On our recent 12 hour drive from Sydney to the Gold Coast (QLD) to run a team building event, we timed the trip for our meal stops. Leaving after lunch in Sydney, with snacks in the cooler bag, the first stop was Coffs Harbour for dinner. Looking scruffy from 6 hours on the road, but too late and tired to scrub up, we landed in Fiasco, a modern Italian restaurant.

They have a casual dining option, but we needed to be spoiled a bit. We started with antipasto. The tasty morsels were slight twists on standard offerings; each well prepared and simply presented, wanting only for a bit more bread. The duck pastrami was especially delicious – with huge flavour for a small bite. My house made ravioli was simple, light and fresh, with a tomato salsa to lift the flavours.

The whole baked baby snapper in burnt butter and sage with cherry tomatoes and capers was a stand out. Our tiramisu was a bit disappointing, as it lacked any substance without a sponge base, seeming too ethereal. The wine was Rusden Ripper Creek Cabernet/ Merlot, which burst with fruit flavour and had amazing depth once it was left to breathe. All in all, our first stop on the road was a great experience.

Emerald Beach NSWNext stop was brekkie at Saltwater on Emerald Beach. Sitting there as surfers took to the waves, with the shimmer of the water in the background gave new life to poached eggs and to us, ready for the next leg of the journey. Finally, we made our destination – Surfers Paradise. With a bit of research, we managed to find Rock Salt on Broadbeach and we were happy!

Rock Salt Main

Barramundi with chorizo and saffron

Simple but delicious Pacific oysters started off the meal; we chose a mixed dozen with Nahm Jim granita, fresh lemon & mignonette dressing, and tempura battered with soy dressing and wasabi lime mayo. While we normally avoid cooked oysters, these Pacifics loved the extra treatment, which was obviously given with care. The main of glazed pork belly, king prawns, peanuts and coconut & ginger risotto was a great combination of Asian flavours. The barramundi with chorizo and saffron was perfectly cooked and socked with rich broth to embrace the fish.

Rocksalt Restaurant Dessert

Chocolate daquoise

The chocolate daquoise was perfect; enriched with honeycomb and frozen zabaglione and whimsical “Andy Warhol” fairy floss. This restaurant executes what they do well. Service is perfectly conducted by a bevy of waiters.

Coming back to Sydney, we had to stop at Byron Beach Cafe. We remember it from 20 years ago when it was run by hippies. Oddly, we miss that era of “are you right there?” service – it somehow suited the place. Now it’s a slick operation with uniformed waiters who say their name at the table and promptly bring you water without asking, Byron Bay coffee, and some of the freshest ingredients in Byron Bay. The supplier list on their menu reveals their dedication to “cooking local”, which we like a lot.

Raw Ezekiel Bread with Poached Eggs, Hummus, Spinach and Tomato Kusundi

Raw Ezekiel Bread with Poached Eggs, Hummus, Spinach and Tomato Kusundi

We were quickly won over. Brookfarm Macadamia Muesli with Yoghurt and Banana kept me in my healthy mode; after all, it is Byron Bay. My partner went for the Raw Ezekiel Bread with Poached Eggs, Hummus, Spinach and Tomato Kusundi. It looked and tasted great, yet with a slightly ‘hippie-ish’ twist of the bread made from sprouted grains. But the hippie in me loved my muesli – it really was some of the best I’ve had. With a killer view, this place is a standout!

The rest of the 10 hour drive home was full of little snacks in the van, with but one more stop for lunch, in Macksville, along the Nambucca River. What caught my eye first was the sign for Segafredo coffee. But the Bridge Cafe was cute – with almost all of its original deco features intact – clean and quick. Despite some apparently upmarket offerings, we couldn’t go past a fish burger and a burger with the lot. The quality of the food was enough to encourage us to consider trying some of the more adventuresome options, next trip.

So the NSW coast is not a culinary wasteland, you just have to know where the good spots are. All the new apps on our iPhones helped a lot! So now tell me do you have any favourites up and down the coast?