When we’re looking for a place to eat, too often our thinking is defined by regional centres.
Some of our most trusted gems, however, are located ‘on the journey’ rather than at expected destinations. They’re scattered through country towns, on hilltops and beside languidly-flowing rivers awaiting discovery.
This is true of No.35 Kitchen & Bar, its name denoting its position on the Tweed Coast Road, Bogangar. Here, Sydney hospitality veterans, restaurateur Rachel Duffy and chef Daniel Metcalf, (who’d worked together at Icebergs, Bondi, a decade ago), have opened their restaurant looking across the road to the famous Cabarita Beach.
Caba’s a sleepy town, its equilibrium of trickling traffic upset on the day we visit by packs of cyclists with an end goal in mind. There’s an inherent laziness to Caba that reminds us that city life can move too fast, leaving ‘the enjoyment of being’ churned up in its wake.
Instead, at No.35 we are reminded to dwell, share plates of ‘new world Italian’ food, making the most of the Northern Rivers’ bounty, sipping well-chosen Italian wine to accompany it.
“I had already moved back to the Tweed Coast,” Rachel tells us, as had Daniel, who headed up the kitchen at Frida’s Field on his return from Bali. Their fortuitous reunion paved the way for them to open No.35 in July 2021.
“We decided to open a place we would love to go to, serving food we would want to eat,” says Rachel, noting the irony that now, of course, she is working the restaurant rather than dining there.
The short menu of ten ‘small’ and ‘larger’ share plates plus a few sides and desserts, is pared right back from the duo’s days in the echelons of fine dining.
Yet while dishes are explained in a deceptively simple manner, they are big on quality and flavour.
This is food to take your time with, to enjoy the texture and the interplay of flavour bite by bite. It’s food to remember and salivate over.
We begin with Bread Social sourdough slathered with an indulgent smoked butter, only two slices, fortunately, because it’s magnificent.
Beef tartare is presented bruschetta-style on toast with pickled mustard and reggiano, a lush mouthful of prime ingredients packed with flavour.
The interplay of oppositional flavours, textures and acidity is a beautiful thing indeed in the next dish, where paper crisp shards of cracker play host to smoked, whipped kingfish and tangy pickled green chilli.
Even their nostalgic take on a classic beach food of childhood, the fish finger sandwich, is genteel, defined by the shape of a cookie cutter to a petite delicate stack. There’s no Bird’s Eye to be seen, of course. It’s medallions of golden crumbed local snapper served with fine slaw, pickled cucumber and mayo, far tastier than cucumber sandwiches but equally as dainty. Oh, the joy of fried fish on fresh white bread!
We share a main of conchiglie with slow-cooked lamb leg and parmesan, our side of charred broccoli salad with almond, chilli, mint and parmesan stealing the show.
No room for dessert, we’ve sat on drinks, a craft beer and Montevento pinot grigio from Veneto that’s dry but vibrant enough to complement such easy-eating food.
In a climate where winter is mellowed by the noonday sun, lunch at No.35 is perfection. It’s a pleasant length journey to travel and indulge in an unhurried lunch, a wander through the surf shops, and even time to pick up produce from a farm stall as you head home. And who knows what adventures you’ll experience along the way.
No. 35 Kitchen and Bar, 35 Tweed Coast Rd, Bogangar, Open: Thurs, Fri 5.00pm – late; Sat 12noon – late; Sun 12noon – 3pm