Gunyah – an Aboriginal dwelling, or bush hut made of branches and sheets of bark.
Also the name of the restaurant, reception and communal lounge at Paperbark Camp – an eco-friendly property on the gorgeous South Coast of New South Wales.
But let’s take a look at the camp, first.
The setting is Australian through and through. Towering eucalyptus, peeling paperbark, tea trees, subtropical creepers and native maidenhair ferns. And that’s just some of the flora.
Paperbark Camp is for those of us that want to get immersed in Aussie nature – sans pitching tents, rolling out the swag or boiling a kettle for hot water.
Let’s call it glamping, shall we?
This is a camp that’s less than three hours from Sydney. It comprises a dozen canvas tents of varying safari-style accommodation. A stilted hardwood platform in the bush that’s glammed-up with solar lighting, fresh linen and open-air bathroom. Ok, let’s just throw in a fluffy towel, bathrobe and slippers.
Glamping with nature comes with the free soundtrack of whatever critter may decide to sing, chirp, croak or … make whatever sound an animal makes. No stereos or flat-screens, you see. So it’s you, the person you’re with and whatever nature throws at you.
What’s the bathroom situation like? Well, it’s kind of like an open-air ensuite, yet still undercover. A free-standing bath, vanity, shower and a regular toilet; all with views into the bush.
With the Currambene Creek meandering through Paperbark’s backyard, canoes are freely available for guests to use for a little local exploration. Or if bikes are more your thing, they have those, as well.
Rising above the ground at the heart of the camp is The Gunyah. A place to relax, have drinks, get warm and enjoy dinner and breakfast. The guys at Paperbark Camp stick by their philosophy of keeping things sustainable by sourcing their produce locally, and even having a go at growing what they can.
Chilean chef Emilio Erazo has had stints in Spain, Brazil, Melbourne and his homeland, and it’s here at Paperbark that you can taste the skills he’s picked up along the way.
Sunday nights are all about pisco sours and paella, but it was the following nights $70 set menu that had us reserving a table. It looked as if the chef was a keen user of native Australian produce.
Hmm, I wonder if he’s aware of the warrigal greens that are growing amongst the mangroves by the creek?
Prior to kicking off the set menu I tucked into some local oysters (18), thanks to some subtle suggestive selling by the waitress. Don’t mind if I do. A tasty little treat before a loaf of spiced quinoa bread landed on the table. Glazed and sprinkled with rose, it was a pity there was only one tiny loaf between two. The green chilli sauce on the side was the most perfect condiment.
Some canapé-style taro chips had good crunch-factor against the topping of mildly flavoured sago and light dusting of grape seed oil snow.
To follow, a trio of just-seared crisp-skinned kingfish slices, laid over a line of seaweed emulsion. The delicate flavour of the fish joins a sharp bite from chilli reduction, with pops of acidity from native finger lime.
The Illawarra coast is known to many for its farmed alpacas, so it was nice to see it made it to our plate. Slow-cooked to rosy tenderness, the prime alpaca rack is served with lemon myrtle potato purée topped with blanched sea spray. If I could play favourites, the pepperberry & blueberry chutney was quite something.
For an additional $9 we opted for one of the sides – green beans & broccolini with almonds and smoked paperbark oil. Loved the gentle smokiness.
Dessert was a petite coconut rice pudding with pineapple sorbet, a shred of pistachio sponge, compressed pineapple and some strawberry gel.
Come breakfast time, there’s a Continental spread of breads, house-made muesli, fruit and cereal. Or those that like a hot meal in the morning, a cooked breakfast is up for grabs, as well. It was a scrambled affair for me on the first morning, and more about poached eggs, asparagus and goat cheese the following day.
Fresh coastal air, comfy bed, fine food and natural Aussie bush. This is undoubtedly luxury eco camping at its best.
hnf & co stayed courtesy of Corporate Traveller and Paperbark Camp – dinner was paid for personally