Weekend Eatinerary: Northern Rivers
We’re normally opposed to crossing into enemy territory, but we’ll make an exception after seeing all that...
The Northern Rivers run delicious.
Described by Ben and partner Yen Trinh as “a celebration of the Northern Rivers’ coastal lifestyle, great produce, and wood-fired cooking”, Pipit Restaurant was on our radar for what seemed like an achingly long time.
Nestled in the laid-back locale of Pottsville between the Gold Coast and Byron, Pipit finally opened on the weekend, bringing Devlin’s unmistakably considered approach to dining and commitment to supporting local industry, serving sustainable seafood, and delivering memorable casual dining experiences.
An alum of Copenhagen icon noma and Brisbane’s lamented Esquire, Ben returned to his Northern Rivers roots in 2015 to launch the acclaimed Paper Daisy at Halcyon House, where he saw the venue awarded two hats as well as spots on the Australian Financial Review and Gourmet Traveller’s top 100 Australian restaurants lists.
Pipit comes more relaxed than most of the venues on Ben’s C.V., with seating options at the bar, a few larger tables inside, and communal dining in the courtyard, with the option to dine a la carte or on a four- or seven-course tasting menu.
The open-plan kitchen boasts a charcoal pit that is skilfully utilised from almost every angle – grilling, smoking, burying and charring a diverse list of local seafood, vegetables, animal sans hooves (think poultry and kangaroo), and clever preparations like albacore nduja, lemon aspen verjus, and (the already legendary) green garlic garum.
“I was fairly blind to what was happening in the wild around me when I was learning how to cook in Byron Bay and Brisbane,” says Ben of starting his journey into sustainable and local ingredients.
“When I moved to Denmark to work at noma, it was a large part of the restaurant and my role to go out and find wild and native products to use fresh and to preserve.”
It’s clear that Pipit’s menu (at least the first iteration of it – it’s due to change regularly) is a combination of Ben’s experiences and passion for the unrivalled produce of his home—think cobia marinated in riberry vinegar and kelp oil, grilled spatchcock with squash, bunya nut and huitlacoche, and spent beer grain parfait with custard apple and wattleseed ganache.
So, what inspires the menu at Pipit? Ben says, “Really, that connection to the land and to the season is what we are chasing. Not just in foraged or native produce, but in the farmed products that thrive here because of the quality of our soil and weather.”
Ben’s pride and enthusiasm for promoting said local producers is clear: “We are really lucky to have built up great relationships with people like Palisa and Matt of Boon Luck Farm for amazing Thai and Mediterranean produce, Deb from Cheeses Loves You, Arabella from Currie Country with beautiful hand harvested yugarie (pipis), John Picone with stunning South American and Asian fruits, and Buck’s Farm with their stunning citrus… really we are completely spoiled for choice!”
The commitment to reflecting provenance doesn’t end with the food, either. Wines will focus on drops, both Aussie and international, from vineyards located within 150kms of the coast, in an effort to compliment the menu’s minerality and salinity.
For Ben, the decision to open up in Pottsville was a no-brainer, partially due to the local growers: “This is the area that I grew up in, so I’m really excited to see so much interest in the producers around here. A lot of people have been noticing the quality and diversity of the produce that we are lucky enough to have… so it’s great that the success of our producers is helping to bring success to our hospitality community and vice versa.”
While Pipit certainly adds to the Northern Rivers’ ever-growing list of destination dining, it’s clear that Ben’s expression of respect for the environment and its primary producers will position Pipit as a uniquely Australian must-visit restaurant.