Tim Ross visits renowned chef, restaurateur and author Rick Stein in his favourite town on the NSW South Coast at Bannisters Mollymook.
British chef Rick Stein, who splits his time between the UK and Australia (though, for obvious reasons, there hasn’t been much long distance commuting in 2020) is truly passionate about what he does.
Eleven years ago he brought that passion to the NSW South Coast, opening his eponymous restaurant at boutique hotel Bannisters at Mollymook (pictured top), which lies around a three hour drive from Sydney. Stein had first visited the region as a teen and a memory of feasting on oysters in Merimbula, a coastal town three hours drive further down the coastline, had stayed with him forever.
Over a pie and sausage roll (and later some local prawns, oysters and semillon), Stein – who in 2018 also opened Rick Stein restaurant at Bannisters in Port Stephens on NSW’s mid north coast – shared with me what draws him to this stretch of the South Coast time and again.
TIM ROSS: You spend a lot of time here in Mollymook. Is it your second home?
RICK STEIN: I've been coming back for so long, it is like a second home. I love it. I just like sitting here and watching the ocean. I know I've got the restaurant and I've got to work…but there's just a feeling about the South Coast, which I sort of describe as innocence. There is a natural calmness about the area.
TR: It's beautiful. It still feels like a holiday town.
RS: I think a bit of the old fashioned is a good thing, really. One of the things that attracted me to Mollymook was that [my wife] had been coming here since she was little, and it was the same families coming back every year.
TR: What are your favourite things to do here in Mollymook and in the South Coast?
RS: Well, I love swimming. There's a beach around the corner called Jones Beach, where I go swimming. There are some fantastic walks here as well. I once climbed up Pigeon House Mountain. And I didn't realise, but Captain Cook named it because it looked like a dovecote. If you like golf, there's great golf courses here. And I love going shopping – Milton's got some fantastic shops selling made-in-Australia bits and bobs.
TR: Any other insider tips?
RS: When I started coming here with my wife, Sass, what [I noticed] was the great seafood. Ulladulla is, I think, one of the biggest fishing ports on the South Coast with this excess of beautiful seafood (pictured above). It's a bit of a gourmet's delight around here: Milton, Ulladulla, Mollymook all have really good places to eat [see list below]. When I go on holiday, I love going to places where I know I'm going to get lots of good food. And I like the semillon from this part of the South Coast. I don't think there's a better wine that goes with oysters than semillon.
Rick Stein’s South Coast food hitlist
- The Heritage Bakery, Milton
- Lucky’s Seafood, Ulladulla
- Hayden’s Pies, Ulladulla
- Cupitt’s Estate Winery, Ulladulla (pictured above)