Watch out Byron Bay. The past few years have seen young foodies set up shop on the Central Coast – just an hour’s drive from Sydney – turning the former sleepy holiday region into a growing culinary hub. With a slew of new food openings, it can be hard to know where to raise your fork first… we sampled them so we could officially tell you ‘here’s where to start’.
1. Fish Dining, Gosford Waterfront
Powerhouse Central Coast hospitality duo Cameron and Hayley Cansdell are behind the breezy, bight-white, light-filled seafood star a stone’s throw from the water at Point Frederick. Fish Dining, which opened mid-2017, impresses with generous global flavours and prime Australian seafood.
Our picks? The wonderfully fragrant turmeric fish curry with kaffir lime and lotus root, inspired by the pair’s travels through Asia, and a classic grilled live WA marron with punchy lemon-garlic butter. Zing.
2. Bombini, Avoca
Cameron and Hayley Cansdell are also responsible for bringing us Bombini, their sprawling casual Italian diner in Avoca. The chef and front of house duo used to lead the culinary team at nearby luxury resort Bells at Killcare, and have brought the same level of excellence in service, style and culinary expertise into their own restaurant.
Bombini isn’t just a restaurant, you can also spend a summer’s eve with a vino on the inviting day beds, order a pizza from the woodfired oven in the upstairs bar, or pick up the best ingredients to create your own Italian feast at home from their produce store out the front. There’s freshly-baked bread to be smothered in your own homemade garlic butter, numerous pasta varieties and many more products line the shelves for your enjoyment.
3. Young Barons, Woy Woy
Young Barons’ owners Dannielle Mills and Bryce Gleeson, both just 23, exude a maturity well beyond their years that shines through in their seriously on-point, Italian-leaning menu and chic pasta bar setting.
Another chef-and-front-of-house combo and Bells at Killcare alumni, the pair make almost everything from scratch, from the superb daily pasta (try the signature spaghetti with king prawns and pangrattato) to the house-churned gelato.
On a warm evening, opt for a table in the courtyard out back complete with blooming kitchen garden, start with a few melted cheese, ham hock and potato fritters and settle in with the concise but well selected craft beer and wine list. The young entrepreneurs, who popularised #makewoywoygreatagain, are breathing real life into the cheeky hashtag – and inspired others to follow suit.
4. Avoca Surf House, Avoca Beach
Hearing rumours the rundown Mojito Joe’s space with picture-perfect views of Avoca Beach was up for lease, local Emily Caska enquired with the agent, saw the space and signed on the spot. With no hospitality experience to her name and a toddler in tow, Caska took just four months to transform it into Avoca Surf House, a chic open-plan venue inspired by Montauk’s famed Surf Lodge, that’s been pulling crowds since it opened.
On the menu, you’ll find beachside classics, like crispy fish tacos and burgers, plus global twists, including miso eggplant, buckwheat, sesame and pumpkin lentils, as well as refreshing cocktails you can enjoy at the bar or out on the sweeping deck. If you’re staying nearby, don’t miss one of the morning yoga classes – the space also converts into a spacious studio – or plan a weekend trip when there’s live music by night.
5. Tropicana Pizza Pizza, Woy Woy
Once sleepy Woy Woy is fast becoming a dining destination with Tropicana Pizza Pizza, a pumping Tiki-inspired pizzeria-meets-bar turning out top-notch deep-pan pies, margarita slushies and hella good times. You can also choose from a rotating selection of craft tinnies and wine (BYO also welcome).
Menu standouts include the Tony Pepperoni which is topped with a generous serving of pepperoni and drizzled with chilli infused honey, the Pesto Pizza Fingers and Big Ball Meatballs are also guaranteed crowd-pleasers.
6. Woy Woy Fisherman’s Wharf, Woy Woy
Woy Woy Fishermen’s Wharf, with prime local seafood (it’s been supplying the Coast with sustainable catch for over 40 years) and exquisite waterfront views (it recently underwent a sexy million-dollar renovation) is a seafood lover’s paradise.
The menu is simple, fresh and perfectly complemented by fresh produce and flavours. Try the szechuan salt and pepper snapper with chips and slaw, or start with the tempura prawn cutlets and finish with the chilli crab.
7. Mumbo Jumbo’s, Terrigal
Over in Terrigal, don’t miss new bar hot spot Mumbo Jumbo’s. The rooftop bar and restaurant is located on the Esplanade with enviable views of Terrigal Beach.
The Jamaican-inspired beach shack serves up a cocktail and food menu that is overflowing with fresh Caribbean flavours. If rum, reggae and jerk chicken are your jam, you won’t find a better spot to drink in the views and vibes on the Central Coast. Hot tip: keep an eye out for their art nights and markets.
8. Patonga Beach Hotel, Patonga
The Boathouse Group now brings its enviable style to the Patonga Beach Hotel, renaming this local gem Beachhouse Patonga. Located just a 30 minute ferry ride from the original Boathouse in Palm Beach, Sydney, diners can expect the same quality food, chocolate anchor-topped coffee, chilled atmosphere and stylish coastal vibes with a view of the Hawkesbury and Brisbane National Park.