Coasting on a NSW culinary adventure

A road trip through the mid north coast of NSW uncovers a region packed with delicacies, free range and otherwise, from a contingent of family businesses.

Rising early is not a natural thing for me. I often wish I was one of those people that only needs six hours' sleep. For me I’m barely functional unless I get eight or nine hours. So when the alarm goes off at 6am I am not a happy person. But when you bribe me out of bed with food – well that doth soothe the savage, growling beast within.

I’m tracking backwards a little so please bear with me but before we leave Port Macquarie, we must sustain ourselves with breakfast – not that we need it after the gluttonous feasts as we’ve been well and truly spoilt. Breakfast this morning is downstairs at Milk Bar which is the cafe at the front of the Observatory Hotel. My travelling companion, Julie from Gourmet Getaways, and I take a seat and be warned it gets furiously busy come 8am on a weekday so we quickly snare a bench at the front. Customers order and pay at the counter and we ask for a recommendation from the staff. ”Anything with the sourdough bread is good” they say, and so we order items that include the sourdough from Hearthfire Rustic Bakery in Bellingen.

The milk bar brekkie has bacon and two baked eggs with gooey runny centres, basil tomatoes, halved button mushrooms and wilted spinach. As recommended, the toast which is excellent and the whole plate is a nice upmarket take on a big breakfast.


The toast comes as three pieces of lightly toasted fruit and nut bread with plenty of chunks of macadamia and a thick apricot jam, which is light on vanilla and slightly tangy.

The French toast has two slices of the bread very lightly dipped in egg. It is then fried and topped with cinnamon-scented sweet ricotta, sweet marinated figs, fresh strawberries and maple syrup and the cinnamon ricotta in particular is very moreish. And it is pretty indeed!

Oh my, these little tarts were heaven! I know tarts aren’t your usual breakfast food but when they’re this rich and with a buttery coconut base and thick, silky caramel you just have to make an exception…

Before we go, we take a little peek at the store next door called 'For Good', which is full of Scandinavian goodies and covetable props and then we’re off on our next stop!

Gaian’s client poultry list is impressive, notwithstanding that Gaian Poultry is a family business headed up by two school teachers that still teach. Their free range muscovy and pekin ducks and pigs end up on some rather stellar dining tables including Rockpool Bar & Grill and Berta among others. Started just two years ago by Beth and Lleyton McMillan, the business started because Lleyton loved to eat duck!

They contacted Hudson Meats through the Essential Ingredient and every week Rockpool’s Neil Perry buys half a dozen Muscovy ducks. Berta buy ducks and about two pigs a week (they have Tamworth, Wessex saddleback and black Berkshire pigs); Bells at Killcare also order from them. The pekin ducks are much quicker (ready at 8 weeks) than the muscovies, which take five months until they are ready.


They follow the Joel Salatin model as detailed in his book "Pastured Poultry Profit$” and followed the principles laid out within. The farm is also sustainable and only uses solar power. The rabbits – and Beth tells us that these are the only animals on the farm that aren’t free range because they don’t actually like to be free ranged – are tended to by their 16 year old son Zane who is paid to tend to them for 1-2 hours a day. He knows all about rabbits and he tells us of their breeding cycle and to never put a male in a female’s cage because "they get really protective of their space and will kill it.” Eeek!

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