We were recently lucky enough to spend an afternoon at the iconic Fins restaurant in Kingscliff, and it honestly exceeded all of our (already sky-high) expectations. With an award-winning degustation menu, sustainably sourced seafood and elegant beachfront setting, we’re calling it: this is one of the best dining experiences on the Tweed Coast.
If you’re not already familiar with this acclaimed local eatery, Fins has a pretty impressive reputation throughout the Australian foodie scene. Helmed by celebrity chef Steven Snow (affectionately known as Australia’s “seafood guy”), Fins first opened its doors 27 years ago on the banks of the Brunswick River, before relocating to Byron Bay’s Beach Hotel and quickly rising to nationwide fame. Now situated amongst the beachfront resorts at relaxed coastal precinct Salt Village in Kingscliff, Fins is one of the most awarded regional restaurants in the country – holding 22 consecutive years of chefs hats and achieving the most Sustainable Seafood Restaurant title in 2015. Safe to say, we were pretty darn excited for our visit.
We headed down to Fins on a balmy Friday afternoon and were greeted warmly by the team before being shown to our seat in the private dining room. Now, while this award-winning eatery might be best known for fine dining, don’t expect stuffy interiors – the restaurant atmosphere is just as impressive and inviting as its menu. Think: rustic timber floorboards, plantation style shutters, lush hanging plants and stone tabletops creating a tropical-meets-coastal feel. The light-filled dining room is cosy and intimate, with luxe charcoal tones, secluded booths, elegant tableware and botanical accents at every turn.
Comfortably seated, our dining experience kicked off with our sommelier Michael mixing cocktails right by our table: the signature Fins Strawberry Fizz, served with the chef’s starter, a fresh and light tuna tartare with a house made cheese. Keen to enjoy the complete Fins experience, we opted for the 6-course degustation menu – a selection of mouthwatering dishes, each paired perfectly with a wine from the extensive drinks list.
Before we get stuck into the dishes we devoured; the first thing you need to know about dining at Fins is that these guys take their seafood seriously. Not only are the Fins team incredibly talented at their craft, but their passion for seafood is unparalleled. Chef “Snowy” (also an ambassador for Tourism Australia) has been working with the same fishermen for decades. You’ll never find a frozen or farmed fish at Fins – each day, there are 5 different sustainably sourced fish to choose from (all local, organic and line-caught). Chef Snowy also has an unwavering commitment to organic and sustainable produce, with many of the herbs and spices on the Fins menu coming from his very own garden.
Over the course of the afternoon, we made our way through some of the best meals we’ve tasted here on the Tweed Coast. Obviously, seafood is the hero on the Fins degustation menu, with contemporary dishes packed with tropical Asian flavours, fresh herbs and spices and organic local produce. Still sipping our Strawberry Fizz, we first made our way through a delicate Tian of Tuna sashimi, served with the most incredible dashi rice bubble and tobiko caviar. Next, vegan tempura zucchini flowers, complete with cashew cheese and crunchy fennel – one of our standout dishes (we had no idea it was vegan until we looked at the menu!), paired with a crisp and zesty Paranga white wine from Macedonia.
For our third plate, we tucked into seared scallops (so juicy and perfectly cooked – you could taste the freshness) with an edamame puree, smoked tomato and yuzu dressing, as well as the Fins “Spice Garden” local fish dish teamed with the tart, citrus apple flavours of a Glenmore Valley Chardonnay. Next, we shared tender BBQ Bangalow pork and prawns with chilli-lime dressing (paired with an organic Gippsland Valley Cider) and a rich, flavourful twice-cooked duck breast accompanied with a spicy New Zealand Pinot Noir. Trust us when we say, this place is a foodies heaven!
In between dishes, we headed into the kitchen to watch the master Chef Snowy at work as he prepared our next plate – Sake fish. This was an experience in and of itself: the Fins kitchen moves like clockwork, with each of the chefs cooking their food to perfection and carefully plating each dish like a piece of artwork. It was incredible to watch.
Back in the dining room, our Sake fish (paired with caramelised miso eggplant, pickled cauliflower and crispy seaweed) was served alongside a tender chargrilled eye fillet steak and Longview Shiraz. Just as we thought our bellies were stretched to the max, we were treated to the most amazing desserts – a decadent “5 Shades of Chocolate” (a masterpiece on the plate) and a fresh, zesty lemon myrtle pannacotta. We’re not ashamed to say we ate every last bit before finishing up with an espresso at the Fins bar.
Our verdict? A visit to Fins is an absolute must-do for all locals, and well worth travelling to the region just to experience. These guys are seriously passionate about what they do, and it shows. Expect some of the freshest seafood dishes you’ve ever tasted paired with an extensive wine list and warm, knowledgeable service. This was a pretty special experience we won’t be forgetting anytime soon.