Hungry for adventure? One of the oldest regional centres in Australia, Maitland is known for its rich history and unique heritage villages, but there’s nothing old-fashioned about its strong creative culture and thriving food scene.
Nestled on the banks of the Hunter River, just 30 mins away from Wine Country and 33km north-west of Newcastle, Maitland has thrown down the gastronomic gauntlet to claim its crown as one the Hunter’s best foodie destinations.
The epicurean evolution of the Maitland restaurant and dining scene is unsurprising when you consider the scenic surrounding farmland is producing some of the finest fresh local produce in NSW. But it is the highly skilled artisan producers and restaurateurs, quaffable local drops and service that’s as warm as it is professional that are the secret ingredients in to transforming Maitland into one of NSW’s most appealing, and appetising, regions.
After a recent visit to Maitland to eat, stay and play with the kids, here’s our pick of the best Maitland restaurants, cafes and food to enjoy with, or without, kids.
Maitland restaurants and gourmet food
Ometto Pizza Bar
Maitland’s Ometto Pizza Bar is the real deal. The kind of authentic, straight from the motherland wood-fired perfection that truly excites my pizza-loving crew. We started with slabs of schiacciate (pizza bread) with olives and a trio of house made dips including eye-poppingly fresh pesto that had the kids rhapsodising, followed by gnocchi al pomodoro and slabs of pizza. The Gamberi was suitably slathered in prawns and baby rocket while the quattro formaggi was an oozing mass of mozzarella Fior Di Latte, gorgonzola, fontina and provolone. But it was the unusual but utterly delectable Ometto signature of mortadella, mozzarella Fior Di Latte, pistachios and stracchino that left us slack jawed… a state that was rather helpful when it came time to shovel in a dessert of crispy citrus-infused ricotta cannoli.
Location: 489 High St, Maitland
True Café and Chocolate
True Café and Chocolate in lovely Lochinvar is like a cave of secrets. Indeed, the kids were so enchanted by the quirky and cool memorabilia and collectables, they nearly forgot to order. That would have been a big mistake as the food is fantastic. The brekky burger and burrito both got the thumbs up and Sugarpuff was in heaven over the marshmallow-stacked hot chocolate. But it was the house-made sausage roll that had Raffles positively cooing. So much so he declared it “the best on earth”. While that’s a big call given he hasn’t actually tasted every sausage roll on earth, they’re so good I think it’s a fair assumption. Add delectable handmade chocolates and amazing ice cream (which the delightful chef, Edwin, snuck the kids as a post breakfast treat) and we are raving fans.
Location: 103 New England Hwy, Lochinvar
More Melbourne than Maitland with its sophisticated combination of heritage and industrial design, The Rigby is a stylish small bar and restaurant set within one of Maitland’s oldest heritage buildings. Café by day and cocktail lounge/restaurant by night, guests can expect old-school hospitality, sublime signature cocktails and a menu of tapas style small plates that pays tribute to local produce and wines.
Location: 307 High St, Maitland
El Chapos Mexican
El Chapos is one of the most popular of Maitland’s restaurants, and the place to go for muchos Mexican in Maitland. This popular Maitland restaurant spreads across two-levels in the city’s high street. Downstairs is light and casual, but upstairs is dark and rustic with dripping candles, artfully cracked surfaces and streams of atmospheric light from the leadlight windows as the sun sets. The service is superb, and the bar makes a mean margarita, but it is the food that had us at hola! We happily grazed our way through plates of jalapeno poppers, quesadillas, tacos and nachos, but it’s their chimichangas – deep fried burritos – that the boys are still obsessing over! Special mention to the churros with chocolate sauce, their chewy middles and crispy outsides were so perfect that we ended up ordering a second serve… each!
Location: 448 High St, Maitland
Seraphine Cafe @ Maitland Regional Art Gallery
Surrounded by gorgeous gardens and world class art, a colourful breakfast at the sublime Seraphine Cafe @ Maitland Regional Art Gallery left our bellies as full as our creative well. The perfect spot to grab a bite before or after exploring the galleries at Maitland Regional Art Gallery, it is, to quote my son, “how to art!” The coffee is good, the service better and the seasonal menu excellent. For anyone on a health kick I can recommend the Power Bowl, packed with rosemary roasted pumpkin, avocado, kale, quinoa, maple chickpeas and hummus. Big appetites should look no further than the whopping Farm brekky of bacon, poached eggs, hash, mushrooms, chipolatas and sourdough. But it is the tower of berry-topped French toast, smeared with coconut, macadamia mascarpone and maple syrup, that my sweet loving daughter declared a work of very tasty art.
Location: 230 High St, Maitland
Bread and Water, Maitland’s first 100% Gluten free café is situated in alongside Maitland Gaol in the former Warden’s Cafeteria. Offering breakfast and lunch seven days, guests can expect exceptional service and tasty handcrafted food made fresh from local produce. Once we escaped the Gaol (and the clutches of a handcuff wielding Warden Sugarpuff) we stopped for takeaway pies which got a thumbs up from my pie loving pair. Next time we’ll stay longer to taste more of their GF offerings and enjoy the atmosphere of the sandstone courtyard location.
Location: 6-18 John St, East Maitland
Icky Sticky Patisserie
There’s nothing icky about the hand crafted, artisan pastries coming out of Maitland’s Icky Sticky Patisserie, if the queue of locals is anything to go by. So popular are the creations that by the time we hit the counter, the last of the mirror-glazed chocolate raspberry mousse bombs had walked out the door. We settled instead for a salted caramel vanilla Millie- feuille which was scoffed at such speed I only got a picture of dirty faces. Plan ahead if you’re visiting on a weekend as opening hours are Monday to Friday 7.30am-2pm and the 1st Saturday of every month.
Location: 2/27 Belmore Rd, Lorn
Morpeth restaurants and gourmet food
The Commercial Hotel Morpeth
Is there anything better than a good pub lunch? Yep. A sensational pub lunch with a side of death-match pool (trust me, it gets dangerous when my kids start smashing balls around a table). The Commercial Hotel, located opposite the Morpeth Bridge in the heart of Morpeth, is a historic hotel that oozes old country pub vibes whilst boasting thoroughly modern cuisine. Fret not traditionalists, you’ll find all the pub favourites like schnitty and burgers, but there are plenty of culinary surprises like crispy salt baked pork belly, Moroccan chicken and a killer quinoa salad. But there’s so much more to this bastion of food and beverage than just good grub. Along with a sizeable beer garden, there’s an upstairs cocktail bar, named for The Commercial Hotel’s first licensee, Miss Julia Mullens, and an onsite nano brewery serving up some rather good organic craft beer.
Location: 127 Swan St, Morpeth
Morpeth Gourmet Foods & Ginger Beer Factory
If the fudge, nuts and handmade candy hadn’t already whipped them up in to a frenzy, the house made cordials at Morpeth Ginger Beer Factory certainly did. Using old fashioned equipment, the delicious Ginger Beer is brewed and stirred by hand on site ready for tasting. There are 12 other amazing flavours with bottles of the tropical, passion fruit and chilli lime also following us home. Foodie families should leave space in the boot because you’ll find it impossible not to stock up on the other gourmet goodies that line the shelves, from homemade jams, pickles, chutneys and honey to aromatic truffle infused aiolis and oils.
Location: 5 Green St, Morpeth
The Servants Quarters Tearooms
Located amongst the labyrinthine nooks and crannies of Campbell’s Store, where you’ll find everything from jewellery and toys to military memorabilia and collectibles, The Servants Quarters Tearooms offers visitors the chance to take a Devonshire Tea break in a cosy indoor tea room or a large outdoor area. The scones are suitably fluffy and slathered in jam and cream and they offer a particularly appetising gluten free orange and almond cake.
Location: 130 Swan Street Morpeth
Savannah on Swan
This sandstone beauty perched on the banks of the Hunter River was once Morpeth’s Bond Store. Now an eclectic and atmospheric café, its sandstone walls are adorned with saleable artworks and there’s a gift store upstairs. If its coffee and cake you’re after, Savannah on Swan offers a nice selection of tempting treats, and their expansive lunch menu has something for everyone. A lovely smoked salmon salad was my pick while spiced lamb burgers smothered in tzatziki hit the spot for ravenous Raff, and a chilli, fetta and olive fettuccine got the little one’s nod of approval. But we all agreed that it was the view of historic Morpeth Bridge from our veranda seating, and a cheeky water dragon dining at the next table, that made this place extra special.
Location: 130 Swan Street Morpeth
Donarch Fine Chocolate
One minute the kids are next to me ambling along Morpeth’s main street and the next they had vanished, sucked through the pretty doors of Donarch Fine Chocolate like it was some kind of vortex. Chocolate has that effect. But Donarch’s handmade chocolate is next level. Made from the finest European couverture and infused with many delectable and interesting flavours, the kids are still arguing over whether the raspberry or the orange chocolate was better but they both agree that the white caramel honeycomb was best! And don’t even get them started on their adorable chocolate hippos.
Location: Bronte Guest House, 147 Swan St, Morpeth
Miss Lily’s Lollies
Hidden in a quaint weather board cottage down a little laneway in the historic town of Morpeth, Miss Lily’s Lollies has my daughter in conniptions. If the shelves bursting with American Candy, Aussie Cobbers, English Sweeties, Sours and Humbugs weren’t enough to have her eyes-popping, the homemade fudge that’s made onsite tipped the sugary scales. If your kids are anything like my little sweet-toothed Sugarpuff, expect to leave with bagfuls of sugary delights
Location: 4 Green Street, Morpeth
Ducks in the Field
A short drive from Morpeth in Duckenfield, Ducks in the Field is a quaint property producing a unique High Tea that’s as much about quirky and colourful details as it is about serving delicate sweet and savoury delights. Without doubt the best high tea in the Hunter, its country setting, sustainable seasonal menu prepared to the highest standards and options of gluten, dairy free, vegetarian and vegan options, make this a not to be missed experience for foodies. You’ll need to have all your ducks in a row though as bookings are essential.
Location: 550 Duckenfield Rd, Duckenfield
Disclosure: The BoyEatsWorld family were guests of Maitland City Council, but all foodie frolicking, chocolate scoffing and opinions are our own.