A day trip from Sydney to Stefano Manfredi’s restaurant in the Central Coast national park, Manfredi at Bells, is worth the drive. The restaurant is sophisticated, with a casual coastal tilt. There's blue-and-white-striped awnings and starched white tablecloths, a sprawling garden outlook and the faint smell of the sea.
The garden has a huge influence on the food the chef serves—he grows his own beans, tomatoes, arugula (rocket), silverbeet, chard, sorrel, onions and potatoes, and so much more. The garden spans about 500 square meters and supplies the restaurant with more than 15 percent of the produce on the menu. We visited the 50 free-range hens, which supply fresh eggs to the restaurant. Visitors can wander into the gardens and see the produce while they wait for their meal. Manfredi himself is often around to talk through the more usual vegetables, handing over leaves of sorrel or arugula to taste.
Stay over in one of the little private cottages, which are quaint and luxurious. There's an outdoor pool for warmer months. Or pop down to the local beaches for crashing waves.