HUNGRY? Here's my local food favourites
I'VE lived in the Clarence Valley for more than 35 years, and through growing up have seen how the area has developed as a food scene. From monthly childhood trips to the Chinese smorgasboard, to sophisticated fine-dining, we have grown into a place where what used to be only available in the city is only a quick reservation away.
These are some of my favourite places to get a bite. They may be biased by where I live, my personal tastes and even what happened to be open on a particular night. The great thing about food is that there's something for everyone, and maybe you might find your next great meal in here.
I'm a reasonable cook, so if I want something hearty to start the day, I want something I'm fairly confident I can't whip up first thing. Botero in Maclean, which grew out of Danny Young's coffee business is nigh on my favourite place to start the day. The ever changing menu always throws up something interesting. Pork belly extravaganzas, sweet potato and white bean shakshuka and a french toast that borders on illegal for how good the early morning sweetness balances with a warm vibe.
Dunes Cafe, Yamba (pictured)
AFTER running a fine dining restaurant in a regional Victorian art gallery, Liz and Ben Sumner were after a change of pace.
The chef and baker by trade started at the Yamba Bowling Club, and three years ago, Dunes Cafe made the move to their Yamba Shopping Fair location.
"Our thing is fresh, affordable and local. That's our thing," Ms Sumner said.
"Everything is made here, we don't buy any cakes, biscuits it's all made for us onsite."
With at least three or four specials changing every week on top of a regular menu and a cabinet of ready-mde food, they said they aimed to cater to the locals, rather than tourists.
"The seniors love the lambs fry on a Monday. There's always someone who loves it, so they come. They'd scream if we took it off," Ms Sumner said.
"People who are grabbing something quick love the rice paper rolls... but because we change the specials every week there's no one thing people get.
"Except for the Yamba prawns. They always go really quickly," she added.
As stated above, Dunes isn't about over complicating lunch. It's quick if you want it to be, or it's a really tasty and affordable sit-down lunch that's accessible, yet of great quality.
And their regular beef burger? Un-believeable. The best in the Clarence bar none. I still haven't made it back to the specials menu yet.
If it's time to get the fancy pants on, there is no place better to rest than the almost hidden restaurant at Angourie. It's Italian without any of the awful cliche. It's a fine dining experience, with a totally coastal relaxed vibe. And the menu spans true Italian fare, local produce and a steak I've not had better in a long time.
If you're not after posh nosh, highly recommended to the Harwood Hotel, where I've eaten a plate of mussels that I remembered years later, and the Mexican in Yamba where a good boozy dinner is a good treat.
Irons & Craig, Yamba
I just can't do coffee. It's not that I don't like the taste, but I'm just not fond of hot drinks, and it can be wildly inconsistent.
That said, I've had my best cold version at Irons & Craig, where it's always reliable, and the conversation over the coffee counter is more likely to spark my mind than a coffee ever will.
Happy Noodle, South Grafton
It's like all those stereotypes, the little hole in a commercial wall, and the shop serves its purpo without being flashy. With a few tables to wait out the usual night rush, a huge menu of dishes is on choice. Mine's the Number 7, hot with extra chilli. There's a few noodle places around, but none of them have the same taste that they do here - reminiscent of one of those really trendy city secret noodle spots that all your city friends seem to have.
Georgies at the Gallery
My best meal is more an experience than a particular dish, and that was always at Georgies at the Gallery. The Hackett's Good Food Guide regular was a glimpse into city food while still having country prices and feel. It also encouraged me to go further down the rabbit hole and eat at Quay in Sydney, which is an insane experience. Highly commended goes way back to the days of the Chatsworth Island Restaurant, which introduced the whole concept of fine dining to quite a few around the Clarence, where not even many of the food providers were game to do it.