Pipit and Potager – Eating in and out in COVID times

Pipit and Potager are two restaurants in the Tweed shire who pride themselves on local Northern Rivers produce. We tried Pipits in early March before the COVID lockdowns, as we had heard interesting reports of their innovative ways with food.

Pipit Restaurant Pottsville

Pipit is in Pottsville, a sleepy coastal village along the Tweed Coast. The chef Ben Devlin prides himself on using local produce and recently opened Pipit after a stint at Paper Daisy, Cabarita. It is a contemporary Australian restaurant that celebrates Northern Rivers’ coastal lifestyle, great local produce and wood-fired cooking in an open kitchen. We asked to be seated at the bar, so the chef expert in our duo could observe and chat to the staff while being served.

We enjoyed a smoked parsnip fettuccine, crudités and sourdough with smoked macadamia butter and a jackfruit and mango dessert. It was delicious.

Chatting to the dessert chef who was directly in front of us making up the jackfruit dessert, we learned that she and her partner had moved from Sydney for a quieter life and somewhere they could grow their own produced out near Tyalgum.

Then of course, disaster struck for the hospitality industry as all eating venues were closed at the end of March. Many restaurants creatively started offering takeaway menus. Given my surprise Mother’s Day occasion with our lovely daughter and partner was also cancelled, we decided to have a virtual Mother’s Day lunch with our meal provided takeaway from Pipit – the Melbourne crew trying to duplicate the menu – sort of.

Making sure we were appropriately sanitised, we collected our bag of goodies including some flowers at Pottsville and retreated home to heat and serve. This meal was slightly less exotic but we had the lovely bread and crudités, cobia with baked fennel and gourd-cucumber salad with tiramisu for dessert. We ate together over Zoom. And it was a Mother’s Day to remember.

Our next venture was eating out as part of the Gang of Four Lunching Friends. Our friends recommended Potager Restaurant in Carool, which is in the Tweed hinterland. Potager is set in an old Queenslander surrounded by raised garden beds growing much of their own produce. Owner Peter Burr opened the restaurant a few years ago with his partner Gareth who sadly passed away in 2019.

We set off after a morning cycling around the Tweed waterfront. Climbing up from the Terranora Lakes where the Tweed River spreads out into a a series of lakes, we got to the village of Bilambil before taking the dead end road to Carool. We were sitting almost on the Queensland-NSW border overlooking the Currumbin Valley. It was a perfect winter day.

Owner Peter welcomed us with the menu explaining that our table had been made by Lobo Woodworking in Carool and the plates were from Chez Pottery. Potager’s passion is building a community by supporting local producers and making friendships with their customers. We were temperature checked and seated according to the 4 square metre rule. The menu was extensive. Fish is sourced from Australian Bay Lobster in Chinderah and Northern Rivers seafood, game from local suppliers and a special sorbet featured Husk’s ink gin from the distillery in Tumbulgum. My choice was the Allard Farm haloumi and quinoa fattoush.

Debbie Allard is my go-to cheese maker and the Allards took some risks in the last 5 years restarting their dairy farm and herd in Burringbar. It was perfectly balanced. We all agreed we would choose different dishes so a gourmand appreciation could ensue but only the Peruvian pescato sudado and the dessert special, a frangipane tart with strawberry sorbet are shown here.

We washed it all down with a bottle of Printhe Pinot Gris, from Orange, NSW – offering a peach and pear flavour with a long, lingering finish.

Our journey home via Urliup Road to Murwillumbah took us through rainforest remnants clinging to the range. Our bikes were safely stowed on the rack behind us. We reflected that it was certainly a more solitary journey than our return to Byron Bay from Pottsville in early March. Then we had stumbled upon the World Naked Bike Ride. Would we ever return to those carefree days before COVID changed all our lives?

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