Where do the Northern Rivers’ bohemians
, eccentrics and yummy mummies go after a day at the beach? While fish and chips are always an incredible seaside delight (particularly from Fishmongers
at Byron Bay
), you might be surprised to discover this laid-back part of Australia is also home to some of the most exclusive, effortless and enjoyable fine dining on the east coast.
Cafe, Farm Shop, Contemporary, Healthy, $$$
The Northern Rivers’s hottest restaurant has a decidedly down-to-earth vibe. Just outside of Byron Bay, The Farm is an extraordinary experiment by the boys from Sydney’s famous Three Blue Ducks. In a rustic dining hall amidst a sprawling, fully functioning farm, you can enjoy a superb menu that’s largely comprised of meat that’s been reared and produce that’s been grown right on the grounds.
Bistro, Seafood, Contemporary, Australian, $$$
This modern establishment shows that the best things come in small packages. Diners at Fleet all sit at the one table to enjoy a mouthwatering seafood-inspired menu. Most of the produce is from local growers, so the menu changes daily based on what’s available – but it’s never disappointing.
Cafe, Restaurant, Australian, $$$
You could blink and miss Newrybar as you shoot along the highway, but Harvest Bakery’s reputation ensures the tiny town isn’t ignored. For a simply treat, you can’t go past the loaves, pies and pastries that are cooked to perfection in the wood-burning oven at the bottom of the garden. In the restaurant, your tastebuds will be treated to well crafted dishes made from foraged native and wild Australian ingredients.
Boutique Hotel Restaurant, Restaurant, Australian, $$$
Many people turn their noses up at hotel restaurants, but they’ve obviously never dined at Paper Daisy. Attached to chic Halycon House, Ben Devlin’s uber-trendy restaurant specialises in simple yet perfect dishes like pipis, potatoes and peas or paperbark-wrapped fish.
Restaurant, European, $$$
Hidden away in an old art-deco department store, The Loft has been a fine dining mainstay in Lismore for many years. The European-inspired menu offers inventive surprises, such as the classiest “loaded fries” ever – which are lathered in parmesan, salted ricotta, white balsamic and vine tomato quarters.
100 Mile Table
Restaurant, Asian, Fusion, $$$
Another amazing spot run by escapees from Sydney’s dining scene, 100 Mile Table is a local, sustainable and seasonally focussed cafe. The menu stretches from East to West and features such dishes as chicken and ginger congee and sour yellow curry of fish alongside classic Italian dishes and house-made focaccia.
Milk and Honey
Restaurant, Italian, none
The good people of Mullumbimby have long savoured the fare from Milk and Honey, and it’s only gotten better with visionary Timmy Brebner at the helm. Wood-fired pizzas are the speciality, and unusual combinations like cured beef tongue with pancetta and olives will quickly become personal favourites.
Restaurant, Israeli, $$$
There’s not much at Brunswick Heads that’s reminiscent of the Middle East, aside from this outstanding Israeli eatery. It’s simply furnished but that’s only because they put all their efforts and energy into the food. The Egyptian-style broad beans on hummus is a local favourite.
Restaurant, Italian, $$$
Located in the newly established and very sophisticated Casuarina township, this Italian-focused restaurant sets a high standard. Osteria proves that sustainability can be classy, and community can be chic.
Restaurant, Australian, $$$
It’s off the beaten track, but well worth the drive for the stunning views over the Tweed Coast alone. In a region that excels in kitchen garden dining, Potager is a standout – and is particularly exciting mid-week when the chefs let their hair down and experiment.