innovative French-inspired Modern Australian menu. The Thirlmere duck with confit leg, sous vide breast, chorizo and parsley root is one of their signature dishes and for good reason, too.