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The Cowrie Restaurant

  • Restaurants
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended
  1. The outside deck at The Cowrie
    Photograph: Tom Antcliff
  2. A dish at The Cowrie
    Photograph: Supplied/The Cowrie
  3. A dish at The Cowrie
    Photograph: Supplied/The Cowrie
  4. A dessert at The Cowrie
    Photograph: Supplied/The Cowrie
  5. The view from The Cowrie
    Photograph: Avril Treasure for Time Out Sydney

Time Out says

5 out of 5 stars

Perched on a hill overlooking the glittering ocean, the views from this Terrigal fine diner are as good as they get

Over the past five or so years, diners’ demands for food that’s been plucked from local waters, or grown on trees here in Australia, has been growing like bamboo shoots. Which makes sense, when you consider produce that’s been sourced closer to home supports small businesses, is better for the environment and – let’s be frank – tastes better. Though, while some restaurants talk the talk, less are fully walking the walk (if I got a $1 coin every time I saw the phrase ‘locally sourced produce’ I would nearly be able to afford a home in Sydney). So, to see on the back of The Cowrie’s menu a list of 16 local suppliers they work with (from Little Feet Gourmet and Super Green Farms on the Central Coast to Shane's Seafood in Newcastle) is as refreshing as a four-day weekend.

The Cowrie has been open for more than 30 years, making it a long-time Terrigal local. Executive chef/co-owner Dimitris Aronis took over the reins post-Covid. The fine diner is located in a residential area, perched on a hill overlooking Terrigal Beach. With a charcoal and wooden exterior, The Cowrie looks more like a stylish house than a restaurant, and inside is just as welcoming, with local artworks, modern seats and the kinds of trinkets you’d see in a homewares shop. But it’s all pale in comparison to the jewel in the crown: the outside deck, which seats about 20 lucky ducks. 

We’re taken to a table in the corner right by the edge, which has got to be one of the best seats in the house – quack quack. In front is a flowering frangipani tree, followed by vivid-green bushland. Down below is Terrigal Beach and, on this sunny day, the ocean is glittering like one of JLo’s diamond rings. As we sit, an orange butterfly gently lands on a leaf in front of us. You can’t make this stuff up.

The Cowrie’s menu is seasonal; guests can opt for two-, three- or four-course meals, and there are extra additions plus matching wines for fun. I begin with their signature drink, the Cowrie Garden, elegantly presented in a coupette with orange petals on top. The vodka swirls with sweet elderflower and pineapple flavour, lime adds a hint of tartness and lavender brings a light floral aroma. It’s delicious paired with complimentary smoked olives imbued with lemon balm, and seeded bread lathered in a dill-spiked truffle ricotta. The feel-good juices are flowing.

A plate of Terrigal bonito with chunks of charred cucumbers, thin discs of radish, rings of pickled onions, little fingers of sea succulents and black bead-like caviar, looks like a bouquet from the ocean. The fish is lovely: tender, fresh-tasting and slightly pink in the centre, the outside char and kombu oil adding another layer. The succulents burst with juicy, salty flavour, and the acid brings zing. It’s a pretty and clean-tasting plate.

Pumpkin and blue-swimmer crab risotto steps it up another notch. The grains are perfectly al dente, bathed in sweet pumpkin that’s blended until smooth, with bits of soft crab meat and finely chopped chives. On top is a luxurious layer of brown butter. Rich with umami and well-seasoned, it’s a sexy bowl. Thankfully, a creamy and crisp glass of Christophe Patrice chardonnay is the right date for it.

Mains are next. Two slices of Wollemi duck breast have been cooked well. The meat is pink and juicy, and the skin is rendered beautifully – all bronzed, crisp, and fatty. On the side is a glossy sauce punctuated with pickled cherries, and a creamy mustard. The jus has a deep flavour that stands up well to a side of bitter radicchio – I just wish there was more of it. All together, it’s ace.

My date went for lamb backstrap, and arriving with three thick slices adorned with colourful baby vegetables (squash, radish, broccolini) it’s a generous serving. The lamb is caramelised on the outside and resting on a celeriac puree, and while smooth and creamy, I reckon it still doesn’t top spuds. Olive tapenade adds a salty punch, and the lamb jus has a great depth of flavour. A small, bone marrow dumpling doesn’t last long. My lamb-loving grandfather would have asked for seconds.

A dessert called ‘Forest floor of chocolate and beetroot panna cotta, chocolate and honey leaves, dark chocolate soil and fig’ is aptly named and looks stunning; the delicate leaves appearing like they’ve fallen from a tree. Underneath is a velvety panna cotta with earthy notes thanks to the beetroot, and I like how it’s not too sweet. Paired with the crunch of the soil, the crisp leaves and fig jam, it’s a sophisticated dessert.

Reserving The Cowrie just for a special occasion would be a mistake. Service straddled the tightrope of being professional yet friendly, with a laid-back ease that nods to the surrounds. What came out of the kitchen was honest plates of food executed with flair. Add in local produce, those views, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a better place for a long lunch on the Central Coast.

Time Out Sydney never writes starred reviews from hosted experiences – Time Out covers restaurant and bar bills for reviews so that readers can trust our critique.


Want more? Check out our guide to the best restaurants in Sydney here.

With waterfront views, Hamptons-style decor and a palm-fringed pool, this Central Coast hotel is an absolute pearler.

Avril Treasure
Written by
Avril Treasure


109 Scenic Hwy
Opening hours:
Wed-Sat noon-10pm; Sun noon-5pm
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