Tamworth may well be renowned as Australia’s capital of country music, but this bustling city in northeast New South Wales’ New England region is also getting quite a name for itself as a dining destination. In fact, the city’s culinary scene could well come as one of the biggest surprises of your visit! From pub grub to posh nosh, expect to be wowed – not only by the food – but also the willingness of local restaurateurs to do things differently. Here are nine great places to eat and drink in Tamworth.
1. The Workshop Kitchen
Step over the threshold at The Workshop Kitchen at the fabulous Quality Hotel Powerhouse and you step out of the realm of what we generally associate with a regional dining experience and into what is easily on par with the best of Australia’s major capital cities. And it’s all done without sacrificing good old-fashioned country hospitality.
Completely remodelled and refurbished in 2017, The Workshop Kitchen’s chic interior incorporates an open kitchen with a wood-fired grill, waffled wall panelling, leather booths and a variety of Art Deco-inspired touches that give a nod to the power station that operated on this site from 1923. There’s an exceptional wine list to accompany your meal (choose from 24 wines by the glass or 190 by the bottle) and it’s hard to go past the selection of steaks – which includes local beef from award-winning Jack’s Creek Beef. Go the Jack’s Creek 300-gram Wagyu rump and a glass of the featured 2016 Idiot Shiraz from Phillip Shaw Wines in Orange. It’s a match made in heaven.
2. Carmen’s Italian Restaurant
You’ll need a car (or a soon-to-be-available-in-Tamworth Uber) for this one. Located about three kilometres south of the city, Carmen’s Italian Restaurant may be billed as ‘a little taste of Italy’, but that’s putting it mildly. You’re in for a big dose of delicious, predominantly Southern Italian-inspired cuisine. The menu draws on Carmen’s treasured traditional family recipes, and wider trends from Italy’s famous food scene. Start with the Bruschetta al Pomodoro e Fetta laden with plump juicy tomato, zesty feta cheese and fresh basil. Then move on to a bowl of dreamy pan-fried pumpkin gnocchi. The modern, muted tones of the restaurant’s interior frame the colourful and impeccably presented cuisine to a tee. Buon appetito!
3. Hopscotch Restaurant and Bar
Hopscotch Restaurant and Bar rolls a relaxed sophistication, a warm welcome and a finely crafted menu up into one extremely enticing culinary offering. Built as part of the Bicentennial Park $2-million-dollar recreational upgrade in 2015, and surrounded by an awesome adventure playground, this eatery is understandably popular with families – but there’s something for everyone here. Breakfast is served with all the trimmings and the lunch menu draws on seasonal local produce. Check out the range of hearty lunch ‘bowls’ (including the quinoa, steamed kale, broccoli, baked mushrooms, tofu, kimchi, beetroot and sweet potato option if those exercising at the adjacent outdoor gym have inspired you). The coffee window pumps out fine brews to eager passers-by.
4. The Terrace Tamworth
Also located just a hop skip and a jump from Bicentennial Park, The Terrace Tamworth’s eponymous upper level offers a sublime retreat from the hubbub of the city outside. Take a seat in the warm sunshine surrounded by deliriously happy pot plants, and linger over a quiet latte or enjoy a bite from the menu of fresh salads, bagels, melts and larger dishes like the pulled pork and slaw brioche burger or the fragrant prawn linguine. Leave enough time to explore the wares on offer in the shop, including flowing fashions and earthy homewares.
5. Ruby’s Café and Gift Store
Another must-visit café/retail hybrid, Ruby’s Café and Gift Store on Peel Street has the shabby chic vibe nailed. It’s packed with interesting paraphernalia to admire while you savour your choice from the baked goodies on offer or opt for something more substantial (note: if you can afford the calorie blow-out, the French toast looked absolutely sensational!). If the weather is playing ball, there’s courtyard seating to the side, or the rear garden area to retire to. Inside there are well-worn couches and comfy nooks for two, or just pull up a pew at the communal table and drink it all in.
6. Coal Bunker Bar
Back at the Quality Hotel Powerhouse, the Coal Bunker Bar is a sophisticated spot to start your evening with a pre-dinner cocktail. However, it’s also an intimate dining destination in its own right. Settle in and choose from a great range of small and shared plates or indulge in a whisky board of three fine drops paired with a range of smoked meats. The setting encompasses atmospheric table lamps, leather seating and even a striking series of framed portraits of the bar’s namesake.
7. The Press 2340
Tamworth’s iconic Northern Daily Leader building was constructed back in 1925 – around the time of prohibition in the USA. Fast forward almost a century and it now harbours a very cool speakeasy-style bar in the basement – known as The Press. Head down below ground through the side door off Brisbane Street (you’ll need to ring the doorbell first). You’ll discover a shadowy world where those in the know meet well away from prying eyes at street level. The whisky menu features around 130 options and regular live jazz adds to the atmosphere.
8. The Welder’s Dog
Located just around the corner on Dowe Street, The Welder’s Dog is a fun and friendly craft beer bar run by three mates with a love of great beer. Well, brewing in general actually. Not only will you find their popular IPA and wheat ale on offer, but there’s also a naturally fermented alcoholic ginger ale to tempt you, along with a zippy pink (also alcoholic) pea blossom lemonade.
9. Frog and Toad Restaurant and Bar
For a great ‘all-rounder’ – and what could accurately be described as the ‘local’s choice’ based on the reviews online – head out to the Frog and Toad Restaurant and Bar at the Econo Lodge Tamworth. The menu is surprisingly extensive and very reasonably priced. The selections from the grill are suitably sized to satisfy a hearty appetite, and the warm cinnamon doughnut holes served with caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream sound just too good to resist for dessert!
About the writer
Adam Ford is editor of The Big Bus tour and travel guide and a travel TV presenter, writer, blogger and photographer. He has previously had the opportunity to travel the world as host of the TV series Tour the World on Network Ten.