Anytime on the Central Coast is a good time to slow down and, one of the best ways to do so is by cosying up in a favourite café, lulled by the ambience, the sound of the ocean or the gentle sway of eucalypts outside.
The Bon Pavilion, Gosford
The dish to try: Orgy of mushrooms with ricotta gnocchi
Why you’ll love it: This is one of The Bon Pavilion’s signature dishes and features four types of mushrooms: enoki, button, Swiss brown and king. Chef Sean Connolly describes it as ‘just mushrooms and gnocchi making love on the plate’, but there’s much more to this sumptuous meal than a perfect pairing.
‘We use local ricotta with only a touch of flour and a little egg to gently hold the cheese together when it hits the boiling water,’ Connolly explains. ‘It’s a very delicate dumpling and this gives it a melt-in-your-mouth texture.’
Bamboo Buddha, Holgate
The dish to try: Yellow vegetable curry
Why you’ll love it: Packed full of Indian spices, this yellow coconut curry is rich and creamy and can be enjoyed in Bamboo Buddha’s leafy garden at lunchtime. A great choice for vegetarians, the paste is made on the premises and packs a little heat to warm you up on a cold day. The curry is slow-cooked to fully release the delicate flavours and is served with mint yoghurt, fresh herbs and a crunchy pappadum that’s bound to please kids. If you’re vegan, the chefs are happy to tweak the dish for you. Once your bowl is empty, the café’s beetroot- and chocolate-based ‘latte’ makes a nice dessert alternative.
The Lucky Bee, Hardys Bay
The dish to try: Thai green curry with jasmine rice
Why you’ll love it: It’s made entirely in-house from more than 35 ingredients, with the standouts being galangal, lemongrass, kaffir lime and Thai green chilli. The kaffir leaves are sourced from a regular local customer, while all other produce comes from the Sydney fruit and vegetable markets.
‘Nothing is imported, it’s all grown in Australia (and) all house-made,’ says co-owner Rupert Noffs.
‘Our warm Thai chilli curry is the perfect warmer dish and – a bonus – chillies have proven to have tremendous health benefits,’ he says. ‘It’s a win/win, really.’
Noffs also assures that the rice is fluffy, making it a delicious excuse to dine out for those craving a taste of Asia. If you prefer to stay in, The Lucky Bee has recently launched a takeaway menu, with home delivery to the peninsula.
The Wild Flower Bar and Dining, Bells at Killcare
The dish to try: Oxtail and stout ragu with semolina gnocchi
Why you’ll love it: Rich in flavour with a soft sweet/sour element to the sauce, this ragu is a belly-warming flip on Yorkshire beef stew and suet dumplings. The Wild Flower’s Mediterranean take on the English classic melds a sharpness from red wine vinegar with the sweetness of caramelised onions and dark chocolate notes from the ale reduction. The nourishing winter special is best enjoyed with a red wine in hand while rain drips off Bells’ Hampton’s-style awnings.
WORDS JENNIFER ENNION