Like seagulls to a chip, food-lovers flock to these coastal restaurants to savour the tastes of summer.
The generous windows in this stunning dining room look out across Great Oyster Bay to Freycinet National Park. Start with a glass of Josef Chromy sparkling while relaxing by the open fire (evenings can be cool even in December). Chef Tristan Stephens champions the best of Tasmania’s Freycinet Coast, showcasing local producers on his seasonal menus. Feast on soupe Provençale with Melshell mussels and Tasmanian saffron or Long Name Farm pork terrine with apple and celeriac rémoulade. For something more substantial, try the pine mushroom and saffron pumpkin risotto or the asado Clover lamb with honey-roasted parsnip. Dessert beckons with warm old-fashioned gingerbread with calvados salted caramel, pickled apple and vanilla bean ice-cream, chocolate fondant or a choice of Tasmanian cheeses.
Piermont, Tasman Highway, three kilometres south of Swansea; (03) 6257 8131
Á La Grecque
The Talimanidis family and the Great Ocean Road go together like octopus and a chargrill. They brought their expat Greek style to this stretch of coastline more than three decades ago and although they most recently welcomed the airy and urbane Ipsos in Lorne, their Aireys Inlet restaurant remains the area’s Hellenic mothership. Kosta Talimanidis playing host in the dining room and wife Pam heading up the kitchen are a formidable team. The former brings the bonhomie while making sure glasses don’t go empty (the house drops are made by Nick Farr of Bannockburn); the latter dishes up locally sourced excellence that elevates the traditional notion of meze. Try silky taramasalata with fried calamari and peppers or ox tongue off the chargrill with a bright apple and radish salad and rosemary dressing.
Corner of Great Ocean and Beach roads, Aireys Inlet; (03) 5289 6922
Flying Brick Cider Co.
Fun fact: “flying brick” is the local nickname for the yellow-tailed black cockatoo, which also helps explain the two “wings” of this strikingly modern Bellarine Peninsula landmark. One houses a distillery known for its traditionally crafted apple and pear ciders; the other, a kitchen well versed in pleasing the crowds that flock to the dining hall and umbrella-dotted lawn. Grab a tasting paddle of cider and big-flavoured fare such as fried cauliflower with curry salt, a ploughman’s platter or a whole free-range roasted chook with quinoa, pumpkin and sweet corn. From November to March, “Elvis” – a retro-style food van parked near the lawn – also makes an appearance, serving snacktastic bites in the form of fish and chips, sliders and fries.
1251-1269 Bellarine Highway, Wallington; (03) 5250 6577
Port Phillip Estate
This is what a winery restaurant should be like: an architecturally arresting sandstone wonder curving gracefully along a hillside, overlooking rolling vines and the blue of the bay; a cellar door with award-winning estate pinot noir, chardonnay and more; and a restaurant where the entire package comes together in great style. At Port Phillip Estate, the jewel in the Mornington Peninsula’s crown, chef Stuart Deller’s menu is in step with the elegance of the surroundings. Quail and foie gras terrine with the estate’s quince chutney or an agnolotto of Moreton Bay bug, lavished with a bisque and braised leek, are fitting curtain-raisers, while a main of Murray cod fillet with whipped roe, radish and the pop of finger lime demands a glass of the estate’s Kooyong Beurrot pinot gris.
263 Red Hill Road, Red Hill South; (03) 5989 4444
NEW SOUTH WALES
It’s not very big and only opens four days
a week yet it has all the swagger of a smart wine bar and dishes up some of the best service and food Down Under – not bad for a restaurant nowhere near the big smoke. With à la carte and dégustation-style menus available for lunch, and dégustation-only for dinner, sit back and let chef Josh Lewis choose your food adventure as he explores local, seasonal produce from land and sea with a considered, less-is-more approach. Grab a seat at the long concrete bench and let the show begin. Yamba sardines are served simply with oregano and olive oil. Fermented kelp butter adds a swoosh of
the sea to roast bone marrow and calçot. Confit fennel and charred witlof round
out cured snapper and tangelo. Stunning.
2/16 The Terrace, Brunswick Heads; (02) 6685 1363
If you’re looking for a food vacation, Paper Daisy at Halcyon House could be your answer. It’s one of the best regional restaurants in NSW, thanks to the culinary nous of chef Ben Devlin, who selects local ingredients and delivers them on the plate with smart, sophisticated simplicity. The Mediterranean-blue décor, timber floors, white walls and cane chairs give it a beach-hut-meets-the-Hamptons vibe and the service is at once casual and professional. Start with oysters garnished with pickled sea plants and macadamia milk, followed by steamed pipis with lemon myrtle and pasta or glazed pork with Romanesco and cavolo nero. Then finish with a berry and rye tart before going off for a well-earned afternoon nap.
21 Cypress Crescent, Cabarita Beach; (02) 6676 1444
Three Blue Ducks at The Farm
They changed our perception of everyday eats with Three Blue Ducks in Sydney’s Bronte and these young-gun chefs are doing it on a grand scale a little over five clicks from one of our most famous beachside destinations, Byron Bay. Three Blue Ducks at The Farm is a mammoth beast, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner and seating
a few hundred to boot. The ever-changing menu features seasonal fruit, vegetables, herbs, eggs and livestock sustainably
grown and raised on The Farm, along with fresh produce sourced mainly from local farmers. Everything is served as if you’re good friends eating at their home. Start with a ploughman’s board to share then peas combined with ricotta in a light risotto. Or tuck into a hearty local pasture-raised beef and ale pie topped with a root vegetable rémoulade. Sign off with a classic lemon meringue tart with crème fraîche. It’s country comfort and a cracking good time.
11 Ewingsdale Road, Ewingsdale; (02) 9389 0010
Knee Deep Wines
Here’s the play for anyone escaping to Margaret River over the long break: book your accommodation then immediately check when you can get in for lunch at this breezy winery restaurant. The new chef, Baxter Newstead, is a name you’re going to be hearing a lot more of in 2018. A graduate of Melbourne’s Vue de Monde as well as
the Noma Australia pop-up, Newstead is
all about showcasing local ingredients in imaginative, deeply delicious forms. There’s lush, just-cooked marron played off against a rich brown-butter sauce and a dusting of finely grated lime zest. And for dessert, it’s hard to resist the show-stopping “rose” of white plum dusted with powdered rosella, mounted on a bed of crushed macadamias and chocolate ganache. Go ahead and Instagram it – you won’t be the only one.
160 Johnson Road, Wilyabrup; (08) 9755 6776
Since arriving on the Margaret River dining scene four years ago, Seth James has been turning heads with his technique-rich, strikingly arranged plates. Settling in for a tasting menu (only available via booking) remains the best way to test the kitchen’s mettle but an extended à la carte offering speaks to the estate’s relaxed new spirit. Japan remains a key influence: witness raw tuna teamed with white miso and furikake (dry seasoning) or marron set afloat by an intensely savoury seaweed and mushroom broth. Local ingredients are responsibly farmed or gathered, including Wagin duck, Augusta greenlip abalone and wild sea succulents. Fancy something more casual? Drop by the cellar door and road-test the wine range while enjoying a cheese platter or housemade charcuterie.
Corner of Abbeys Farm and Brash roads, Yallingup; (08) 9755 2327
Bombora @ Goolwa Beach
A bombora is a big wave breaking over a reef and if you found yourself washed up here, you’d be ever so grateful. With its
deck reaching out to the Southern Ocean, you’d need a surfboard to get any closer to the sea. If that’s not your thing, settle for the surfboard chalk menu of chef Joel Cousins that focuses on local seafood, including fresh mulloway, mullet, snapper and Goolwa cockles. A summer favourite and
a regular on the specials board is the Bombora Superbowl, a tomato and Pernod broth with local fish, scallops, prawns and cockles. A breakfast specialty is the Beached Benedict with smoked salmon, poached eggs, hollandaise sauce and local wakame.
And of course you’ll find fish and chips,
salt-and-pepper squid and other classics.
End of Beach Road, Goolwa Beach; (08) 8555 5396
Star of Greece
You’re sitting on the extended deck on a summer evening, listening to kids playing on the beach below while drinking local wine and eating pan-fried salt-and-pepper squid caught just out there in the gulf. If it sounds close to a spiritual experience, there’s a good reason for that. Once just a humble tin-shed bait store perched on a cliff, Star of Greece is now an elegant boatshed-style dining room where all the surrounding windows are opened up on fine days. The beer-battered Kangaroo Island whiting and chips is the classic go-to dish but all the seafood is as fresh as tomorrow. While the drinks list carries lots of well-priced local wines, there’s also a strong French contingent to choose from.
1 The Esplanade, Port Willunga; (08) 8557 7420
Social Eating House + Bar
There are any number of restaurants in the Broadbeach dining precinct so what sets this one apart? The answer is in the name. Social Eating House + Bar is abuzz with families and friends sharing some of the Gold Coast’s best tapas (you’ll definitely need to make a booking). Order one of everything from the bar snacks menu or choose from small or large share plates. There’s also an impressive charcuterie cabinet and a changing array
of blackboard specials. Standouts include the deliciously sticky lamb ribs, kingfish sashimi, perfectly chargrilled octopus,
a half or whole chargrilled Barossa Valley chicken with lemon, garlic and pan juices and the epic half- or one-kilo slow-cooked saltbush lamb. With a topnotch wine list and friendly, switched-on staff, this is a guaranteed holiday highlight.
3 Oracle Boulevard, Broadbeach; (07) 5504 5210
Sum Young Guys
What does Sunshine Beach have over Noosa? Bigger waves, smaller crowds and Sum Yung Guys. Wander up from the beach and order a refreshing cocktail such as the Wong & Palmy made with gin, makrut lime vermouth, lemon, palm sugar, coriander and white pepper. The mandarin-cured swordfish with nam jim, coconut and makrut lime is exactly what you want after a day at the beach. Same goes for a big bowl of mussels steamed in fragrant tom kha broth, mopped up with roti. Steamed banana pudding with spiced-rum caramel completes the picture. Like the food and drinks, the décor is a Sunshine Coast-meets-Thailand mashup, with timber shutters to let in the sea breeze, glimpses of Asia in the colourful murals and fun neon signs. The one over the front door aptly proclaims: “Enter here for good times.”
8/46 Duke Street, Sunshine Beach; (07) 5324 1391
AUSTRALIAN CAPITAL TERRITORY
With its tranquil setting on the banks of
the Moruya River, this unexpected fine-
dining treasure is popular not only with Canberrans holidaying on NSW’s South Coast but also devotees who drive down
for the four-course local-produce dinner held on the first Friday of the month (except January). Ingredients, sourced locally and mostly organic, are transformed with French pizzazz into world-class fare. The relaxed coastal vibe belies an adventurous five-star cuisine awash with textures and flavours. Chef Peter Compton responds to the shifting seasons with regular changes so don’t expect the same dish twice. The catch of the day is always a surprise, whether
it’s succulent olive oil-poached swordfish with crab beignets or pan-fried salmon with crushed new potatoes and an orange, fennel and olive salad. C’est délicieux.
16b Church Street, Moruya, NSW; (02) 4474 5505
Rick Stein at Bannisters
Secure a window table overlooking the beach, a 2.5-hour drive from Canberra, for a trip to seafood heaven. The oyster is your world here, with several varieties from different parts of NSW’s South Coast, and there’s a sashimi offering that depends on which denizens of the deep have made their way to the kitchen. The trio of Atlantic salmon, swordfish and yellowfin tuna with wakame salad, pickled ginger, wasabi and sashimi dressing tastes like it’s just left the ocean. Each day brings a new menu based on what’s available but the signature Bannisters fish pie is a staple. The creamy combination of salmon, blue- eye, snapper, scallops, mushrooms and prawns is a knockout. Splash out on the eastern rock lobster thermidor, where the flesh is removed from the shell and covered with a white-wine sauce shot through with parmesan and mustard.
191 Mitchell Parade, Mollymook Beach, NSW; (02) 4455 3044
Top image: Homestead Restaurant, Tasmania
By Jo Cook (Tas); Larissa Dubecki (Vic), Anthony Huckstep (NSW); Max Veenhuyzen (WA); Morag Kobez (Qld); Nigel Hopkins (SA); Diana Streak (ACT)