Why Port Macquarie is a foodie haven: Ichi, Hello Sailor and Stick PMQ

A round-up of some of the best Port Macquarie restaurants.

11 Min Read

A round-up of some of the best Port Macquarie restaurants.

Port Macquarie on the Mid North Coast of NSW has long been known as something of a sleepy coastal town. However, with approximately 87,000 residents, according to the 2021 Census, and opportunities recognised for industry growth, it’s not as slow as it once used to be. And there’s nothing more telling of the change than its burgeoning hospitality sector.

Where once it was a struggle to find anything more than a fish and chip shop or fast food, now we are spoiled for choice of top notch cuisine, with a particular emphasis on fresh seafood given its right at the mouth of Hastings River and the coastline.

We had the opportunity to visit three restaurants on our recent sojourn, and we’d recommend all of them in a heartbeat.

Tacos and sauces in a cardboard box.
Very excellent tacos at Hello Sailor in Port Macquarie.

Ichi

When Mrs TCF suggests going to a Japanese restaurant in Port Macquarie, Mr TCF is not sold. It is typically difficult to find high quality Japanese cuisine in regional Australia, if it exists at all. And with Sydney’s Japanese eateries game strong, the bar is high.

However, Mrs TCF manages to convince him to try it. Japanese chef, Junya, who cut his teeth at famous Tokyo fish market, Tsujiki, is at the helm, and it’s been getting rave reviews.

Oysters on a plate and rare beef on a plate.
Surf and turf.

Otsumami

Ichi has an emphasis on otsumami (share plates) so that’s what we get today. We start with salmon sashimi with homemade pickled ginger and fresh wasabi. The sashimi is incredibly fresh, sweet and soft – we’re off to a good start.

Salmon slices and sauce on a plate.
Salmon sashimi caught from the nearby ocean.

We also order the oysters. Hastings River is known for its exceptional rock oysters and these did not disappoint. Junya flavours three with a citrusy vinaigrette of yuzu and a burst of ikura (salmon roe) and the remaining three with miso and spicy ginger. The sauces are enough to enhance the oysters without overwhelming them.

We hear Ichi’s agedashi tofu is all the rage and it meets our expectations. The contrast between the silken squares of tofu, the crisp, lightly fried batter and fresh chives leaves us wanting more, as does the umami broth they sit in.

3 lightly fried tofu squares in a sauce topped with chives.
Ichi’s signature agedashi tofu.

Meanwhile, the Hokkaido scallops are a treat. The sweet meat contrasts well with the garlic soy butter.

We also choose the seared slices of Wagyu beef tataki (fillet), which give both flavour and sustenance. Mrs TCF feels they are a little sinewy, but they are seared to perfection and the marinade is a flawless concoction of soy, mirin and vinegar.

There’s still room for more, so we order the pork gyoza – they’re one of the best gyozas we’ve had, with good quality pork, a delicately thin pastry, pan-fried to perfection and enjoyed with the dipping sauce.

Rice ball in broth in a bowl.
Nikumaki onigiri.

After the hearty nikumaki onigiri (stuffed rice balls wrapped in wagyu) in a deep, sweet broth, there’s only room left for dessert: small balls of ice-cream wrapped in mochi. The light treat is just the way to wrap up the evening.

Ichi also serves fine sake with a great junmai daiginjo selection – highly recommended.

Service

Our waiter today is very attentive, from taking our order to filling our water glasses and ensuring we enjoy our sake. The only critique we can make is that the dishes all came out a bit too quickly. It’s all cooked fresh but we’d prefer it if we had more time before each one is served to prevent overcrowding our table and so we don’t feel we’re being rushed.

Hello Sailor

Hello Sailor is a Mexican street food eatery located on the pier at The Port Macquarie Marina by Hastings River. You can eat inside the converted boat mechanic shed but it’s better alfresco at one of the umbrella-shaded tables, right by the water.

Outdoor dining tables and umbrellas with a backdrop of blue sky.
Hello Sailor has an enviable outdoor dining area.

This eatery is known for its tacos so we order an assortment: pulled beef, chorizo and local prawns. They are like flavour bombs. In true street-food style, they come out in a cardboard box. The pulled beef is top-notch, the chorizo is chopped finely, making it easy to eat in a taco. So are the fresh, sweet prawns in the prawn taco. Each taco comes to life with piquant tomato, Spanish onion, coriander and lime. We have a chilli and tomato sauce to dip the tacos into for that extra hit of flavour, as well as guacamole.

Mexican tacos and sauces in a cardboard box.

We also opt for pork chicharrons with rojo chimmichurri. They’re that perfect combo of soft and succulent on the inside and crisp and chewy on the outside.

There are no plates and cutlery, making for a slightly messy experience. Mrs TCF uses napkins to catch any of the food that escapes the tacos as she eats, but this is what street food is all about.

The eatery boasts Australian craft beers, cocktails and wines, as well as non-alcoholic beverages, to complete your meal.

Stick PMQ

‘Stick’ is a clue to what this eatery is all about: why, yakitori, of course. But it also offers cocktails, beer and wine, which reminds us a little of izakayas (Japanese-style pubs). And with a 2021 OpenTable diner’s choice award, we’re keen to experience what it has to offer.

Can of sardines, toast, edamame.
Off to a good start at Stick PMQ.

Yakitori

After a starter of sardines on toast and some wickedly charred edamame in sake butter with sea salt and lemon (highly recommend), we choose several of the specialty: namely, chicken thigh fillet yakitori, Vietnamese sticky pork belly (pork belly sous vide for 24 hours, flamed over charcoal and brushed with a sticky glaze – hell, yeah) and beef kushiyaki (MB3 beef flank with Japanese tare seasoning).

Meat on skewers on plates on a table.
It’s all about yakitori at Stick PMQ.

The cheffing is a one-man team and he’s cooking everything to perfection. The chicken thigh and pork belly are particularly cracking, both extraordinarily succulent with that smoky, barbecued finish leaving you wanting more. So we order one more, but this time, we’re testing our boundaries with the yakitori ominously named ‘666 stick 🔥 ‘.

Devil’s stick

Always up for a heat challenge, the description does not dissuade us: “These f***ers are so spicy they will make you regret being born*!” the menu description reads.

The chicken is coated in a “super spicy” blend of hot sauce and chilli pepper.

“They burn like hell 😈 *Do not order if you cannot handle spicy food because they are really, really, really hot.”

We’re a little skeptical as often people hype up a food’s spice level only for us to experience it as mild.

The chef tells us he doesn’t know of anyone who’s even finished one skewer, while one of the waitresses tells us she can make a milk-based cocktail to help with the pain and wishes us luck. We start to wonder.

Yakitori in an extra spicy sauce on slate on a wooden table.
Really, really, really SPICY!

The chef serves it up, and after eating one piece of chicken, it doesn’t take long for the spice to whack the back of our throats and for our eyes to water. Mrs TCF reaches for the tissues to blow her nose, but we’re still in the game, and have another piece each. This is somewhat intense! But manageable. We don’t drag it out though and polish it off.

We’re sure the brown sugar milk tea ice-cream cup on the dessert menu is no coincidence. It’s the perfect remedy: the milk helps us manage the chilli’s capsaicin while the ice numbs our fiery mouths.

Summing it up

Stick has been the bomb. The menu is rad and the chef’s cooking is faultless. The service has been a little inconistent – sometimes attentive when unneeded and other times lacking when needed, but friendly throughout.

There’s no vegetarian or vegan yakitori option, which may be a disappointment for our plant-based friends, although there are a few vegan items on the menu, including watermelon sashimi with shiso and yuzu ponzu and Thai green curry with tofu.


Ichi
Shop 3/73 Clarence Street
Port Macquarie, NSW

Hello Sailor
Shop 10/18 Park St
Port Macquarie NSW

Stick PMQ
1B/16 Clarence St
Port Macquarie NSW

Experience more culinary adventures at Two Chat Food and follow us on Instagram @twochatfood.

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