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A Foodie's Guide to Eating and Drinking Your Way Around the Central Coast

Beachside cafes, casual fine diners and lively cocktail bars are only a road trip away.
By Emma Joyce
August 06, 2020
By Emma Joyce
August 06, 2020


in partnership with

Beachside cafes, casual fine diners and lively cocktail bars are only a road trip away.

The Central Coast's dining options seem to get better with every visit. More and more Sydney hospitality folk are upping sticks from the city to open up all-day diners or cosy taverns that focus on local produce and excellent service. And the new arrivals only add to an already thriving food and drink scene bolstered by loyal locals and visitors seeking out the best of the area.

As there are new openings to celebrate, and a couple of fine dining favourites that you shouldn't pass up, we've put together this list of ten Central Coast restaurants, cafes and bars that we think are worth the hype. Read on to find flame-grilled flank steaks, paddock-to-plate high tea and finger-licking good pizza. And when you've dined your way around these, check out more acclaimed eateries in our Weekender's Guide.

While regional holidays within NSW are now allowed, some of the places mentioned below may be operating differently due to COVID-19 restrictions. Please check websites before making any plans.

  • 10
    Osteria Il Coccia

    Italian-born chef Nicola Coccia has fine dining credentials stretching from the Southern Highlands to Circular Quay, and shortly after writing his cookbook Farm to Flame, the former owner of Bistro Officina in Bowral moved to Ettalong to channel his passion for cooking over flames. Woodfired Moreton Bugs are served with pumpkin seeds and smoked broth; handmade cacio e pepe is topped with black truffles; and flanked steaks with mushrooms and cavolo nero headline the five-course menu.

    There are two seatings on Friday and Saturday nights, or for lunch on Sunday. The wine list leans heavily on organic, biodynamic and vegan selections from French and Italian boutique wineries, as well as a couple of local craft beers (Murray’s, Balter and Six Strings). And, when you’re ready for more, out front you’ll find its newest venture: a Louisiana-inspired fried chicken shop. Pull up a stool and order tenders, wings or drumsticks with the choice of three levels of spice, then wash it all down with a glass of on-skin pinot grigio.

    Image: Kitti Gould

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  • 9
    Bar Toto

    This Italian trattoria in Ettalong is where you’ll want to sink into a cosy chair with an espresso martini and a grazing platter of European cured meats and cheeses. Create your own grazing board from the bar’s antipasti selection from $14–32, including the 24-month aged prosciutto di parma and the soft, three-month aged gorgonzola from Lombardy. Or load up on side dishes like burrata and truffle oil, Ortiz anchovies, or sea urchin roe, all served with sourdough from Osteria Il Coccia (nearby).

    Classic cocktails and a list of house favourites linger around the $17–18 range, plus there’s a daily happy hour from 4.30–5.30pm with minis priced at $5.50 a pop. Those fond of a caffeine kick should look to the coffee cocktail menu; you can choose from five flavours — caramel, coconut, hazelnut, fernet or classic — for a drink made with onyx cold brew coffee from the Hunter Valley, and either tequila, vodka or rum. Not drinking? There’s a substantial range of no- or low-alcohol cocktails and sodas, too.

    Image: Kitti Gould

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  • 8
    Kew Dining

    Open for breakfast and lunch daily, with an evening menu available later in the week, Kew Dining is bringing elegant paddock-to-plate dishes to Erina in a bright and contemporary setting. The early rising crowd has its pick of classic brekkie options, like fluffy buckwheat pancakes, poached eggs with smoked salmon and avocado, or the more unusual baked tomato and chickpea ragout.

    From midday onwards, you can graze on panko crumbed, lemongrass and ginger marinated chicken bao; pastry tarts of shaved manchego, pumpkin and Tunisian chickpeas; or crowd-pleasing options like fish and chips, organic beef cheeseburgers and pan fried barramundi. All the veggies and herbs come from the restaurant’s on-site kitchen garden, so you’ll want to add on a bowl of the chats in fragrant Kew Garden herb butter, too.

    Image: Kitti Gould

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  • 7
    Tropicana Pizza Pizza

    When you’re hungry for a good time, head to Woy Woy. Yes, there’s the award-winning Woy Woy Fishermen’s Wharf with its pod of pelicans outside, but the real MVP is a neon-lit pizza bar with a heavy rotation of natural wines and craft tinnies.

    Located in the Colonial Plaza, Tropicana Pizza Pizza is open four nights a week slinging thick, Sicilian-style pizzas in its colourful bar space and courtyard. The 13-inch pizzas are made with house-made dough, fermented overnight, and topped with pepperoni, Italian sausage, triple cheese and veggies for $20 a pie.

    Add in meatballs, buffalo wings or pesto pizza fingers for $5, and a silky tannin vino from Barossa Valley, Hunter Valley and Murray Darling for $35 a bottle, and you’ve got a party.

    Image: Kitti Gould

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  • 6
    Motel Mezza Social Bar

    When it comes to casual group dining, Motel Mezza ticks all the boxes. You can come in for drinks and share mezze plates by the fireplace, or book in for a banquet feast with a group of mates and stay for electric blue coloured cocktails and a chat with the bartenders. It’s easy-breezy.

    The Middle Eastern restaurant’s mains include zaatar cauliflower served with tahini and garlic dip, lamb kafka served with Lebanese bread, fresh tomato and onion, and sauteed chicken in a tomato marinate, served on rice with almonds. For the best value, share a banquet between two; the $45 plant-based mezza includes hummus, vine leaves, tabouli, falafel, lubia green beans and rice.

    Finish off with The Axel Rose — vodka, rose water, lime and cucumber — or the colourful Blue Sky, a striking blend of vodka, blue curacao, lemon and pineapple.

    Image: Kitti Gould

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  • 5
    Person pouring milk into a coffee cup

    A short walk from Wamberal Beach is a sunny, welcoming cafe that opened in June 2020, offering a daily menu of just-walked-off-the-beach specials — like a choccy milkshake and fries for ten bucks, and house-made cookies and juicy burgers that the locals are loving.

    The corner eatery serves up healthy brekkie plates, like beetroot cured ocean trout with pickled fennel avocado and rye, alongside not-so-healthy bacon and egg rolls and ham and cheese croissants. The carefully executed dishes are familiar enough to have broad appeal, while looking as Instagram-worthy as the beachside views.

    Image: Kitti Gould

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  • 4
    South End Social

    At the south end of Mann Street in Gosford, you’ll find a beautifully designed cafe with Mediterranean dishes and elegant cocktails. It’s a popular brunch spot; the sunny eatery is open from breakfast till 3pm daily, and when the menu clocks over from brekkie bowls to long lunch territory you’ll want to order a souvlaki pita. It comes with a choice of three fillings: slow roasted lamb shoulder, house-made falafel or grilled chicken with garlic aioli, tzatziki and eggplant dip.

    But what you’re really here for is a leisurely catch up with friends over a boozy lunch. The wine list features natural drops like From Sunday’s chardonnay and Lucky’s syrah/pinot noir, both from Orange. There’s also Lost Buoy sauvignon blanc from Adelaide Hills, pale ales from local brewery Six Strings, and yuzu vodka spritzes and salted white grapefruit mojitos.

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  • 3
    Frederico's Bar & Eatery

    If you love Ettalong’s lively waterside eatery The Box on the Water, you’ll likely enjoy its sibling venue on Gosford’s waterfront. Frederico’s is a South American-inspired restaurant with DIY margaritas, bottomless fajita Wednesdays and a fiesta-friendly playlist.

    Co-owners Monique Keogh and Natasha Nicholson wanted to create a venue that added to the Central Coast’s nightlife, and it certainly spices things up. For $58, you can feast on a banquet menu that includes prawns cooked in tequila with lime and chilli, chargrilled rump steak, or Fred’s South American paella with saffron rice, chorizo, chicken, prawns and mussels — and a lot more besides.

    On the drinks list, there are South American wines and local beers, but the real fun is found in the design-your-own margarita; for $16, choose from shaken or frozen, traditional to chilli and mango flavours.

    Images: Jacs Powell

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  • 2

    Awarded its first chefs hat in 2020, Safran is one of the Central Coast’s best-known fine diners. Chef and co-owner Suleyman (Sulo) Kirbancioglu opened the Turkish restaurant with his partner and wife Natalie in 2013. Drawing on his experience in fine dining venues in Istanbul, Kirbancioglu takes pride in presenting his first country’s cuisine in the finest style.

    Safran offers three- and four-course menus for $50–60, with optional wine pairings from $29 per person. With each menu, diners can choose from a selection of entrees and mains, such as etli borek — filo pastry filled with slow braised angus beef ribeye and jerusalem artichoke — and blue-eye cod baked in prawn and raki foam, served with celeriac puree. And pistachio baklava and turkish delight are given a contemporary makeover for dessert.

    Image: Kitti Gould

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  • 1
    Arc. Est

    You’ll notice there’s not a lot of difference between the lunch and dinnertime menus at this Modern Australian restaurant in Terrigal — and that’s because no matter what time you dine, you should start off with half a dozen oysters, sourced from Corrie Island Nature Reserve, and one of the bottles of wine from Eden Valley, Beechworth, Margaret River (among others).

    You can order the Newlands beef carpaccio with capers and shaved parmesan, the grilled Bangalow pork cutlets with sweet potato mash, or Stone and Wood battered fish and chips day or night — the difference is you’ll have to commit to a two- and three-course menu ($59–69) from 6pm. If you’re here at lunch, take advantage of the steak sandwich with watercress and horseradish, or the ARC club made with bacon, iceberg and egg mayo, which won’t make an appearance later in the night.

    Image: Kitti Gould

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Top images: Kitti Gould

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