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We have some atmospheric pubs and hotels in our midst that set the perfect scene for an iced cold one, but what’s on the food menu? Well, there’s the essentials of course like parmigiana, schnitzel and burgers, but because our Northern Rivers chefs are always up for doing things a little differently, you will also find Japanese fusion, healthy bowls, delicious Fijian curries, and some sensational vegetarian fare too. Here’s what’s cooking and where this summer.

Written by Alison Bone

North Byron Hotel

Serving up some of the tastiest and most interesting pub food in the region, the North Byron Hotel gets extra points for its gorgeous bushland setting and firm focus on sustainable Northern Rivers ingredients. From the woodfired oven enjoy fabulous pizzas, and seasonally-changing dishes like Local King Prawns with burnt lemon Butter, charred chilli oil, bottarga, Smoked Eggplant with sour cashew cream, zataar, tomato dressing, and Charred Pineapple Skewers with salted dulce de leche cream, lemon myrtle dust and charcoal salt. You will also find delicious cocktails and an intriguing selection of wine – with the adjoining liquor merchant stocking everything on the list.

Hotel Brunswick

Featuring lovely views over the Brunswick River and plenty of shade from the flowering poinciana, the beer garden at Hotel Brunswick is an ever-popular spot to while away an afternoon or evening. An oldie but a goodie, the hotel has been pulling a crowd since the 1940s and is known for great live music and tasty pub grub. Come for coffee and cake from 11am, or enjoy pub faves with a twist, like Lamb Kofta with quinoa tabouli, and Chicken Parmigiana with smoked ham, celeriac slaw and chardonnay dressing. The bistro now also offers a Japanese-style Kai-sen menu from Friday to Sunday, which means delicious, sustainable seafood prepared as sashimi, sushi, izakaya and share plates.

The Middle Pub

With its wooden balcony fringed by palm trees, this beautiful hotel right in the centre of Mullumbimby has plenty of old school charm. It also serves up some of the best value pub meals in the region – with all dishes priced at $20. As you would expect in Mullum, there’s some excellent vegetarian options like Grilled Haloumi and Roast Vegetable Salad, Spinach Ricotta Lasagne and Smashed Falafel Burger. Looking for something meaty? Try Bangalow Pork Sausages with mash, Grass fed Rump Steak, or Oven Roasted Pork Belly. Make sure to check out the old photographs and quirky artwork on the walls on your way up to the balcony for a birds-eye view over town. Then stay around for Krappyokee (karaoke, Mullum-style) on Fridays, or bring your own instrument for a Sunday arvo jam.

The Ivory Waterside

Gorgeous water views and a convivial atmosphere await at the revamped Ivory Waterside, with tables on the wooden deck right on Terranora Creek in Tweed Heads. Celebrate the maritime setting with a Seafood Platter to share, featuring oysters, whole local prawns, salt and pepper squid, battered fish and chips. Or try the Asian-inspired Fresh Market Fish with spicy Korean cucumber, kaffir lime rice, ginger ponzu and toasted sesame. Vegetarians can tuck into a Nourish Bowl packed with fresh veggies and baby bocconcini or a Korean Fried Cauliflower Burger, while the kids will be well satiated with their own tasty menu. The Ivory includes a 32 Berth marina but it’s a popular spot, so check availability before pulling up in a boat.

Tyalgum Hotel

Yes! This pub has a pool – perfect for cooling down on a hot summer’s day, there’s even a shade sail so you won’t get sunburnt. Bring the kids, the dog (on a leash), and a picnic rug to stretch out on the grass. Or take a seat in the beer garden overlooking the pool or the recently refurbished bistro. The Tyalgum Hotel now has three lovely chefs from Fiji, so alongside pub staples like Surf & Turf, Burgers, and Sunday Roasts (all featuring meat raised in the caldera and sourced from local Bray Park butchers) you will find some great Pacific Islander dishes. Highlights are the Kokoda – lemon cured kingfish with taro crisps, Island Fish Curry or Vegetable Curry served with rice and roti.

Courthouse Hotel

If you’ve worked up an appetite cycling to Murwillumbah on the Rail Trail, you may want to replenish with some classic, reasonably-priced pub food done well. Try the historic Courthouse Hotel for Oysters Kilpatrick, BBQ Pork Ribs, Char Grill Steaks, burgers, salads, and interesting daily specials. There’s $16 cocktails too, so you can refuel with an Espresso Martini or a Mixed Berry Mojito.

Beach Hotel Byron Bay

We all know Top Pub as a great spot for an iced cold one after a surf, a sunset session and live music, but you can also get a good feed with ocean views. Classy meals are inspired by local produce to create a distinct Byron flavour, with enticing dishes such as Grilled Local Swordfish with warm eggplant caponata, basil & pine nuts, Harissa Roasted Cauliflower with rocket and hemp pesto and Smoked Cherry Tomato and Artichoke Pizza.

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