February 16, 2023
18 mins Read
The region may not immediately come to mind for excellent culinary offerings, but even the most discerning of tastebuds will be pleasantly surprised at the diverse dining scene on the Central Coast. Coffee snobs can get a very good cup of morning zing at its many cool and casual cafes, fine dining is easy to come by with many restaurants serving up award-winning menus, a good pub feed is found in almost every town, while bar-hopping is made easy with ample watering holes and breweries. Here, the most epic restaurants on the Central Coast.
Beachside dining never looked so good, with everything from seafood-focused fine dining to casual brunch and coffee spots overlooking the ocean. Here are the top restaurants in Terrigal and Avoca.
Best for: views, fine dining
For decades The Cowrie has been a fine dining institution on the Coast, perched high on the hills of Terrigal with panoramic views of the ocean and town below. Awarded a chef’s hat by the 2022 Australian Good Food Guide, chef and owner Dimitris Aronis (ex Bathers Pavilion) heads up a team that includes alumni from the likes of Quay and Aria. There is a strong focus on local and sustainable produce, as well as an entirely plant-based menu matched with Australian Ikou teas or organic wines.
Address: 109 Scenic Hwy, Terrigal
Best for: seafood, fine dining
There’s a lot of chatter about Yellowtail and for good reason. This hatted restaurant may be small but it packs a punch with a refined and relaxed dining experience inspired by the flavours of the Middle East, Asia and the Mediterranean.
Offering a la carte and a five-course degustation, the seafood is a stand-out, such as the saki-cured Kingfish sashimi and Hervey Bay king prawns with yuzu butter.
Address: Shop 3/1 Campbell Crescent, Terrigal
Best for: French, fine dining
As a nod to owner Bernard Mallet’s Mauritius heritage, it’s all about the reinvention of classical French dishes with the flavours of Asia and Africa at L’isle de France. Head chef Jeremy Pace (ex Bistro Guillaume) and sommelier Fabrice le Boulanger (who has worked in Michelin-starred restaurants across Europe) both hail from France bringing authenticity to the menu. The elegant beachside restaurant has a cosy fireplace for winter and an alfresco courtyard adorned with festoon lighting for summer.
Address: 1 Ena Street, Terrigal
Best for: brunch, coffee
When it comes to epic brunches, Bellyfish is hard to beat. This father-and-son café is one of the busiest spots in town – not only do they do really great coffee and a hearty menu featuring lots of local ingredients, it also has funky interiors and is a hop, skip and jump to Terrigal Beach – one of the best beaches to visit on the Central Coast.
Address: 112 Terrigal Drive, Terrigal
Best for: casual dining, long lunches
Run by the same people who own cult burger shop Chop n Grind just around the corner, Arc. Est has fast become a favourite among locals, especially for a long lunch of seasonal comfort food (from steak sandwiches to slow-cooked lamb shoulder). Unmissable for its charming wooden entry doors and warm, rustic interiors, it has a vibe that could very easily slot right into the heart of Byron Bay or Bali.
Address: Shop 7–8/18 Church Street, Terrigal
Best for: views, groups
Avoca Beach House screams summer, with a white, bright and airy interior and panoramic views of the beach so you can watch local surfers catch waves as you enjoy high-quality seafood and share-style platters.
Add a mouth-watering cocktail to complete the scene. Definitely, one to add to your summer itinerary.
Address: 85 Avoca Drive, Avoca Beach
Just down the road from Terrigal, the beachside suburb of Wamberal is hiding a couple of standout restaurants to put on your radar.
Best for: woodfired pizza, casual
When you want to cook authentic woodfired pizza, where better to learn than in Napoli itself? That’s what Lagune owner and chef Alex Benedictas did. And the result? Arguably the best pizza on the Central Coast. Made with fresh handmade dough and premium Italian ingredients, it’s no wonder this cosy restaurant is ever-so-popular.
Address: Shop 2/80 Ocean View Drive, Wamberal
Best for: fusion cuisine, romantic
Right next door to Lagune, Suq is an intimate family-owned restaurant with a menu bursting with global flavours from France, Italy, North Africa, Japan and the Med. You’ll find everything from Japanese tempura soft-shell crab to a 12-hour slow cooked lamb souvlaki, all designed to share. Though we think this restaurant is pretty perfect for a romantic meal, too.
Address: 80 Ocean View Drive, Wamberal
The coastal villages of Woy Woy, Ettalong and Pearl Beach have been quietly expanding their restaurant offering over the last 10 years with everything from casual eats and tiki bars to fine dining that champions French, Italian, and Turkish cuisines and more.
Best for: pizza, groups
Inspired by a 1950s Polynesian tiki bar, Tropicana Social Club serves pizzas, boutique wines, craft beer and tropical drinks.
The aesthetic is so well done, adorned with wood-panelled walls, cane furniture and tropical plants it has a self-described vibe that is Blue Hawaii meets Twin Peaks meets Cocktail.
Address: 61 Trafalgar Ave, Woy Woy
Best for: Italian and French, fine dining
Like no other dining experience on the Coast, two-hatted Osteria Il Coccia offers a six-course degustation that oozes distinctive flavours from the red gum, yellow bark, and hay-fuelled flames that it has been cooked over.
Run by Nicola and Alexandra Coccia, who are from Italy and France respectively, the menu fuses the best of both worlds, while the beautifully designed dining space is a little more coastal with a relaxing palette of creams and terracotta with timber and wicker furniture.
Address: 49 The Esplanade, Ettalong Beach
Best for: views, casual dining
Its name is a bit of a hint: The Box on the Water at Ettalong sits pretty on the waterfront of Broken Bay, affording spectacular views through the restaurant’s floor-to-ceiling windows. The modern Australian menu features hearty options to share (roasted lamb shoulder and a seafood platter) as well as smaller dishes including fish and chips and paella.
Address: Ettalong Beach Waterfront Reserve, Ettalong
Best for: Turkish, fine dining
Located within The Galleria at Ettalong, the ever-changing menu at hatted restaurant Safran is centred around authentic Turkish recipes and techniques. But Chef Suleyman Kirbancioglu – who grew up in Mengen, Turkey – shakes things up with the flavours of the Middle East, Central Asia, Europe and the Balkans.
The slow-cooked meats, such as the mulberry glazed 30-beef rib or lamb neck are a highlight.
Address: 81/189 Ocean View Road, Ettalong Beach
Best for: fine dining, views
For almost two decades Pearls on the Beach has been one of the Coast’s best dining experiences, regularly receiving accolades for its outstanding cuisine. It has recently come under new management, with former sous chef Byron Namenyi now heading the kitchen and Dan McKinnon, from Cottage Point Inn, managing the floor. The restaurant has undergone a fresh new look but is still serving up exquisite modern Australian cuisine.
Address: 1 Tourmaline Ave, Pearl Beach
From stunning revamps of heritage-listed hotels to casual dining and South American eats, Gosford and Point Frederick are delivering standout results when it comes to restaurants in this corner of the Central Coast.
Best for: pub food, groups
The heritage-listed Hotel Gosford underwent a stunning revamp in 2021; its brooding Art Deco design paying homage to its 1920s roots.
Earl’s Kitchen is a relaxed dining space with pub classics such as chicken schnitzel and Caesar salad, as well as share plates and an impressive range of vegetarian and gluten-free options, much of it made up of local ingredients.
The tipple list is also extensive with 32 tap beers and creative cocktails, such as the Smoked Negroni created with locally made Moore’s Dry Gin and smoked with hickory wood.
Address: Corner of Mann and Erina streets, Gosford
Best for: breakfast, casual dining
The swanky café and bar is light and airy with large windows, fresh white walls, timber and Terrazzo flooring, and a refreshing palette of blues and greens. The seasonal menu is fresh, modern Australian using local ingredients where possible, with a great cocktail and wine list to enjoy over a long lunch.
Address: Shop 1/32 Mann Street, Gosford
It would be easy to blink and miss these top restaurants in Erina. But it would be a shame to miss out on dining in a 1970s mud-brick hut set in a garden by a distillery. Then there is a delicious pasta bar, and high tea inside an art gallery. Best you seek these restaurants out for yourself.
Best for: gelato, coffee
Housed in a charming 1970s mud-brick hut and surrounded by the lush gardens of Distillery Botanica, Bar Botanica is a Euro-style café and bar.
The brainchild of husband-and-wife team, Dan and Julia Hughes – who also own Mr Goaty Gelato – it’s an idyllic place to enjoy locally roasted coffee, award-winning gin and, of course, incredible gelato.
Address: 25 Portsmouth Road, Erina
Best for: casual dining, high tea
Adjoining the renowned Ken Duncan Gallery, Kew Dining is a relaxed space that complements the surrounding bush landscape: natural timber and wicker furniture and a sage green and blush colour palette. The café serves breakfast and lunch, but its high tea is a local favourite. Served from 10am on Tuesdays and Saturdays, diners can enjoy sweets such as freshly baked scones and savoury bites such as housemade arancini balls and finger sandwiches, with tea or bubbles.
Address: 414 The Entrance Road, Erina Heights
Best for: pasta, casual dining
Combining local and Italian ingredients, Remy & Co creates a seasonal menu featuring ever-so-fresh handmade pasta, such as gnocchi gorgonzola and smoked three meat ragu, as well as pizza and antipasti.
Address: 2 Ilya Avenue, Erina
The bayside villages of Killcare and Hardys Bay are quiet achievers. Not only is it home to renowned Bells at Killcare but it also has a generous handful of top restaurants to call its own.
Best for: fine dining, seafood
Under the guide of culinary director Sean Connolly, the Wild Flower Bar + Dining menu is ‘inspired by food of the sun’, boasting flavours from the Mediterranean to Morocco.
Part of the ultra-luxe Bells at Killcare, the menu at this hatted restaurant is designed around ingredients from the impressive 500 square-metre kitchen garden, and locally sourced produce, especially the seafood from nearby Macmasters Beach, Hardys Bay and Brisbane Water.
Address: 107 The Scenic Road, Killcare
Best for: Asian, casual dining
Pink walls and disco balls are not what you would expect from the languid seaside suburb of Hardys Bay: insert The Lucky Bee, a funky mod Asian restaurant from clever restauranteurs Rupert Noffs and Matty Bee.
Enjoy share-style dishes that burst with Thai, Vietnamese and Chinese flavours, a yum cha menu on weekends and seriously delish cocktails.
Address: 60 Araluen Drive, Hardys Bay
There are a few gems tucked away in Long Jetty and The Entrance that you really don’t want to miss, including a former 1950s theatre transformed into a multi-purpose bar and restaurant.
Best for: pub food, groups
The former Entrance Hotel is almost unrecognisable with its latest multi-million-dollar rebrand as The Entrance Social Club. Sports fans will love Taffy’s, which has booths with personal TVs to watch all the big games, from NRL to NBA to UFC. While across the corridor, Mrs May Bistro & Bar is a very different, more feminine vibe: all soft tones, curves and gold accents, a round pavilion with fireplace and cane swinging chairs to relax. Dine on pub classics and fresh seafood or enjoy a drink in the alfresco beer garden, which will be buzzing in summer.
Address: 87 The Entrance Road, The Entrance
Best for: slow cooked meat, takeaway
Meat lovers: contain your tastebuds. Café by day, American barbecue by night, Cue and Crew offers up takeaway boxes of your choice of fresh smoked American barbecue meat. Choose from beef brisket, pulled pork, pork belly, pork ribs, pulled lamb and wings, all served with house pickles, slaw and potato crisps. (From 6pm, Friday and Saturday nights until sold out.)
Address: 20 Hargraves Street, The Entrance
Best for: casual dining, groups
Long Jetty’s 1950s theatre The Savoy was given a new lease on life a couple of years back when it was turned into a multi-purpose bar and restaurant. Fill up on casual bites such as pizza or share plates, browse the long list of beverages, and enjoy a film screening (every Thursday night) or groove along to the live DJs on the weekend.
Address: 2/391 The Entrance Road, Long Jetty
Seek out a stylish speakeasy bar and restaurant in Wyong, lakeside pub food in Toukley, and tapas in Norah Head to dine at the best restaurants at this end of the Central Coast.
Best for: Middle eastern, groups
Housed in a former 1930s bank, Motel Mezza is a speakeasy-style bar with a Middle Eastern menu that’s designed to share with friends (falafel, kebeh, sambousek) along with a tipple from the extensive beverage list.
Signature cocktails such as a mango and chilli heat and pineapple and saffron martini will leave a lasting impression.
Address: 98 Pacific Hwy, Wyong
Best for: groups, pub food
Set right on the shores of Budgewoi Lake, The Beachcomber is a hip and happening place with a chic Hamptons look and beach club vibe for locals and visitors to eat, drink, stay and play.
Pub food is available at The Beachie, a casual dining space, while the soon-to-be-opening Pelican’s promises semi-fine dining.
Address: 200 Main Road, Toukley
Best for: tapas, groups
Good food and good times are on the agenda at Johnny Tapas, a buzzy restaurant in the heart of the beachside suburb of Norah Head.
The menu, unsurprisingly, features tapas as well as woodfired pizza, tacos and some epic cocktails, beer and wine. There’s also live music and other events such as comedy shows.
Address: 7 Mitchell Street, Norah Head
Make the trip to Mt White to sit on a saddle at a bar, dine on the deck or by the fireplace in winter at this standout restaurant.
Best for: lunch, casual dining
Inspired by a traditional bakehouse and set on 11 hectares of quintessential Australian bushland, the rustic but luxe Saddles Mt White serves a heart-warming menu of modern Australian cuisine.
Whether you order a pork and fennel sausage roll followed by a lamington with chocolate ganache, or a six-week dry-aged T-bone steak, all dishes are elegantly plated.
Address: 20 Ashbrookes Road, Mt White
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This is a great list! I have made a copy and will be using it to try out the area. Thanks Elaine
Fantastic and very informative