There was a huge ripple in the Northern Rivers dining scene when Ben Devlin left Halcyon House’s acclaimed Paper Daisy to open his own restaurant with partner Yen Trinh down the road at Pottsville. The ripple was felt on the Gold Coast, the pre-opening tension palpable. ‘Have you been to Pipit yet?’ the question echoed up and down the coast.
A feted chef (ex-Noma, Copenhagen and Esquire, Brisbane) who’d been awarded two hats and Regional Restaurant of the Year while at the helm of Paper Daisy, as well as a place in the Australian Financial Review and Gourmet Traveller’s Top 100 Australian restaurants lists, Ben Devlin chose home turf to open Pipit, describing his restaurant as ‘a celebration of our coastal lifestyle, inspired by wood-fired cooking techniques and the unique flavours of NSW’s Northern Rivers.’
At first glance, the restaurant is fairly casual. Most of the seating for 24 fringes the perimeter of the bar on high stools, others looking out the restaurant’s front window, with only two small tables inside and a few communal tables outside under roof. It’s a clamber to get up onto a stool, uncomfortable perching for the meal’s duration, hawk-like, worth it only for the expansive view into the huge open kitchen watching as dishes for a la carte, four and seven course tasting menus are prepared.
We’re the audience to a theatre of food, much like a play ‘in the round’, the kitchen filled with chefs moving purposefully like marionettes in clockwork precision, each attending to his own tasks.
The centerpiece is the charcoal pit, the working hub drawing Ben to its flame to grill, char, smell, season, turn, check and remove the seafood for tonight’s dinner. He’s arresting to watch, his passion palpable, his attention to detail astonishing. With Zen-like focus, his call for attention is as simple as two fingers placed on a bowl or a quiet ‘Service please’, voice barely audible.
Our meal, part of the Taste Tweed Festival, is a celebration of local produce: farmed and foraged vegetables, fruit and seafood of the region. The journey begins with sourdough, baked in house, its lifting aroma of malted rye filling the senses, accompanied by house-made macadamia and kefir cultured butter.
Canapes confirm our suspicion that we are more than mere observers in this play, continuing the food assemblage at the table, participants in the action as we dip baby vegetables into the almond, fermented green garlic and fig dressing, rolling up gem lettuce leaves around blue eyed roe and finger lime before popping them into our mouths, serving up each element of the shared seafood dishes to each other as we dine communally.
The following four courses, paired with interesting boutique Australian wines, are attention-grabbing:
Cured tuna with shiso, hibiscus and bunya miso
2017 Vanguardist ‘Le Petit Vanguard’ Riesling (Clare Valley, SA)
Glazed bay lobster with potato noodles, lemon and garlic
2017 Fetherston Chardonnay (Yarra Valley, Vic)
Fire-grilled goldband snapper with green romesco, snap peas and pepita
2018 Allies ‘Assemblage’ Pinot Noir (Mornington, Vic)
Sapote mille feuille with caramelized coconut milk and passionfruit
2017 Bass River Iced Riesling (Gippsland, Vic)
Between savoury and sweet courses, a half local dragonfruit is served as a piquant palate cleanser. Who would have thought it would gain so much flavour with the addition of pepper and finger lime! It’s the precursor to one of the best desserts we’ve tasted, each mouthful savoured, a treasure.
Simple, beautiful food with layers of complexity, this is contemplative dining begging us to pay attention to subtle nuances of flavour and texture. ‘How red is that tuna!’ ‘Who would have thought potato noodles would be so delicious!’
There is no accidental placement, no elements added to plates without intention. Purposeful and measured, this is highly skillful craft, with plates the canvas for the art of food.
Somehow, by the end of the evening the chairs are forgiven, and we feel connected to time, place and people; our part played in the celebration of Northern Rivers cuisine.
Located in a sleepy coastal town, Pipit truly is destination dining. But it’s dining at its best, and absolutely worth the journey!
Shop 4/ 8 Coronation Avenue, Pottsville, NSW Ph: 0490 380 117
Open: Lunch Fri – Mon from 12 noon; Dinner Thurs – Sat from 6pm
NOTE: Tickets for this event were $78 or $123 with wine pairing. Good Food Gold Coast dined as a guest of Taste Tweed Festival. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀