Food and wine are booming across the region, capitalising on fresh produce and new ideas for hospitality. These are our 15 top stories about great wining and dining experiences, from authentic Korean barbecue to Wagga’s best chicken parmigiana. But where does Kylie Minogue’s lingerie come into it?
The wait is over for patrons of Junee’s Locomotive Hotel which officially reopened in October after closing the doors for a major overhaul.
Co-owner Chris Blanchard said he couldn’t wait to show off the new interior.
“We’ve revamped the whole bar with a different appearance and we’ve gone for that kind of 1930s speakeasy style,” he explained.
Much anticipated, Wagga’s newest cafe Al Maghrib opened its doors mid-year to bring the taste and experience of Morocco to the region.
Al Maghrib is the Arabic word for Morocco. Maghrib in Arabic means sunset, hence the logo on the cafe’s entry.
Situated at 32 Fitzmaurice Street, the contemporary Morrocan cafe has welcomed diners since 2 May.
Chocoholics, prepare to assemble: the ultimate destination for decadent desserts and authentic Belgian chocolate has arrived in Wagga Wagga.
Oliver Brown Belgian Chocolate Cafe opened in November on Baylis Street, outside the Sturt Mall. “Oliver Brown is an authentic Belgian chocolate cafe,” said franchisee Farhana Amir.
Mariam Rehman is proudly Wagga born and raised and while she has big plans for the Habibi Chicken brand, she is keeping it anchored in the Riverina.
The Fitzmaurice Street restaurant launched less than a year ago and has quickly become a popular option for locals in the expanding dining precinct.
“I thought it was about time that we had something a little bit more culturally diverse but also still spoke to the contemporary market that is here, so we created Habibi Chicken just so that we could celebrate Middle Eastern culture and flavours and the local culture too,” Mariam explains.
Wagga’s largest outdoor dinner party, positioned under the stars on the iconic Wollundry Lagoon Bridge, was a roaring success this year.
Richard Moffatt of restaurant Pastorale hosted 160 people at the Pastorale Dinner Party on 27 October for a four-course set menu to showcase local produce and promote Wagga as a foodie destination.
“It was a great success. It went better than we anticipated for our first time doing such a thing,” Richard said.
Although Wagga’s newest dessert bar has been open for a few months, Sweeties has already won sweet tooths over with its delicious acai desserts, its bright yet relaxed setting and its fantastic balcony.
For Sweetie owner Dalia Halawani, it’s all about creating a unique space for friends and family to relax while enjoying desserts they may have never experienced before.
“I want this to be a family-friendly place,” Dalia said.
A word-of-mouth eatery hidden in Griffith’s industrial district has a new owner for the first time in 34 years.
Amanda Elvy, a 35-year-old single mum with four kids, has embarked on a business venture for the first time – taking over the longstanding Tucker Den at 25 Collier Street from Veronica Anderson, who owned it since 1989.
“Veronica was one of my regular customers when I was working as a waitress at Station 4 Cafe, she mentioned to me she was selling it, I thought I’d give it a go,” Ms Elvy said.
Mir Yousef Saadat, a 36-year-old Iranian who sought asylum in Australia in 2013, has spiced up the heart of Yenda by opening a new Middle Eastern eatery in the small town.
The modestly named Yenda Kebab House features a lot more than shaved meat wrapped in Lebanese bread. The menu includes several Turkish delicacies that are usually hard to find outside big cities, including gozleme (crispy flatbread filled with spinach, chicken or beef), dolma (stuffed grape leaves) and baklava (a layered pastry dessert covered in syrup).
Mr Saadat, who worked as a chef in Iran, decided to open his store when he noticed there were few places to eat out in Yenda.
When Andrew and Joanne bought Wes’s Walkabout Cafe, the plan was to buy the shop and go back to their jobs. Things didn’t work out exactly to plan and they’re still serving up fresh healthy food (and great coffee) to the community.
The policeman and maths teacher moved to Wagga for work and realised there weren’t many coffee shops to buy lunch from. While the two don’t dine out much themselves, preferring a family get-together, they’re still in business 30 years later.
There’s always been a mystery about the woman who introduced Griffith to Vietnamese and Laotian food, selling and donating delicious spring rolls, bahn mi, pho and spicy curries made from home since early 2020. But the extraordinary life story of Paris Floyd has to be heard to be believed.
As the daughter of a CIA agent who escaped her wartorn country in the 1970s, she settled in Australia as a refugee, then became a lingerie designer for Kylie Minogue’s Love Kylie range before reinventing herself as a homemade food chef who also offers cooking classes and a soup detox diet program.
“It’s taken me a long time to own the answer to that question,” she said when asked to describe who she is. But her life story speaks for itself.
Having only four and a half weeks to completely revitalise a bar may be a bridge too far for many business owners.
But, for husband-and-wife team Chris Hawe and Chelsea Cleary, it was just the right amount of time to breathe new life into what was formerly known as the Birdhouse Bar and Kitchen, now the Birdy Bar.
Although they did cut it fine and found themselves adding the finishing touches to the venue only 45 minutes before opening the doors in time for Wagga’s annual Aggies Race Day.
Hanok Korean BBQ has finally opened its doors at 85 Baylis St after two years of planning.
The traditional Korean barbecue method involves cooking marinated cuts of chicken, beef or pork over a charcoal grill. The grill is normally placed in the middle of the table with an exhaust fan above. And best of all, it’s completely delicious
There is frequent conversation and commentary over the best way to abbreviate the name of the culinary king of the Australian pub, the chicken parmigiana.
Whether you were born in NSW, and correctly pronounce it as ‘parmi’, or you were born in Victoria and utter the wrong, un-Australian ‘parma’, one thing can be agreed on – parmis are perfect!
A perfectly crumbed chicken schnitty topped with homemade marinara sauce, a little bit of smoked ham and the finishing touch of lightly melted cheese on top just can’t be beaten. We’ve trawled through Wagga’s best to save you the work.
Maria Bianchini is Griffith’s longest-serving waitress, having worked her way up Banna Avenue’s stalwart establishments over the past 43 years.
She started at Bertoldo’s Bakery in 1980 before opening her own pizzeria, California, then moved on to the cafe Chittery Bit, Italian favourite La Tavola and its reincarnation Giuseppe’s before appropriately ending up on the top block at Griffith’s oldest restaurant, Belvedere, where she plans to serve out the rest of her career.
Her colleagues say her simple job title doesn’t do her justice.
Maria Sergi, the owner of Griffith’s oldest restaurant, Belvedere, has teamed up with best friend and waitress Lisa Senatore to reopen popular sandwich and salad bar Cafe Deli.
Ulong Street once buzzed with two busy eateries, with family-owned O’Donnells Cafe opposite Cafe on U, which was replaced by Cafe Deli. Both establishments closed in the past few years, the latter finally revived by the Belvedere duo in May 2023.
Ms Sergi, 35, who now manages three businesses alongside her household of three children aged five, eight and 11, explained why she decided to branch out.