Five of the best brunches in regional NSW

The Boathouse Hotel in Patonga.
The Boathouse Hotel in Patonga. Photo: Supplied

From breakfast gelato to buckets of prawns here are five spots worth a mid-morning pit stop.

Bar Botanica

Go-to dish: Ploughman's lunch.

Ploughman's lunch (and gelato) at Bar Botanica, Erina.
Ploughman's lunch (and gelato) at Bar Botanica, Erina. Photo: Supplied

Where: Erina.

Why: Brunch tastes best in a garden, especially one famed for its fragrant botanicals, secret paths and pretty picnic spots. Chef Dan Hughes (formerly of Three Blue Ducks) keeps it local with a traditional ploughman's lunch ($26) with gin-spiked cheddar from local producer Little Creek Cheese.

The experience: It's a charming setting for brunch, in and around a 1970's mud-brick hut in the lush garden oasis of Distillery Botanica, home to founder Philip Moore's aromatic, award-winning Moore's Gin.

Open from Wednesday to Sunday from 10am to 4pm, the cafe's food is casual and picnicky, from freshly baked pastries and tarts, to a chicken liver parfait with Distillery Botanica blackcurrant liquor. Coffee is roasted on the premises, and there's food to go for a lazy picnic in the gardens. Owners Julia and Dan Hughes (of Mr Goaty Gelato fame) also maintain that goat's milk gelato is "100 per cent a breakfast food". An imminent licence means you can soon enhance your brunch with a gin and tonic or local Six String beer.

Distillery Botanica, 25 Portsmouth Road, Erina, 02 4365 3968

The Boathouse Hotel

Go-to dish: Cured ham, fig and mozzarella flatbread.

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Where: Patonga.

Why: Because you're on the deck of a white-washed pub, surrounded by the Hawkesbury and the Brisbane Waters National Park, a 30 minute ferry ride from Palm Beach. There's live music; milkshakes for the kids, and fresh, crisp flatbread pizza ($24) to match to a Bloody Mary spiked with jalapeno vodka.

The experience: Technically, this is lunch rather than brunch, because it starts at 12 noon. But it goes all day on the weekends, fuelled by oysters, buckets of prawns, $120 seafood platters and $20 glasses of Bollinger NV. Team Boathouse (also at Palm Beach, Whale Beach, Manly and Balmoral) has always known how to brunch up your day, but never before in such an idyllic spot.

The only hitch is you'll want to stay overnight in paradise and do it again the next day - and guess what, accommodation is coming, later in 2019. No rezzies, so take the 9am ferry and hit the Bolly before the others get there. 

6-8 Patonga Drive, Patonga, 02 9974 5440, theboathousehotelpatonga.com.au

Three Blue Ducks

Go-to dish: Roasted pumpkin, turmeric cashew cream, sauerkraut and farm greens.

Where: Byron Bay.

Why: Because you're on a farm in some of the most beautiful country in Australia. Because the ingredients are as local as all-get-out, and you're dining inside and outside of a rustic shed. And because roasted pumpkin goes really well with the richness of cashew cream, and the tang of sauerkraut ($18).

The experience: Has ever a farm been so flat-out busy? And had such a big car park? But no wonder. The Duckies' cafe, store, and bakery is located on an idyllic 80-acre farm Where chooks wander happily about, birds sing and pigs snort. The coffee is Single O, teas and chais are from Chamellia, and for more on-holiday vibes, there's always a Bloody Mary or a Breakfast Martini. On weekends, the breakfast menu (7.30am to noon) segues seamlessly into all-day dining from Byron Bay burrata with melon, choko and pickled pear to bunya nut hummus and focaccia.

11 Ewingdale Road, Ewingdale, 02 6684 7795, threeblueducks.com

Lee & Me

Go-to dish: Breakfast taco and a boozy shake.

Where: Wollongong.

Why: For this beautiful heritage terrace, the soft tortilla folded around pulled pork, black beans and salsa fresca ($14), and the creamy, boozy shake with espresso, ice-cream, house-made salted caramel and spiced rum, and weekend specials such as okonomiyaki, Japanese omelette with cured salmon, are the way to go.

The experience: Wollongong has been loving Lee & Me since 2008, when it burst on the scene with its Campos Coffee, big share table, terrace in summer and roaring fireplace in winter, and its slashy, classic/modern menu. The product of Benny and Naomi Hudson and Lee and Shay Sullivan, Lee & Me constantly re-writes the idea of a brunch menu, inserting banh xeo Vietnamese pancakes into a come-hither list that includes avo on toast with pickled strawberries, veggie burgers, and kale and quinoa salads.

87 Crown Street, Wollongong 02 4244 0695, leeandme.com.au

Baked Uprising

Go-to dish: Savoury Danish.

Where: Newcastle.

Why: This big, beautiful bakery has made the savoury Danish pastry A Thing, by filling the big, flaky squares ($6.50) with whatever is most abundant at the Newcastle City Farmers Market that day. In summer, that could mean asparagus and sweetcorn; in winter, don't go past the gruyere and French onion.

The experience: Prepare to queue, for the city loaves and rye boules, the lemon tarts and muffins, and the chance to sit down at an inside table amid polished concrete and hand-painted signs in the semi-industrial space. Otherwise, it's a milk crate outside, or a short walk to the park or the beach. Owner and baker Alice Lees started off baking muffins, then opened a market stall, and now it's world domination by deliciousness. Coffee is Pablo & Rusty's fair trade Pioneer blend, and will be needed if you over-indulge. And of course, you are going to over-indulge.

21-25 Downie Streett, Marysville, Newcastle, bakeduprising.com.au

To read more from Good Weekend magazine's food issue, visit our page at The Sydney Morning Herald or The Age.