Two restaurateurs guide to the Northern Rivers food culture & places to eat

New South Wales' lush Northern Rivers region provides a bounty of natural produce for locavore restaurant Fleet. Here are some insider tips on the best food to try.

  • Lachean Humphreys
  • June 2018

Astrid McCormack and Josh Lewis are no strangers to an out-of-the-way location. Formerly co-owner and sous chef respectively at the now defunct Loam on Victoria’s Bellarine Peninsula, they relocated to Brunswick Heads in NSW earlier this year to open 20-seat restaurant and wine bar Fleet. “It’s certainly not Byron Bay or Bangalow,’’ says Astrid of Brunswick Heads’ more tourist-friendly neighbours. “It’s worked in our favour because while it’s less affluent, it’s also less traditional and conservative. People have to hunt us out, so hopefully anyone who walks through our door has an appreciation of food and wine.”

Josh, a Vue de Monde alumnus, is winning plaudits for his food, a contemporary mix of the rustic and refined. “Partly we have to change our menu over so often because it’s such a small restaurant and we have no cool room, only a two-door fridge,” he says. “It keeps things interesting – creatively it’s quite inspiring!”

Best local produce:

We often get fish, straight off the Brunswick Heads wharf, weighed and gutted out the front of the restaurant. The fruit here is also amazing, thanks to the tropical climate. Custard apple, dragon fruit, mangoes, avocado and mulberries all grow incredibly well,” says Astrid.

Best suppliers:

Astrid is a fan of the five farmers’ markets a week in the immediate area. “Our favourite two are New Brighton on a Tuesday and Mullumbimby on a Friday. There are roadside food stalls dotted throughout the area where producers and residents sell excess produce, most of it organically grown. You can buy everything from greens to pumpkin and potatoes, avocado and eggs.”

Favourite places to eat out:

Breakfast on a Tuesday is at Punch and Daisy in Mullumbimby, a simple and satisfying café,” she says. “Mark and Alan, the boys at Table View, ensure our survival by providing us with excellent coffee every morning. They use local roaster Marvel Street Coffee. The kedgeree from Footbridge Cafe is a firm favourite. We love the spicy pork congee from Sarah and Jeremy at 100 Mile Table in Byron, and Milk and Honey in Mullumbimby has great wood-fired pizza.”

Best picnic spot:

We had the good fortune of inheriting the old McCormack family boat when we moved to Brunswick Heads,” says Astrid. “She’s just an oversized tinnie really, but there are several lovely spots you can pull up to the bank on the way down to Mullumbimby.”