Just a cruisy, 45-minute drive outside Sydney, though up to an hour and a half, depending on where you want to go, the Central Coast or simply “the Coast”, as locals call it, feels worlds away from the big smoke with its deserted stretches of beach, expansive national parks and everyone-knows-everyone regional towns, including Terrigal, The Entrance and Ettalong.
So, where to eat when you’re visiting Central Coast? From sprawling waterfront pubs to a quirky, quaint tea house and countless cafés, you’ll be spoilt for choice. Ahead, we round up some of our favourite places.
The Lucky Bee
Tucked into precinct The Galleria in Ettalong, The Lucky Bee is a Southeast Asian restaurant and cocktail bar, started in 2015 by Australian restauranteurs Rupert Noffs and Matty Bennett after they both worked in New York City and then returned home to the Central Coast. The menu here fuses Thai, Vietnamese and Chinese cuisine, while the venue itself features colourful murals on its exposed brick walls and beautiful lanterns.
Mumbo Jumbo’s in the centre of Terrigal is a Caribbean-inspired bar and restaurant. Located on a rooftop overlooking the sea, it’ll have you feeling like you’re, in fact, in the Caribbean, with its strings of colourful lightbulbs, DJs on the weekends and straw umbrellas. On the menu are fruity cocktails to sip while you dig into burgers, seafood or tacos.
Beachcomber Hotel in Central Coast town Toukley is a Hamptons-inspired waterfront venue with a hotel and two restaurants, the soon-to-open Pelicans Restaurant and the already-open The Beachie. Order meals like salads, burgers or pizzas at the counter before finding a spot inside or out, along the water, to wait for it.
Bar Toto was started in 2013 with the aim of bringing back old-world charm to the Central Coast. It’s best known for its cocktails, including a range of coffee cocktails, beer and wine, but also serves antipasti, handmade by local and Italian producers, and Italian mains like pizzas and a burrata dish.
Hatters Tea House
Quirky tea room Hatters Tea House in Ettalong serves only food made on its premises. A two-hour booking will see you sipping from your choice of 21 different teas and munching on sandwiches and cakes as you sit back and relax in a plush, mismatched chair.
Saddles Mount White
Set on 11.3 hectares of bushland, Saddles Mount White is a restaurant, bakehouse, and nursery with a philosophy of celebrating Australiana. Menu highlights include housemade charcuterie, savoury pastries, and roast farm chicken. Indulge your sweet tooth with lavender cheesecake, fluffy meringues, and its venue’s unique take on the humble lamington.
The Box on the Water
On Ettalong’s newly redeveloped foreshore The Esplanade, The Box on the Water is a restaurant, bar, and takeaway beach kiosk with views of Broken Bay, Box Head, and Sydney’s Northern Beaches. Order a la carte from a lunch and dinner menu, or try a little bit of everything with a degustation feast menu.
Yellowtail in Terrigal serves fine-dining in a casual venue. Expect Modern Australian fine-dining dishes with influences from the Middle East, Mediterranean, and Asia, all served in a casual venue. Sample dishes include spatchcock with marcona almond, lamb belly with labneh, and Hervey Bay prawn bisque, topped with cauliflower foam. The restaurant welcomes all dietaries and has options for vegetarians, too.
The Cowrie is another restaurant in Terrigal, set above the town and looking down onto the bay and ocean. The restaurant has a seasonal menu, plus an always-on plant-based menu that uses all locally-sourced ingredients. Think charred cabbage and tomato fondue, or a miso and chilli eggplant with shaved broccolini and puffed wild rice. The seasonal menu features fish, pastas, and meat.
Italian restaurant Rhonda’s, also in Terrigal, serves wood-fired pizzas, home-cooked pastas and antipasti in its cosy ground floor and rooftop dining areas. Pizzas are made with handmade, thin crusts and cooked in an imported pizza often that features walls of volcanic rock from Mt Vesuvius to help keep the heat inside. Toppings are from mostly local producers.