Discover the best Northern NSW restaurants

11 Min Read
Rib eye at Potager restaurant in the Tweed region.

Come and try the best restaurants in Northern NSW.

The Tweed Valley is home to some of the best restaurants in Northern NSW. The Tweed is known for its lush vegetation, which is supported by a subtropical climate. The region is home to rich produce like mangoes, macadamia nuts and avocadoes. But it’s land isn’t the only area that grows sought-after produce – its sea, river and lakes do, too.

Chinderah, located at the intersection of the South Pacific Ocean and the Tweed River, is known for farming Australian Bay lobster, while oysters are abound at Terranora Lakes.

Restaurants in the region are clued into these treasures and as such, offer some of the best food in the country. 

We venture from the coast to the mountains of the Tweed Valley to discover how rich and diverse its restaurants are.

Potager

Rex: Potager is a kitchen restaurant that sits amid a 10-acre farm that’s situated slightly inland, atop the mountains of Carool. Potager boasts its own vegetable garden and fruit trees, which it uses in all of its cooking, as well as other produce from around the region – whether that’s seafood from the Northern Rivers or wild caught venison from down the road. Even its dining tables are made from a neighbouring workshop and its crockery is made by local potters. 

“We don’t grow everything we serve but we serve everything that we grow.”

Potager

Owner Peter Burr and his team say, “We’re all about giving people great food that is primarily locally sourced. We don’t grow everything we serve but we serve everything that we grow. Wherever possible we serve organic produce and grass-fed meats.”

Potager restaurants sits in the mountains of Carool
Potager sits up top of the mountains in Carool.

Andrea: Potager began after Burr and his partner Gareth Leslie, who sadly passed away in late 2019, relocated from Sydney to Carool in 2009 – a plan they’d been plotting for a few years. Once they opened Potager, they never looked back. 

Our meal begins with an entree of Australian Bay Lobster – also known as a Moreton Bay Bug. The succulent meat has been smoked in garlic and lemon sauce. At AUD $24, I’d go so far as to say that it’s better than a regular $200 lobster.

Australian Bay Lobster
Australian Bay Lobster

We complement this with tempura zucchini flowers – in season of course and straight from Potager’s veggie patch. The flowers are accompanied by a tomato chutney and housemade curds. 

Rex: For mains, we choose the 350g 30-day dry aged rib eye with smoked potato and salsa verde. This is a beautiful piece of red meat but it’s a shame that it’s covered in the salsa verde, because it overpowers the meat.

Rib eye at Potager.
You can’t go wrong with Australian red meat.

The dessert special makes up for this oversight, largely due to its complementary mix of flavours and textures. It’s a homemade ice cream that’s speckled with chewy raisins which sit on top of crunchy, crumbly gingerbread. All of this is overlaid with milk chocolate “bark” or shards that have been embedded with local macadamia nuts. 

It can be easy to assume all the top restaurants are in the city or in Australia’s world-renowned vineyards. But Potager, which won a Tweed Shire 2018 Business Excellence Award, is a reminder that some of the best restaurants don’t need to be in either foodie hotspots.

Pipit

Andrea: From the cool of the mountains to the seaside town of Pottsville is Pipit. It proudly bears one hat and the title of ‘2019 regional restaurant of the year’ from Australia’s Good Food Guide. It’s no surprise given the kitchen is led by chef and owner Ben Devlin, a Byron Bay native and one of Australia’s 100 emerging chefs of 2020, according to Phaidon Books.

Pipit is another restaurant that works to support local farmers and producers and provide sustainably produced food. 

While city-based restaurants have also adopted this country-centric approach, it doesn’t always extend from the kitchen to the dining room. That’s not the case with Pipit, which gives diners a relaxed experience.

The Pipit team explain, “We pride ourselves on our inclusive and laid-back atmosphere.”

If you want to come for dinner, it offers its seven-course degustation at 7:00pm. But if you prefer a lighter arrangement, it provides a five-course degustation for lunch and its 5:30pm sitting. 

That said, the seven-course dinner is not too filling yet provides enough opportunity to showcase what the chefs are capable of. You can also opt for a full of half wine pairing.

Rex: Pipit’s spring menu began with canapes such as as endives with smoked grouper, deep pink-coloured radishes with warm paste, and canistel with fig leaf and duck ham. You’ll also get a thick slice of Lancer wheat sourdough, which you can flavour with a macadamia or kefir butter.

The canapés give a good taste of what Pipit's about.
The canapés give a good taste of what Pipit’s about.

Pottsville’s coast is known for its pippies, so it’s no surprise they’ve made their way on to the menu. They are paired with native black beans, crunchy broad beans and smoked tomato.

Andrea: Native ingredients continue to star in this show, such as Albacore with curry myrtle, and potato noodles – thinly shaved threads of potato – with bay lobster that has been tinged with lemon and green garlic. The lobster, lemon and garlic was not just zinging with flavour but aroma, too. 

Potato noodles at Pipit.
Pipit has an interesting take on noodles.

The final event is duck breast with shiso, nectarine and kohlrabi. We would’ve liked to have seen some red meat, although we understand the sustainable philosophy that underpins Pipit’s menu choices.

Again, the desserts are the standout. They feature high-quality bushfoods. The ice cream is flavoured with native bees wax – an incredibly rare ingredient which tastes like the heady, unique scents of Australia’s blossoms. It is well complemented by a vinegar to offset the sweetness.

Pipit’s array of dishes remind me of Australia’s edible wonders. Growing up, bushfood didn’t feature much in the food we ate at home and out. It’s promising to see that we’re now utilising ingredients from our own land.

Paper Daisy

Rex: Just down the road from Pipit is another one-hat restaurant: Paper Daisy, which is part of one of the small luxury hotels of the world, Halycon House, located beachfront at Cabarita Beach. 

Paper Daisy has also been recognised as one of the country’s top restaurants, having received awards like Best Hotel Breakfast by Gourmet Traveller in 2018, and being named one of Australia’s Top 100 Restaurants by the Australian Financial Review in 2018. It’s a reflection of the talent of executive chef Jason Barrett who got his chops at three-hatted restaurant Attica and Circa the Prince in Melbourne, the capital of Victoria. 

Like its peers, Paper Daisy prides itself on sourcing local produce including bushfood for both its four-course dinner (open to the public) and a la carte lunch (available to guests only). 

Andrea: For lunch, you can expect dishes like spanner crab and tomato pasta, fresh prawns in a green rice-crisp tempura, and Wallis Lake oysters from a little further down the coast.

Spanner crab pasta
You’ll find seafood on Paper Daisy’s menu.

You can finish off lunch with sweet treats like blueberry ice-cream bars that have been coated in chocolate produced in the Daintree rainforest in the far north of Queensland.

Dinner begins with morsels like wagyu skewers infused with rosemary or kangaroo tartare with smoked macadamia, riberry and caper leaves. This will suit meat lovers. But for those who prefer plant-based options, you can get stuck into starters like sea spinach with agnolotti, Stracciatella and garden herbs or grilled baby squash with bottarga and basil. 

Rex: Paper Daisy’s mains showcase seafood like kingfish baked with local kelp and beach herbs, while meat lovers can indulge in the Angus sirloin accompanied by grilled leek and beach mustard gremolata. 

Angus sirloin
A good piece of Angus sirloin.

We wind up our evening with an array of Australian cheeses including a blue and parmesan, and Daintree chocolate with banana parfait. While the food sings, Paper Daisy didn’t offer us a wine pairing or advice on what wines suit each dish. Perhaps this could be something to consider to further elevate diners’ experience here.

Paper Daisy, Pipit and Potager cheer for Australia’s native ingredients and support our farmers. They are truly some of the best restaurants in Northern NSW.

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

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