8 Regional NSW Restaurants Definitely Worth The Drive

Eat, Guide, Travel / 20 February 2023
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8 Regional NSW Restaurants Definitely Worth The Drive

Eat, Guide, Travel / 20 February 2023

From Orange to Mittagong and everywhere in between, strap in for the road trip of your foodie dreams. 

Let’s be honest, we don’t need to be told twice to get in the car when a food-based excursion is on the agenda, and when it’s a one-of-a-kind dining experience with less than two hours of travel time? You can consider our seatbelts fastened. Keep reading for our full list of regional NSW restaurants that are truly worth the trip.

Muse, Hunter Valley
Muse, Hunter Valley

Located at the entrance to Pokolbin in the iconic Hungerford Hill Winery, Muse Restaurant aims to exclusively showcase produce from the region. In a culinary landscape where locally sourced and seasonal produce is the new norm, Muse sources local suppliers that are producing the absolute best in their field, as well as heirloom vegetables, edible flowers and herbs grown in the team’s own home vegetable patches, and the proof really is in the pudding.

Earning two Chef Hats every year since 2015 is no mean feat considering the continually rotating menu. But through every seasonal menu change, each dish masterfully demonstrates technique, restraint and respect for each ingredient. The four-course menu comes in at a treat-yourself $140pp and finishes on their signature Muse Coconut, a has-to-be-tasted to be believed dessert of dark chocolate and coconut cloud mousse. 

Muse Restaurant is open Tuesday to Saturday for dinner. Secure a booking here.  

Santino, Wollongong

Take the scenic route 1.5 hours south of Sydney and you’ll arrive in Wollongong. This coastal town has transformed into a foodie sanctuary over the last decade and with it came Santino in 2021. The team are not new to the hospitality scene with casual Italian hangout Kneading Ruby under their aprons. Renowned for traditional Napolitan-style woodfired pizza, Santino brings something more refined to an unassuming laneway in Wollongong.

Designed with the classic Italian eatery in mind, expect to see bold tiles, dark furnishings, dim lights, jarred preserves and a shrine of vintage Italian posters. Santino comes alive at night with loud music, a buzzing community feel and a side of banter from the staff.

The menu highlights freshly made pasta from pappardelle ragu to roast pumpkin agnolotti, but it’s constantly evolving to reflect the best seasonal ingredients. The antipasti come in at a close second with freshly baked pane di casa, roasted bullhorn peppers, almond ricotta and San Daniele prosciutto with melon on the menu. You’ll also notice a slight French influence amongst the beef tartare, duck parfait and the brandy caramel flan.

The beverage list is strong with a focus on minimal intervention, the best up-and-coming local makers and Italian varietals. Nest door to the restaurant the team have opened Sonny, a wine shop which stocks a lot of the wines on the menu for you to take home.

Santino is open Wednesday to Sunday for dinner and Saturday to Sunday for lunch. Secure your table here.

Bangalay Dining, Shoalhaven Heads

You may not have heard of Shoalhaven Heads but it’s about a 10-minute drive from the famous weekend destination of Berry. Executive team Simon Evans and Thomas Chiumento (ex-hatted Caveau restaurant in Wollongong) are at the helm of the kitchen. They bring their knowledge of native ingredients to the table and showcase extraordinary techniques as they respect the local produce.

The menu is inspired by the natural bushland and surroundings and is a true representation of the South Coast. Highlights include south coast oysters with finger lime mignonette, kangaroo rolled in wattleseed with saltbush and hazelnuts, Murray Cod with cauliflower and macadamia and their famous roasted bug with bug custard, finger lime and compressed melon. Be surprised and delighted by the tasting experience for $120pp.

The vino list boats the best winemakers in Australia including Yarra Yering, Tyrell’s and Leeuwin Estate. As for beers, you will see a bunch from local craft brewers including Cupitt’s Estate. The cocktails follow the same ethos as the food menu with our highlights being the Wattleseed Espresso Martini and the Saltbush Margarita.

Bangalay is open for dinner Monday to Tuesday and Thursday to Saturday and Friday to Sunday for lunch. Secure your table here.
Looking for more deliciousness in the area? Discover our guide to Berry here.

Charred Kitchen & Bar, Orange

Think fine dining flavours without the white tablecloths. This relaxed, chef-hatted dining venue in Orange offers an intimate and cosy vibe with warm timber furnishings and hidden nooks to settle into for the evening.

Whilst relaxed in ambience, Charred Kitchen and Bar takes its flavours very seriously. Using the newly commissioned “Lucifer” wood and charcoal oven to define the menu offering (hence the name), Charred’s dishes are centred around the unique, earthy flavours that can only be produced by this method of cooking. Delve into starters like melon, house-smoked guanciale, mint, pickled onion and smoked spiced salt; before satiating your savoury tooth with the Black Angus ‘Crying Tiger’- hot smoked and charred Wagyu with burnt palm sugar, coriander, Qukes, chilli, kaffir lime and puffed rice.

The sommeliers here make the award-winning wine and craft beer list accessible and non-intimidating, trust their deep knowledge of the region and go with their recommendations and you will not be left disappointed. The $130pp tasting menu is well worth the splurge for an unforgettable trip to Orange that will leave you hungry for another trip. 

Charred Kitchen & Bar is open Tuesday to Saturday for dinner and Saturday lunch. Secure your booking here.

Paste, Mittagong
Paste, Mittagong

Prior to 2020, you’d have had to venture all the way to Bangkok or Laos to sample the Michelin-starred, Thai-inspired culinary delights of Paste. With that in mind, a 90-minute drive south to devour the palate-tantalising flavours of Bee Satongun and husband, Jason Bailey’s menu is a pretty good deal. 

As well as familiar dishes like Penang, Massaman and Tom Yum all crafted to their flavour pinnacles, the innovative duo have re-imagined ancient Thai recipes to utilise the fresh Australian produce at hand. The result is a surprising fusion that packs a flavourful punch. 

Paste’s speciality is arguably the curries, each one built on foundations of deep, rich flavour. The Smoky Southern Crab Curry is a signature borrowed from the Paste Bangkok restaurant and features premium Australian blue swimmer crab suspended in a rich and aromatic yellow curry sauce with hummingbird flowers.  

The elegant décor and subtle embellishments of the spacious rectangular dining room prompt you to sit a little straighter, while the family-style shared menu format counters for a relaxed and enjoyable dining experience, well worth the drive.  

Paste is open for Thursday to Monday for dinner and Thursday to Saturday for lunch. Secure a booking here

Wilma, Canberra
Wilma, Canberra

Wilma is Canberra’s first ever progressive Asian BBQ helmed by renowned chef James Viles (Biota) and Brendan Hill (ex-Aria and 12-Micron in Sydney). You’ll catch them over the glow of the custom made, two-tier konro yakitori grill, barbecuing as primitively as possible over a fire fuelled by local Australian timbers.

From the dark and moody glow of Wilma’s interior, the menu offers a uniquely Australian twist to well-known Asian flavours such as the wood-roasted half Peking duck sourced from nearby Tarago, served with aromatic master stock; xo pippies with warrigal greens; and WILMA’s combination truffle & egg fried rice featuring locally sourced truffles from Majura.

You’ll be pleased to know Wilma also doubles up as a pre/post-dinner pitstop with adjoining bar ‘The Pearl’ offering Asian-inspired cocktails such as a Lychee Dragonfruit Margarita.

Wilma is open Wednesday to Sunday for dinner and Thursday to Sunday for lunch. Secure a booking here

Small Town, Milton
Small Town, Milton

Small town ambience meets big city flavour at this 26 seater down on the South coast. Just a stone’s throw from Mollymook, you’ll find Small Town nestled away in the pristine locale of Milton. The seaside town is a destination unto itself and the fact you can enjoy world-class fare from the duo that bought us Isidore farm and kitchen really is the freshly picked, locally sourced NSW cherry on the cake. 

With the ebbs and flows in the world of hospitality, the menu has recently honed in on the Mediterranean and its surrounds, where the food is humble, honest and full of deliciousness, but no less creative. Settle in with a toasted lobster roll with mayo, fennel pollen and dill masterfully paired with an aperitivo inspired by little bars around the world. This week, Small Town announced the arrival of a yet-to-be-named dessert featuring a profiterole x tiramisu hybrid, if you needed a sign from the universe to get in your car, consider that a neon one.

Small Town is open Wednesday to Saturday for dinner and Wednesday to Thursday for lunch. Secure a booking here.

Valentina, Merimbula
Valentina, Merimbula

After a couple of landlocked years, we’ve really come to appreciate the venues that deftly transport us to another time and place as you walk through the door. Valentina has mastered their craft, seamlessly guiding you into a coastal Mediterranean retreat on arrival. Intimate tables and a full glass frontage draped with sand-coloured curtains overlook Merimbula lake for leisurely vacay vibes. 

The menu has a honed focus on fresh seafood with dishes like scallops with beurre blanc and black pepper planting itself firmly amongst the favourites. Simple Mediterranean-inspired dishes are brought to life by honouring the flavours and quality of each ingredient. For a luxe lunch, the delicate chargrilled scampi with caviar is a must-try. Take your time to enjoy every offering before heading out for a leisurely sunset stroll by the lake.

Valentina is open Wednesday to Sunday for dinner and Thursday to Sunday for lunch. Secure your booking here.