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. Before Bombini, their sprawling casual Italian diner in Avoca, the chef and front of house duo lead the culinary team at nearby luxury resort Bells at Killcare, and now plans are imminent for a fine dining restaurant in Gosford, as well as a roving cooking school. In the meantime, 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. 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.

 

3. Avoca Surf House

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.

 

4. And, the sleepy town on the rise…

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, plus 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). Over in Terrigal, don’t miss new bar hot spot Mumbo Jumbo’s, while The Boathouse Group now brings its enviable style to the Patonga Beach Hotel.