Already packed with some of the country’s best wineries, the Hunter Valley has a lion’s share of great produce. But of all places, Maitland in the Lower Hunter takes things to the next step, turning this riverside town into a digestive destination. Here’s where to eat in Maitland, NSW.
If there’s one thing you can usually count on with a trip to regional Australia – and New South Wales especially, it’s great locally produced and sourced food.
Maitland in the Lower Hunter Region is the perfect example of this paradigm, with some real hidden gems producing cuisine and dining experiences better than you’d find in most major cities.
But it’s not just the food that makes this town and its surrounding suburbs so good.
Service is friendly with a genuine feeling of pride and professionalism, prices are reasonable, and proprietors are focussed on sourcing locally and respecting local heritage.
From our time in Maitland, here are our picks for where to eat:
Where to eat in Maitland – 7 meals not to be missed
This tongue-twistingly tasty café on Maitland’s High Street has a delicious all-day menu ranging from a garrison of bacon and egg dishes to tempura eggplant burgers and home-made waffles.
I ordered the Ultimate Brekky Roll, which is aptly named. Herbed scrambled eggs, streaky bacon, avocado, rocket, relish and smoky honey aioli – it’s one of those dishes that, from the first bite, you instantly feel hungrier than when you started.
Christina’s crispy yet fluffy corn and feta fritters came with delicious maple bacon, a generous helping of avocado, sour cream, relish and house-dressed salad greens. The whole dish is super moreish to the final bite.
In the tiny town of Lorn across the Hunter River from Maitland, The Icky Sticky Patisserie is insanely popular with locals and visitors alike. And no wonder.
The quick-moving perma-queue out the door shuffles expectantly to get to the best coffee in the area and pastries that will blow your mind.
Delicate friands, silky, sharp lemon meringue tarts and elaborate, chocolate raspberry mousse within shiny chocolate domes tempt and delight.
Even the plain croissant is amazing – superbly crunchy on the outside yet tender inside. You can see every thin layer of pastry when you break it open. They also have a range of savouries like sausage rolls and pies that look wantonly tasty too.
Part of the the Maitland Regional Art Gallery, Seraphine is a big, bustling cafe with attentive staff serving great coffee and food.
All too often the dining options attached to galleries and museums are just afterthoughts with average food, drinks and service, but Seraphine goes against the grain.
Christina’s generous buddha bowl is packed with red quinoa, seeds, roasted cauliflower and pumpkin, avocado, crispy crunchy kale and thick slabs of golden halloumi. All on a dollop of beetroot purée.
My dish of soft, tender, cheesy pillows of handmade gnocchi are pan-fried for a buttery crispness to go with the gooey, rich middle and served with goat’s cheese, beetroot and walnuts.
Tucked away right at the back of an impressive garden centre, which in truth feels more like a tropical garden, is the Heritage Gardens Café. More like a sprawling colonial style timber house than a tea room, this charming element to the nursery is very popular.
Indeed, the large parking lot is more likely for cars waiting for hungry punters to return with bellies full than horticulturists and hobbyists carrying a new pot or plant.
The all-day menu here is packed with tempting morsels from brightly-coloured salads to a hearty eggs benny, and there’s also a high tea option here too.
Connected to historic Maitland Gaol (hence the name), Bread and Water is a 100% gluten free café – the first one in the Newcastle area.
In its sandstone courtyard joined to the imposing prison, Bread and Water could strike a maudlin pose. Instead, it has a light-hearted airy feel, and the food will make you wish you lived closer… though perhaps not next door!
Bread and Water is also open for dinner Thursday – Sunday.
For one of the most meaningful meals you’re likely to have, Coquun (pronounced ‘kokwun’) serves a clever blend of modern fare using local and indigenous ingredients. Warrigal greens, muntrie berries, quandong and wattleseeds all make their appearances.
The restaurant’s name is the original name for the Hunter River, which flows behind this remarkable building. As for the food, everything – from buttery beef cheeks and sweet, tender scampi to one of the best banana puddings we’ve ever had – is superb.
The degustation with matching wines is the perfect way to get a real feel for the menu here. Most of the ingredients are from a 200km radius and wines are from the Hunter Valley.
7. The Rigby
The father-and-son team that runs this restaurant have created a unique space in Maitland. Imagine a cool Melbourne eatery with country hospitality and you’re close to what Howard and Nick Bourne are aiming for.
The food is of a very high standard, with far too many options on the menu to easily choose your meal. Instead, we enjoyed the ‘tapas’ style degustation so we could try as many things as possible.
Just make sure you arrive hungry.
Cured meat platters, fried mozzarella, dumplings, fried chicken, arancini, ribs and some amazing desserts had us staggering out of The Rigby, very sated.
And for a nightcap:
More like an edgy inner-city joint than a bar you’d find in a country town, Rama is awesomely cool. It’s fun lighting, regular puffs of dry ice smoke and solid tunes makes Rama a not-to-be-missed watering hole.
Even more than that, the cocktails they create at the bar here (don’t dare ask for a mojito) are nothing short of genius.
Go for something smoky like the mescal-fuelled Space Cowboy or a clever take on the espresso martini using Mr Black Amaro liqueur, then sit and stare at passers-by through the giant floor-to-ceiling windows from your comfy tiki-style chairs.
Even though we came expecting delicious things to eat, we were so surprised at the sheer quality, and the abundance of truly superb food and drink here in Maitland. Not to mention the smart service that came with that warm country welcome.
We’ll definitely be back.