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Glazed bay lobster with potato noodles, lemon and garlic. Credit: Sabine Bannard
Glazed bay lobster with potato noodles, lemon and garlic. Credit: Sabine Bannard

Pipit: Australia’s Best Regional Restaurant Turns One

Pipit is one of the rising stars of the Australian hospitality scene. Launched just one year ago in the sleepy town of Pottsville on the NSW Tweed Coast, the fine dining restaurant has already built a legion of fans – and nabbed some genuinely impressive awards too.

The first venue from hatted Australian chef Ben Devlin and his wife Yen Trinh, Pipit is all about celebrating the phenomenal fresh produce of the Northern Rivers. Local ingredients and sustainably caught seafood form integral parts of the restaurant ethos.

The open plan kitchen design encourages guests to interact more with chefs and staff. Credit: Sabine Bannard
The open plan kitchen encourages interaction with staff. Credit: Sabine Bannard

Devlin honed his craft at acclaimed restaurants including Noma in Copenhagen and Esquire in Brisbane before making a name for himself at Halcyon House’s restaurant Paper Daisy in Cabarita. In 2019, he started a new chapter with the launch of his own restaurant, Pipit.

Four months after opening, it was named Regional Restaurant of the Year at the 2020 Good Food Guide Awards. For Devlin and Trinh, that award so early on came with a great sense of relief, a validation that their dream and vision for Pipit maybe wasn’t so crazy after all.

“That was a really special moment for us,” Trinh says. “But really, there have been so many over the last year. The biggest was simply opening the restaurant. We’d been talking about it for around five years, so to just finally see this thing come together at last was amazing!”

Eggplant tartar style with fresh peanuts, chicory and shiitake mushroom. Credit: Sabine Bannard
Eggplant tartar style with fresh peanuts, chicory and shiitake mushroom. Credit: Sabine Bannard

Trinh and Devlin recently celebrated Pipit’s birthday with a special series of video interviews posted on their website. Delving into the highs, lows and everything in between throughout their first year, it’s a great insight into the realities of opening and operating a restaurant.

More than just sharing their story, it’s also going to serve as an interesting time capsule for life in the time of COVID-19. Like so many restaurants and cafes around Australia and the world, Pipit have had to adapt to the new temporary norm of trading during lockdown.

Trinh heard rumours early on of businesses being restricted to takeaway only, and knew they had to adapt to what was coming if Pipit had any chance to seeing it through.  

“We’re primarily a fine dining, set menu venue – it’s not like a café offering food that’s already easy to put in a box. So, we knew that wasn’t going to work. In response to that speculation we started looking at alternative formats, like maybe a pop-up restaurant.

Yen Trinh and Ben Devlin at Pipit in Pottsville. Credit: Sabine Bannard
Yen Trinh and Ben Devlin at Pipit in Pottsville. Credit: Sabine Bannard

“I put out a poll to the Pottsville Community News Facebook group asking: ‘What kind of restaurant does Pottsville want? What’s missing?’ Pretty much any genre was on the table, so long as there wasn’t an existing option in town. And that’s when Vietnamese won.”

Trinh says it was purely a coincidence with her Vietnamese heritage, but that has helped.

“We’re originally from Brisbane, and there are certain options that I miss. You don’t have all those options in a small town. Asian and Vietnamese is one of them. It just kind of worked.”

Following the poll, Devlin, Trinh and the Pipit team quickly adapted their sit-down menu to create eat-at-home care packages and new Vietnamese takeaway options including bahn mi sandwiches and pho soup.

Vietnamese pho and rice porridge takeaway meals. Credit: Pipit

Trinh says the local Pottsville/Tweed community has been incredibly supportive throughout the whole situation, but that the unpredictability is making is hard to plan for the future.

“It’s really hard at the moment because we don’t have a set timeline. We feel hospitality will reflect what tourism is doing in future, and that fine dining will likely be a harder market. In that sense maybe a sort of a hybrid model will be what we settle on. We don’t know yet.”

Despite all that’s happening, one thing that will remain is the Pipit team’s dedication to quality and creativity. Watch this space.

Pandan donut. Credit: Pipit
Pandan donut. Credit: Pipit

For more information, visit pipitrestaurant.com

Chris Ashton

We're Chris Ashton and Simon Ceglinski, two Aussie travellers with a love of exploration and adventure, and the odd bit of luxury thrown in. We seek out street art, street food, and scuba diving wherever we go, and prefer the road less travelled over well-worn tourist paths.

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Chris Ashton

We're Chris Ashton and Simon Ceglinski, two Aussie travellers with a love of exploration and adventure, and the odd bit of luxury thrown in. We seek out street art, street food, and scuba diving wherever we go, and prefer the road less travelled over well-worn tourist paths.