Eight Eateries to Seek Out When You're Road Tripping from Melbourne to Sydney
Swap servo stops for leisurely long lunches.
March 24, 2021
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There's nothing like the freedom of the wide open road, and there's never been a better time to spread your vehicular wings and explore. The best part? If you're keen on top nosh, you can basically eat your way from Melbourne to Sydney — and eat well. Cities don't have a monopoly on amazing food. In fact, road trip eats are perfect for hardcore locavores, since travelling through rural and regional areas gives you the opportunity to sample ingredients directly from the source. Just imagine hitting the coast for fresh-off-the-boat seafood, discovering hidden gems of farmside fine dining or tucking into a rough-and-ready American-style barbecue.
Helping to make your food-filled dreams a reality in 2021, we've plotted a Melbourne-to-Sydney journey worthy of the finest diners. Strap on your seatbelt and your bib — you're in for a treat.
Please stay up to date with the latest NSW Government health advice regarding COVID-19.
You might not expect a pedigree of upscale dining in this wee heritage-listed cottage just outside of a tiny seaside town, but here we are. Within the walls of Pambula's Old Bank building, Head Chef Huw Jones, formerly of Zanzibar in Merimbula, marries his fine-dining credentials with home comforts. Banksia offers a three-course set menu with matching wines, served in a homey space with an open fire. The menu is ever-changing but leans Italian, tapping into the ethos of selecting high-quality ingredients and letting them shine. Expect some fried polenta here, prosciutto there, and perhaps a roasted pork collar with potato gnocchi or zucchini flowers with romesco sauce. Finishing on desserts like hazelnut ice cream with fresh fruit and a brandy snap, a meal at Banksia manages to be delightfully old-school but not old-fashioned.
DULCIE'S COTTAGE, MERIMBULA
Dulcie's Cottage is filled with old-world charm, but keeps a youthful edge — think vintage heritage meets fresh-as local produce and craft brews. The walls of this chilled-out craft beer and cocktail bar are decked out in taxidermy and photos from its nearly hundred-year history. The food is served from a genuine 1950s kitchen caravan in the light-festooned beer garden. It keeps things simple: either hit fresh oysters with lemon and nuoc cham or grab one of the hefty burgers. While it's hard to go past the classic Dulcie Burger, fussy (or ambitious) diners can select the build-your-own option instead and load on extra patties, bacon, slaw and jalapeños. Would you like fries with that? Choose between A Few Fries ($4) or A Lot Of Fries ($8) — finally, sizing that makes sense. Dulcie's is also a buzzing live music venue, making it the perfect wind-down pit-stop for some road trip R&R.
POACHER'S PANTRY, SPRINGRANGE
A restaurant with its own vineyard and artisanal smokehouse? This is your ultimate charcuterie stop. Poacher's Pantry offers an award-winning range of handcrafted, smoked smallgoods, from classic bresaola and bacon to kangaroo prosciutto. You can sit in at the Smokehouse Restaurant for multi-course brunches and lunches seven days a week, enjoying unique specialties like vodka and lavender cured salmon, labneh, charred citrus, bottarga and chives, or hot smoked ocean trout and herb crepe with lemon ricotta, asparagus, green apple and mustard cress. The vegetarian dishes are no less impressive, putting the Poacher's organic kitchen garden produce front and centre — like heirloom garden vegetables with whipped feta and pea shoots. Don't have time for a long lunch? Pick up a picnic hamper instead, complete with the venue's Wily Trout Vineyard wine.
RICK STEIN AT BANNISTERS, MOLLYMOOK
Rick Stein became a household name for putting coastal produce at the forefront of his dining, and his restaurant in Mollymook, Rick Stein at Bannisters, is no exception. Naturally, the menu changes daily depending on the catch, but that's the way you want it. Survey the ocean from on high as you tuck into freshly shucked oysters, or salmon, swordfish and tuna sashimi. The menu is peppered with Southeast Asian elements, such as Cambodian-dressed Eden mussels, or fusion-style Hervey Bay scallops with toasted hazelnut and coriander butter. For a more casual affair, The Rooftop Bar and Grill at Bannisters Pavilion offers the likes of salt and pepper calamari, fried cauliflower, prawn linguine and chargrilled chicken.
THREE BLUE DUCKS, NIMBO
Three Blue Ducks has taken its traditional farm-to-table style and set it in the Snowy Mountains. In the light, airy lodge of Nimbo Fork, the restaurant's menu celebrates the produce of the Riverina district with an ethos of simplicity, honesty and sustainability. From hefty tomahawk lamb chops and duck fat-roasted potatoes to smoked Nimbo trout with dill and crème fraîche, the simple approach lets the quality of the ingredients do the heavy lifting. It extends the same care to vegetables as it does to meat, with satisfying, meatless main events like oven-roasted potato gnocchi with pea and ricotta sauce or harissa-spiced roasted cauliflower. Finish with sea salt meringue with lemon curd and chantilly cream or a special house cocktail, like the Smoky Spritz.
THE ARGYLE INN, TARALGA
If you're as much a fan of historic restorations as you are fine dining, you'll want to stay the night after your dinner at The Argyle Inn. The warm lighting on the dark wood walls of the main dining room sets the tone for cosy country hospitality in this recently restored 19th-century inn. Being co-owned by two sustainable farmers means the menu skews seasonal and as local as possible, even down to the wine list. The contemporary Australian menu is hearty in winter and light and fresh in summer. The dishes are genteel but unpretentious: fresh pasta, local beef, house-made pickles, terrines, rillettes and some of the best sourdough you'll find in the Southern Tablelands.
Prepare for a memorable Thai-style dining experience at Paste. Chef Bee Satongun's menu is centred on the rediscovery of old recipes, traditions and forgotten culinary techniques of Thailand. Using fresh Australian produce, Paste offers refined Thai cuisine in an ever-changing seasonal menu — think roasted duck with lychee, hot mint, banana flower and blood lime; Moreton Bay bug with chu chee curry; 'crying tiger' aged T-bone with phaya rum, ghee, sticky rice, lemongrass and tamarind jaew; and, of course, special crab fried rice. Robust flavours don't end at the main course, with show-stopping desserts like fermented rice sorbet with passionfruit and mango encased in a delicate chocolate dome.
TWO SMOKING BARRELS, WOLLONGONG
You'll find this Carolina-style low-and-slow barbecue joint smack-bang between two car yards. It's an impressive set-up at Two Smoking Barrels with a grill rig used to smoke and season meats with native ironbark. It has everything from melt-in-your-mouth pit-smoked brisket to pork rolls, house sausages and short ribs on offer. There's a feed for every appetite, whether you need a quick, smashable burger or you want to settle in for a big ol' meat platter before you hit the road again. The sides are classic barbecue soul food: potato gems, slaw, cornbread, mac 'n' cheese and speciality burnt-end beans (the crispy, well-seasoned end bits of smoked meats). Warning: this is not food for the faint of heart, so wear your loosest pair of jeans.
Start planning your great escape to New South Wales this season by visiting the Visit NSW website.
Top image: Poacher's Pantry, Destination NSW
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