There’s no denying the South Coast is a gorgeous place to visit. Natural bushland, laid-back towns and villages and some damn stunning beaches. But what happens when you head down there on a city getaway and the rain settles in for most of the time?
Activities don’t need to be as monotone as the scenery appears. Sure you can still go boating, walking and swimming, but if getting wet doesn’t sound like much fun, how does eating and drinking sound?
We started in Nowra.
Many folk from Sydney have possibly only driven straight through it, but why not stop for lunch?
Down by the river is a place that’s well-worth the slight detour. Coming from the same folk behind the Hungry Duck in nearby Berry, Wharf Rd adds a touch of casual fine dining to the Nowra scene.
White walls, blonde timber and hanging Edison light globes make for an elegant and slightly nautical space, with views over the river and historic Nowra Bridge.
The flavours of South America run through the menu, with the wood-fired parilla getting a good workout in the kitchen.
Things are made easy for the diner with a couple of nibbles, several local oyster varieties and small plates and large plates priced at $16 and $32 accordingly.
However, if you’re anything like us and want to try more than a couple of menu items, there’s a $55 five-course and $85 nine-course banquet up for grabs. Sounds good to me.
One of the house signature dishes kicks off the five-course spread – the ceviche salad of black fish. Served on a brick of Himalayan rock salt, the small chunks of fish are marinated in fresh lime and mixed with tomato, a little red onion and crispy quinoa. Clean, fresh flavours that invigorate the palate. Pity we had to share this one!
Another small plate that you share is the fire-roasted figs; half a fig each with torn buffalo mozzarella, a few fried capers, witlof and Pedro Ximinez vinegar. A real flavour sensation where sweet meets salty, bitter and sour.
Due to a few large table reservations, it took quite some time for the pan-fried blue eye travella to come out. I was back to being hungry again! Pity the thin slices of fish were overcooked and dry, but aside from that it was a great dish. Creamy olive oil mash, lemon & yellow chilli butter; and we can’t ignore the beautiful crispy skin.
After a little more waiting time and watching unsuccessful fishermen out on the wharf getting wet, a share plate of 6-hour saltbush lamb arrives. The torn shreds of meat form a tasty mound with quinoa, fresh parsley and delightful little chilli kisses. The most intriguing elements were the tiny pickled chillies, a sweet pepper that originated in the Amazon.
A plate of fried broccoli comes with the lamb, topped with white anchovies and toasted almonds.
And for dessert, a delicious lemon tart with crème fraîche.
Not all that far down the road from the restaurant is Hyper Hyper Coffee, Nowra’s one-and-only coffee roaster. This is one cracking little joint that rakes in the caffeine addicts, even when it’s pouring with rain.
The fair trade, organic beans are roasted onsite using a late 1950’s German Probat, and to extract the coffee they use original 1950’s Faema lever machines.
Most of the trade is takeaway, but for those of us that like to sit and linger – and stay dry – there are a few milk crates inside behind the extraction action. The coffee is only served in takeaway cups, enjoyed in night club-style dimness whilst listening to vinyl tunes blaring from the speakers.
Staying at Paperbark Camp a little further down the coast had us in close proximity to the small bayside town of Huskisson. There’s a handful of eating options along the main strip, most of which were quiet thanks to the dreadful weather.
The only pub in town, The Husky, wasn’t as heaving as it probably is on warm, sunny days. A large, wrap-around deck offers ample seating with views over Jervis Bay. Not many humans on this cold and wet evening!
It’s modern pub food all the way at the brasserie – from burgers to seafood and pizza; with a specials board for some extra tid bits.
The pasta special (26.5) was nothing short of delicious – featuring house-made gnocchi, chorizo, sage and Persian feta. There was meant to be preserved lemon in there, but we guessed it was either unavailable or simply forgotten about.
Also from the specials board is the kangaroo pie (28). The thin pastry draped over a bowl enveloped tender chunks of roo with sweet potato and mountain pepperberry. Loved that you could really get a taste of those pepperberries through the gravy.
With so much negativity around this place, it seemed we caught them on a good night; or perhaps some people have high expectations of country pubs and their clientele.
At the northern point of Jervis Bay is the tiny seaside township of Currarong. I had great intentions of exploring the many coastal bushwalking tracks on the Beecroft Peninsula – photographing the sandstone cliffs and visiting the SS Merimbula shipwreck – but cyclonic winds and pelting, horizontal rain kind of didn’t allow that to happen.
Instead, we retreated to Zac’s, one of two places in town where you can grab a bite. The other option is the bowling club for Oz-Chinese. Zac’s Place is a multi-purpose spot that acts as the “centre of town”. There’s a small grocer/newsagent to one side, Zac’s Takeaway in the middle and Zac’s by the Sea facing a park and the Crookhaven Bight.
Coupled with the wild weather and no people about, they weren’t even going to open the restaurant. Thankfully they did, for this pair.
Aside from a couple of burgers and schnitzel, the menu is all about seafood. Nothing too fancy, just straight-up fresh, grilled or fried seafood with chips and salad.
The crumbed fish & chips (18) is beautifully moist and locally caught, draped over thick, soft chips. I went for the fish burger (15); served on an open-faced Turkish bun with tartare, salad and chips. Really good burger, with that grilled fish taking star status.