"It was a serendipitous moment," says Gregory Lording of seeing a For Sale sign on the building that is now Tweed River House during his daily walks.
"When I had a look inside, I fell in love."
Gregory has lived in Murwillumbah for five years after retiring from a corporate career. Though he's travelled the world, both as a child and during his career, his heart is in small town life.
"My best friend is Murwillumbah born and bred," says Gregory.
"We came to visit in 2017 and bought our house the next day."
Though his plan was retirement, fate had other ideas. Gregory and his partner, Phillip Hepburn, bought the building that was most recently Greenhills Reception Lounge and have rejuvenated it into a new food venue, including restoring original features like a pressed-metal ceiling.
The vibe now is one of comfortable elegance, with three internal areas (bar, restaurant and a velvet-curtained and chandeliered private dining room) furnished with green fabrics and dark wood.
The terrace, which directly overlooks the Tweed River across to cane fields and Wollumbin, has palm style ceiling fans and rattan furniture.
"Growing up in Asia in the '70s, I fell in love with the Raffles look," says Gregory.
Gregory is the newest in a long lineage of owners of the venue which, astoundingly, is on a regular suburban street (though one fortunate enough to back onto the Tweed River).
In what could be an plotline for an episode of Neighbours, two previous owners live nearby and the first to transform it from a home into a venue - back in 1969 - will be a guest in the opening weeks.
"They're all so happy," says Gregory.
The food is well worth travelling for. Despite the general shortage of chefs in the region, Gregory was thrilled to select Michelin-star restaurant trained and Cape Leveque experienced chef, Joseph McGrattan, from a strong list of candidates.
The menu is 'prix fixe', or fixed price, allowing you to focus fully on the food, which is full of locally sourced and native ingredients and offers full vegan and gluten free options.
The first entrée sums this up perfectly, with local beetroot varieties served with feta made by Deb Allard, candied Tweed River pecans, native thyme, strawberry gum and champagne dressing.
The Australian Bay lobster is Gregory's favourite dish, served with apple and fennel salad, a bisque shot, smoked lobster and dill mousse, crustacean mayo, lemon aspen dressing and a tuile
Gregory hopes Tweed River House will be a place for locals to love and another reason for visitors to add Murwillumbah to their travels.
"Our aim is to be warm and approachable," he says.
"We want people to feel they are coming into a home."
- Vivienne Pearson is a freelance writer. Find her work at viviennepearson.com