Maitland has undergone a transformation of late, as independent culinary hot spots and local artisans spring up across the region, discovers Sally Scott.
Often overlooked by its more famous neighbours, Maitland packs a punch for a short break getaway. Located just two hours from Sydney, this charming region has a rich cultural history, emerging food scene and thriving arts community. Most of the action can be found in Maitland’s High Street and the redeveloped shopping precinct The Levee (pictured above), on the banks of the mighty Hunter River. Here you’ll find an eclectic mix of local creatives, antique stores and cafes serving superb local brews.
Make sure you to stop into nearby Morpeth while you’re here. Once one of the busiest river ports in NSW and gateway to the Hunter, this quaint historic village showcases the best of the region’s local artisans, cafes and boutique accommodation.
A new addition to the city’s dining scene is the impressive COQUUN, located on the banks of the Hunter River. Named after the Hunter’s original moniker, it roughly translates to ‘fresh water’ in the Indigenous owners’ language. Respectful tributes to the Wonnarua people are peppered throughout the menu with terms such as ‘Karay’ (meaning Kangaroo) and native ingredients adding some local flavour. Visit this refined bistro for a true taste of the local area.
The Bronte Boutique Hotel
Located in Morpeth’s main street, The Bronte is a beautiful boutique hotel boasting just six rooms. The historic building has been refurbished with an eclectic fusion of Victorian and Asian antiques and breakfast is served on the sunny front balcony.
Icky Sticky Patisserie
Kick start your Maitland food journey with a pit stop at the Icky Sticky Patisserie. These drool worthy creations are the work of Jessica Boutard, Phillip Bowtell and their talented and passionate team of pastry chefs. Their sweet treats have loyal locals flocking daily to the patisserie to score their sugar rush. Hot tip: get there early on the weekends to ensure your pick of the pastries.
The Maitland Regional Art Gallery (MRAG) is a series of exhibition, retail and café spaces dedicated to making arts and culture accessible to locals and visitors. Come for the art and stay for the food at popular Seraphine Café. MRAG also hosts the acclaimed Olive Tree Art and Design Markets seasonally, showcasing the region’s most talented artisans.
During a weekend getaway to Morpeth, Stephen and wife Allison discovered the original bakehouse of his great, great, great grandfather William Arnott, founder of Arnott’s Biscuits. With baking in his blood, “it was destined” that he buy the premises and launch the Morpeth Sourdough bakery on the historic site. Fast forward more than 15 years and the Arnott’s sourdough is still in high demand and only available from the Morpeth store.
Donarch Fine Chocolates
When Donna Archer couldn’t find a Raspberry chocolate made with real raspberries, she decided to make her own! The result is the award-winning heart-shaped ‘Raspberry Heart’ chocolate and fantastical Donarch Fine Chocolates store filled with almost every chocolate imaginable. Think Donarch Honey, Dark Choc Ginger or the hand-painted Salted Caramel.
Dennerley Leather Designs
With over 55 years’ experience between them, husband and wife team Bob and Annie Dennerley understand the patient work that goes into producing quality, handcrafted leather goods. Their collection of belts, bags and leather accessories at Dennerley Leather Designs are all cut and stitched in the High St store using traditional tools and methods. Stick around to catch the master duo at work.
This sophisticated wine bar on Maitland’s High Street is more than just a cosy cocktail lounge, with a growing reputation for its great dining, too. Step into the character-filled 1870’s heritage building at The Rigby and be greeted by Howard Bourne or his son Nick – the dynamo family team delivering exceptional service and an inviting menu with handy wine matching suggestions.
The Cunning Culinarian
Brainchild of Alina Mackee, The Cunning Culinarian brings her love of rustic, home baking into a welcoming country style café housed in a gracious old building on High Street. Using the freshest produce (some of it even home grown at the onsite kitchen garden), the food is bursting with colour and flavour. The homemade relish on our corn fritters is so good you could bottle it!
Bread & Water
The regions first 100% gluten free café, Bread & Water, has opened right next door to Maitland Gaol and is bound to be a hit regardless of your dietary needs. Owner Vanessa Martin, who is also celiac, ensures the food is made to exacting standards with no risk of cross contamination. Vanessa’s mission is to “satisfy your desire to indulge without worry” – a dictum evident in the abundant tempting gluten free goodies available.