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!
The Blessed Bean
Down among the beautiful tree-lined streets is a little coffee haunt named The Blessed Bean. This little cutie creates one of the best cuppas around, best enjoyed at a sunny table on a leisurely morning. Don’t believe? Roasting its own beans in-house, The Blessed Bean has released four different brews, meaning even the pickiest of Surry Hills snobs will find a caffeine fix. Order the smashed avocado and poached eggs, it will change your life!
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 Fitzmauric 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.
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.
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.
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, pelitas, pumpkin and kale with a beetroot jus. Deluxe.
Cottontail Restaurant & Winery
Take a short drive just outside of 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 flat bread, 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.
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.