The best Port Stephens restaurants (and winemaker) you must try now

13 Min Read

We discover two of the best Port Stephens seafood restaurants, a top-notch oyster farm and an artisanal winemaker.

Port Stephens area in NSW’s Hunter Valley is filled with natural beauty, including a pristine natural harbour, fresh food and fun activities. It’s just three hours’ drive from Sydney, making it the ideal getaway for city dwellers, whether it’s over the weekend or school holidays. We discover two of the best Port Stephens restaurants, an incredible winemaker and an oyster farm.

Shoal Bay, Port Stephens
Overlooking Shoal Bay, Port Stephens.

Rick Stein at Bannisters

As soon as we saw the menu, we knew we had to dine at popular food show host Rick Stein’s restaurant at Soldiers Point: Rick Stein at Bannisters.

We both find Rick Stein a captivating TV host. He’s passionate about learning more about cuisines from different regions around the world. We also like that he avoids overly polished TV. Instead, he shares his true experience – kitchen burns, sweat-soaked shirts and all.

Rick Stein at Bannisters | Port Stephens restaurants
Rick Stein at Bannisters – one of the best Port Stephens restaurants.

Stein is known for his love of seafood, and given the region’s river, bay and ocean are brimming with it, it’s the star of his restaurant.

“Rick is never happier than when he is working with local seafood, and apart from the great fame of the oysters farmed locally, Port Stephens has such an amazing range of seafood – from local king prawns, yellowfin tuna, blue swimmer crab, and Stockton pipis,” Stein and his wife, Sarah Stein, write on their website.

Entrees

Mr TCF chooses fish and shellfish soup with rouille, parmesan and croutons. It’s a puree of the richest shellfish broth with notes of tomato, saffron, garlic, red capsicum, fennel and cayenne pepper.

Fish and shellfish soup at Rick Stein at Bannisters
Moreish.

Be prepared to become addicted. Stein recommends dipping the wafer-shaped croutons into the soup and topping them with parmesan for a textural burst. We concur. Meanwhile, Mrs TCF has yellowfin, salmon and ocean trout sashimi with fresh seaweed. The fish was just caught, and she doesn’t think you can do much better than this, really.

We also try the clams in a coconut, ginger and green chilli masala, topped with lightly fried curry leaves. The clams taste of the sea and soak up the masala flavours too, but the masala is also lovely on its own.

“This is the sort of dish served up in a scenic bar in Kerala, south west India,” Stein explains.

Fresh clams in masala (spice sauce).
The clams take in the aroma and flavours of the coconut masala.

Mains

For the mains, Mr TCF can’t go past the freshly caught Nelson Bay lobster thermidor. It comes in whole and half portions, depending on if you’re sharing (or your appetite). This lobster has been removed from its shell, French-style, and comes in a white-wine sauce with parmesan and a dash of mustard. It’s heaven on a plate.

Nelson Bay lobster thermidor at Rick Stein at Bannisters | Port Stephens restaurants
Lobster extraordinaire.

Mrs TCF beelines for the Nelson Bay blue swimmer crab, stir-fried in a Singaporean chilli sauce made from garlic, ginger, chilli and coriander.

Very much for those who love eating with their hands and getting gloriously messy.”

Rick Stein

Equipped with her bare hands, Mrs TCF is ready to savour every piece of tender meat in this crustacean. As Stein says, it’s “very much for those who love eating with their hands and getting gloriously messy”.

Nelson Bay Singaporean blue swimmer chilli crab at Rick Stein at Bannisters | Port Stephens restaurants
Glorious.

Another favourite on Stein’s menu is the fish pie. It’s a cocktail of seafood (mahi mahi, bonito, prawns, mussels and scallops) in a creamy fish veloute, and topped with golden-crusted pangrattato (breadcrumbs) and parmesan.

Fish pie at Rick Stein at Bannisters | Port Stephens restaurants
Bursting with the fruits of the sea.

But if you prefer land meat, don’t despair. The menu also features dishes like Robbins Island wagyu MB7 rump steak stroganoff and BBQ chicken vindail, based on a dish from India’s Pondicherry, south of Chennai.

Dessert

Mrs TCF has the Valrhona chocolate mousse for dessert. It’s as smooth as can be, and chantilly cream plus candied orange counter its richness. Mr TCF tries the rozata, a creamy Croatian dessert that looks and tastes like a creme caramel, except it’s more citrusy, balancing the pudding’s sweetness.

Croatian rožata pudding at Rick Stein at Bannisters | Port Stephens restaurants
Enjoying the rožata pudding.

What a night – this is one of the best restaurants we have been to in Australia; it delivers pure, honest, fresh seafood with a friendly, conscientious service. And who would have thought we’d find it in Port Stephens?

The Point Restaurant

Sitting on prime real estate is The Point Restaurant, at the tip of Soldiers Point, overlooking Karuah River. We arrive after sundown during winter, but we can imagine how beautiful the view would be at lunchtime or sunset in the summertime.

Entrees

The menu naturally stars seafood. We start with Soldiers Point oysters (yes, fresh from the river the restaurant overlooks). We have three natural oysters with a mignonette dressing and another three in a garlic buttery foam with grilled thyme. The oysters are incredibly silky, and instead of tasting like the ocean, like most oysters we eat, they taste more like the river that flows from it.

Natural oysters at The Point Restaurant | Ports Stephens Restaurants
Port Stephens is known for its oyster farming.

It’s time for entrees and we select freshly caught prawns in a sizzling garlicky olive oil. The prawns are as plump and juicy as can be. We recommend having them with sourdough. This helps mop up the extra garlic oil that is too good not to finish.

Mains

Our waiter advises us to go easy on starters because the mains are substantial. Mr TCF makes a great choice with the fish pie. It comes in a sizeable pot and is generously covered with golden, crispy pastry. After dipping into the pie, he discovers a creamy sauce and the freshest, softest pieces of fish, prawns and clams.

Fish pie at The Point Restaurant at Soldiers Point | Port Stephens restaurants
Treasures await underneath the crunchy, golden pastry.

Mrs TCF opts for the prawns and mussels linguini, which features a rich prawn bisque, chilli, Napoli sauce, parmesan and roquette. The pasta is al dente and the prawns taste like they’ve just been caught. Our waiter’s earlier advice is sound; the mains are indeed filling, in fact we don’t even have room for dessert if we tried!

Prawns and mussels linguini at The Point Restaurant | Port Stephens restaurants.
Pasta of the sea.

Tynan Wines

We couldn’t leave Port Stephens without visiting local winemaker, Tynan Wines. Mark Tynan, and his wife, Anthea, opened their business just as the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and it’s been going from strength to strength since.

Interestingly, they don’t have their own vineyards. Rather, they choose the best grapes from across NSW to make their wine, to help give each one the most optimal flavour.

Tynan, a former engineer, now with a Master of Viticulture and Oenology from Charles Sturt University, briefs us on the science involved when we drop in for a free tasting at his establishment in Salamander Bay.

His skills translate into delightful concoctions, from his crisp chardonnay and verdelho to his piquant dry rose, luscious shiraz and white sangria – the latter being one of Tynan Wines’ most popular offerings. We order a cheeseboard with our tasting, which complements the drops and keeps our stomachs lined.

Where to stay and things to do in Port Stephens

Rick Stein at Bannisters is part of the wider Bannisters hotel complex, which Stein and his wife Sarah opened in 2018. If you’re from out of town, it’s a great place to stay. It overlooks Salamander Bay, offers fulfilling breakfasts and is not far from many sights and activities in the area.

Smashed avocado on toasted sourdough for breakfast at Rick Stein at Bannisters.
Smashed avocado on toasted sourdough for breakfast at Rick Stein at Bannisters.

Port Stephens oyster farm

For something different, why not visit an oyster farm, like Holberts Oyster farm at Salamander Bay, looking over the bay. Get yourself some fresh oysters or prawns, a squeeze of lime and a glass of bubbly. Sit outside and take in the sparkling water scene as you snack. If you’ve got the time, you can even learn more about oyster farming from this friendly family business.

Oysters at Holberts Oyster Farm.
Delight in fresh oysters and a glass of bubbly in the sun at Holberts Oyster Farm.

Port Stephens nature

But this area isn’t all about restaurants and food – it also has great hikes, like to the summit of Tomaree Mountain at Shoal Bay.

Overlooking the Pacific Ocean at Tomaree Mountain at Shoal Bay.
Overlooking the Pacific Ocean on Tomaree Mountain at Shoal Bay.

You may also like to visit the Irukandji Shark and Ray Encounters at Anna Bay, operated by marine biologists. The initiative takes care of injured and ill sharks and stingrays, giving visitors a chance to learn more about them. This even includes safely and respectfully paddling in the water with them if you choose.

These sea creatures are actually under threat and they can’t reproduce fast enough to keep up with the rate at which they’re fished. Without enough sharks and stingrays in our oceans, our oceans can’t sustain themselves properly, so try and stay clear of buying any fish that’s described as boneless or flake (prevalent at fish-and-chip shops), since there’s a good chance it contains shark and stingray.

Sting ray at Irukandji Shark & Ray Encounters.
Carefully observing stingrays.

Port Stephens is home to many koalas, and unfortunately some have been injured or contracted diseases. This is where the Port Stephens Koala Sanctuary at One Mile comes in. The organisation provides a controlled natural habitat while the mammals rehabilitate. If you’re quiet and respectful, you can take the skywalk to see some of them.

A koala getting back to health at the Port Stephens Koala Sanctuary.

Whether you want to enjoy fresh seafood and wine, or immerse yourself in our spectacular natural world, Port Stephens has it all.

Come here for a romantic getaway, a fun time with friends or a holiday with the kids. There’s something for everyone and every occasion.


Holberts Oyster Farm
5 Diemars Road
Salamander Bay, NSW

Rick Stein at Bannisters
147 Soldiers Point Rd
Soldiers Point, NSW 

The Point Restaurant
Level 1, Soldiers Point Marina, Sunset Boulevard
Soldiers Point, NSW

Tynan Wines
3/141 George Rd
Salamander Bay, NSW

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

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