Is Mudgee too mainstream? Already peeled Orange? When finding your next foodie destination don’t overlook the Riverina region of NSW. It’s time to pay Wagga Wagga a visit.
Approximately five hours’ drive south of Sydney (exactly one Maccas and one fuel stop later), visiting Wagga Wagga isn’t usually the first item on the gourmet travel checklist. But I’m here to let you in on a little secret: much like its local farms, Wagga Wagga has started to bear foodie fruit!
If your foodie heart hears the siren call of brunch, then Wagga’s cafe scene is sure to please.
Down among the beautiful tree-lined streets is a coffee haunt named Larry’s. This little cutie, formerly known as The Blessed Bean and 10 Best Street, creates one of the best cuppas around, best enjoyed at a sunny table on a leisurely morning. Don’t believe it? Roasting its own beans in-house, even the pickiest of Surry Hills snobs will find a caffeine fix at this Wagga Wagga cafe. Order the smashed avocado and poached eggs, it will change your life!
Larry’s is the brand new name of the cafe formerly known as The Blessed Bean and 10 Best Street. (Image: Larry’s Cafe)
Come breakfast, brunch or lunch, The Brew is a winner. Housed within an old corner store but featuring a thoroughly modern vibe (and menu), there’s a smattering of tables outside its tiled exterior, but you can’t beat this cafe’s spacious backyard on a sunny day. Expect dishes such as white chia and red rice pudding with dragon fruit, kiwi, vanilla coyo and puffed grains, or a red bean cassoulet with baked eggs and a French stick on the side, from its seasonal menu. There’s a less exotic menu available for little ones too.
Pot ‘n’ Kettle Coffee House
Prefer your breakfast straight up with no frills attached? Sling yourself around to the Pot ‘n’ Kettle Coffee House where you will get a decent-sized feed at a price that won’t make you give up your house savings.
Whether you favour savoury or sweet first thing in the morning, you’ll find ample options from both sides of the fence at Fitz Cafe. With coconut pancakes, acai bowls, mango and Coyo yoghurt panna cotta on the sweet side and cauliflower fritters, mushroom bruschetta and plenty more on the savoury side. There are also gluten-free and vegan options available and a whole cabinet full of sweet treats to choose from if you’re just after a snack and a coffee. Salads, wraps and focaccias are available to order for lunch.
A selection of some of the best breakfast choices at Fitz Cafe. Photo: Visit Wagga Wagga
Lunchtime calls for a mix of pub grub favourites, cafes, bakeries and more in Wagga.
Flinging open its doors in October 2021, Mr. Lawrence is helping to heat up the dining scene in Wagga. A cafe, restaurant and bar all in one, it’s run by two experienced local chefs and turns out some inventive – and immaculately plated – dishes such as spicy burnt butter eggs with speck, and a fried Murray cod burger replete with a pine nut slaw and sriracha mayo.
Mr. Lawrence is spicing up the foodie scene in Wagga. (Image: Mr. Lawrence)
The Thirsty Crow
Know your IPAs from your golden ales? Don’t worry, neither do I! What I do know is the pizzas are absolutely delicious at The Thirsty Crow brewery. The lads here take the hardship out of decision-making by providing a simple and tasty menu. Once you’ve ordered your pizza, ask them for the best pairing beer and head out to the sun-drenched beer garden. Warning, keep your calendar as clear as the weather as this could potentially turn into an all-afternoon affair.
Pizza and beer? Yes please! (Image: Destination NSW)
The Artisan Baker
If you’re visiting Wagga in winter then the Artisan Baker on Morgan Street is the perfect place to warm up with a bowl full of soup and a fresh, crusty baguette. The bakery rotates through a delicious selection of daily soup specials, including French onion soup, potato and leek, Moroccan lentil and more. You can also choose from a selection of French pastries and sugar-laden treats to enjoy for dessert.
Trail Street Coffee Shop
The Trail Street Coffee Shop is really an all-rounder: come for breakfast, lunch or just a cup of one of the best coffees in town. Lunch is the perfect mix of hearty burgers, salads, nourish bowls and sandwiches. We’d recommend the salmon poke bowl with seasoned black rice, pickled purple cabbage and cucumber, charred corn, avocado, Kewpie mayo and edamame beans. If you’re wanting something a bit greasier, go for the fried chicken burger. Stopping in for breakfast? The butter croissant French toast with strawberry syrup, lemon curd, berries, wafer crumbs and double cream is the ultimate indulgent breakfast, or if you’re more of a savoury lover go for the pumpkin breakfast salad – it’s also on the healthier side.
When it comes to dinner in Wagga, there are plenty of restaurants that offer a mix of cuisines to suit all preferences.
Pastorale by Meccanico
Open since March 2021, this Wagga Wagga newcomer is the progeny of Meccanico’s owners Richard Moffatt and Karl Hulford. Pastorale is secreted away within the heritage-listed Riverine Club and was dreamed up with the lofty goal of becoming Wagga’s first hatted restaurant.
While the menu changes to reflect the seasons, diners at Pastorale can always rely on perfectly charred and flame-licked meat and fish, courtesy of the restaurant’s custom-built Mibrasa charcoal oven. There’s even a sommelier on-hand to make choosing the perfect drop to accompany your meal a walk in the park too.
Try the seasonal menu at Pastorale. (Image: Pastorale by Meccanico)
The Magpies Nest
Head out towards the university and you’ll find a little treasure called The Magpies Nest in the northern suburb of Estella. Where do I even start? This gorgeous little venue has an ever-changing menu packed full of delicious creations with a heavy focus on local produce. Quality? Top-notch. Atmosphere? Warm and inviting. THIS is Wagga’s best restaurant. We ate the Riverina lamb, roasted beets, pearl couscous, pepitas, pumpkin and kale with a beetroot jus. Deluxe.
Magpies Nest Restaurant’s menu focuses on local produce. (Image: Elk Avenue and Visit Wagga Wagga)
Cottontail Restaurant & Winery
Take a short drive just outside of the town centre for a dinner on the deck at the family-owned-and-run Cottontail Restaurant & Winery. Order from a selection of delicious wood-fired pizzas or go all out and treat yourself to a three-course spread of baked Camembert cheese with salted maple glaze, macadamia nuts and flatbread, followed up with crispy pork belly and a side of black pudding bon bon and broccolini, and top it all off with passionfruit panna cotta for dessert.
Dine on the deck at the picturesque Cottontail Restaurant & Winery. Photo: Visit Wagga Wagga
Now that you’ve eaten your way around Wagga Wagga, finish your day off at the Birdhouse Bar. Rumour has it that the twice-cooked chicken burger and fries are incredible, but for me personally – the wine list is where it’s at. Plenty of people will recommend the cocktails and the menu is impressive but there’s something about sitting inside on a chilly Wagga day with a big glass of local red that brings the trip to a perfect close.
Meccanico Espresso + Wine
A rather suave little space next to the Murrumbidgee River, Meccanico Espresso + Wine takes plenty of its culinary and design cues from Europe. You can stop by for brekkie, lunch or a late afternoon tipple any day of the week, but this smart-casual joint really shines after hours. Linger over a bottle of New or Old World white from its extensive wine list with friends, and order a bevy of tapas dishes to share (think oysters Kilpatrick, chicken liver parfait and organic local olives).
Meccanico is the ideal location for any occasion; a casual get together, a special occasion or a small function.
(Image: Wagga Wagga City Council and Destination Riverina Murray)