10 January 2024

2023 Year in Review: Food and wine stories to sink your teeth into

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You can try a taco, swill a locally sourced botanical gin or sink your teeth into one of the world’s best steaks, all without leaving Southern NSW. About Regional readers love their food and drink, so we’ve assembled our top 15 food and wine stories for 2023. Don’t go to the beach this year without reading what’s number one.

15. ‘Only one outside a big city’: Griffith’s Bull & Bell ranked in world’s top 101 steak restaurants
by Oliver Jacques


Bull & Bell’s Anthony Fullerton is a classically French-trained chef. Photo: Oliver Jacques.

Griffith’s Bull & Bell has been ranked among the world’s top 101 steak restaurants, placing it on an elite list of establishments in cities such as New York, London, Sydney, Madrid and Buenos Aires.

It was the only Australian eatery in the meticulously judged list not located in either Sydney or Melbourne; and one of only a handful outside a major city of less than a million people.

14. Local history and cultural identity make a delicious combination at Smokey Horse
by Lucy Ridge

Karuna Ratna Bajracharya behind the Smokey Horse Bar.

Karuna Ratna Bajracharya runs Smokey Horse with wife Karuna Gurung. Photo: Lucy Ridge.

Looking at Smokey Horse in Braidwood you might think it’s a bit odd to have a Nepali restaurant in a small country town. But, as owner Karuna Ratna Bajracharya explains, his family has a long history in the town.

“We moved here in 1984 or five, and it was a bit of a culture shock at the time for a half Nepali, half Aussie family! But we grew up here, I was school captain at the local school and even ran for local government,” Karuna told Region.

“Back in the day my mum ran a food caravan. We used to do a lot of the local regional festivals all over the place so I guess this community has been eating our curry and momos (handmade Nepali dumplings) for nearly 40 years.”

13. Cartel Taqueria: Queanbeyan just got a lot more divertido!
by Michelle Taylor

Tex-Mex food

A real Tex-Mex feast. Photo: Ben Calvert.

Resistance has proved futile: you might well arrive at Cartel Taqueria in gym clothes, determined to keep lifestyle goals clearly in sight. You’ll still find yourself consuming a small burro’s weight in tacos, tortilla chips and queso, and tres leches cake, washed down with frozen margaritas.

Owners, Anna and Gina Petridis, have delighted and amazed Canberrans for years with their unique signature deliciousness at Patissez Café and, more recently, at Crack Bakery. Now their Tex Mex feasts at Queanbeyan are well-nigh irresistible.

12. North of Eden’s creamy oyster shell gin a pearler for small Sapphire Coast distillery
by Katrina Condie

man and woman on fence

Gavin Hughes and Karen Touchie operate the North of Eden Distillery on their rural property. Photo: David Rogers Photography.

Fresh local oysters are a popular summer treat, but what happens to all those shells?

A Bega distiller has found the perfect way to recycle the region’s Sydney Rock Oyster shells and, at the same time, has created one of the country’s finest and most distinctive gins.

Australia’s gin queen Caroline Ashford has described the North of Eden Distillery’s Oyster Shell Gin, made from locally sourced shells alongside saltbush, juniper and citrus, as “an absolute cracker”.

11. Meet the Makers: Braidwood Food Company keeps it simply delicious
by Lucy Ridge

Man holding tray of pasta

Tim Wimborne’s motto at Braidwood Food Co is ”Keep it simple”. Photo: Lucy Ridge.

Tim Wimbourne had already had careers as a chef and photojournalist overseas when he purchased a property outside of Braidwood with his wife Meraiah Foley. They knew they wanted to do something with the land but couldn’t decide what kind of farmers they wanted to be.

After an audit by an ecologist from Land for Wildlife, they realised they already had several native mountain pepper plants growing on their property and decided to cultivate an orchard.

They’d managed to grow about 500 plants when the whole lot was destroyed by the fires in late 2019, but Tim and Meraiah have overcome adversity to found a food company that exemplifies everything local, simple and high quality.

10. Move over wine tours: Ale trail expands after growth in South Coast microbreweries
by Kellie O’Brien

Steve and Andrew Prosser from Gerringong’s Stoic Brewing. Photo: Supplied.

The South Coast has traditionally attracted wine connoisseurs who hop from vineyard to cellar door, but the rise of microbreweries has brought craft beer to the fore.

To highlight that, Nigel Ayling created the South Coast Ale Trail in 2021 featuring 80 beers from 11 craft breweries spanning 370 kilometres from Wollongong to Pambula as a way to showcase the South Coast brewers who are creating a variety of unique tasting products.

Nigel, who runs a digital marketing agency at Merimbula and is president of the Bega Valley Shire Chamber of Commerce, has brought marketing know-how to the coast’s booming food, wine and beer scene.

9. A shell with a view: The Oyster Barn dishes up delicious local seafood
by Lucy Ridge

Display of delicious looking seafood taken from above.

The oyster barn menu features the oysters farmed on the lake by Merimbula Gourmet Oysters, and other local seafood. Photo: Lucy Ridge.

Down a dirt track off the Princes Highway between Millingandi and Pambula there’s a gourmet treat, perched on the edge of Lake Merimbula.

The Oyster Barn is the retail outlet for Merimbula Gourmet Oysters, and they’ve become a favourite for locals and visitors ‘in the know’ – and these days there are a lot more of them.

Despite the busy atmosphere it’s still a gourmet treat to find yourself a place to perch at the bar on the deck among the mangroves, looking out over the oyster farms on the lake.

8. Meet Yass’s latest business champions – they snagged first place in a national competition
by Sally Hopman

Butchers hbolding up sausages

Staff of DJ’s Family Butchery, Yass, celebrate winning the title of best beef sausages in regional NSW and the ACT. Photo: Supplied.

Yass Valley folk have known it for years – but it’s now official: when it comes to the best traditional snags in town, you don’t go past DJ’s Family Butchery in the main street of town.

The butchery, which has been run by Jarrod Clifford for the past two years, has won the 2023 Australian Meat Industry Council award for the best beef sausages in the ACT and regional NSW, to the delight of Jarrod, his apprentice Kaitlin Luff who made the prize-winning sausages, the three other butchers on staff and his two “clean-up girls”.

7. From London to Goulburn: gastropub chef makes his mark on the local culinary scene
by John Thistleton

Paul Carr learned the basics of cooking from his time working 16-hour days in London for little return other than experience. Photo: John Thistleton.

Paul Carr’s culinary career has taken him to London, Spain and Amsterdam. His next stop: Goulburn, where he is making his mark on the restaurant scene with gastropub-style cooking.

The European-trained chef is in Goulburn building a following for his Sunday roasts and restaurant-quality food in the Southern Railway Hotel. Paul Carr is checking out seafood at FishCo Fish Market wholesalers in Canberra, different cuts from Marulan Meats and trialling bigger, shared dishes and serving dishes like scotch egg, toad in the hole, seafood pie and enormous steaks.

6. Braidwood local Casanova’s cafe is winning hearts
by Lucy Ridge

Casanova's sign on building

Tucked off the main street, it’s worth seeking out Casanova’s. Photo: Lucy Ridge.

Casanova’s is a local cafe and restaurant tucked away off the main street in a rustic, high ceilinged space with exposed wooden beams and an open kitchen. It immediately feels cosy and comfortable, with families and friends greeting each other as they come and go.

Co-owner Joe Lawrence explains that they are very much a space for the locals.

“I’d never really lived in a small town like this before but it’s been really nice just getting to know everyone. Because we’re a little bit tucked away we really rely on the local trade,” he told Region.

5. New mother-daughter distillery proves just the tonic for Wee Jasper
by Sally Hopman

Two women

Daughter-and-mother team Shannon and Jennie Kellett with some of the botanicals used in their gin distillery at Wee Jasper. Photo: Wee Jasper Distillery.

Shannon Kellett loved a gin and tonic at the end of a hard day. She also had an equally soft spot for the village of Wee Jasper, just outside Yass, with its stunning views of the Brindabellas and closeness to the Murrumbidgee River.

Seems that the two were destined to go together, like, well, a G&T. With her mother, Jennie Kellett, the two women opened Wee Jasper Distillery and cellar door, selling gin and vodka Shannon makes, using local botanicals.

4. Moruya Artisan Factory showcases best of coast in heritage style
by Lucy Ridge

Aerial shot of cheese factory

The Factory is in a residential neighbourhood, but Sue Melotte says she’s had wonderful support from locals. Photo: David Rogers Photography.

Sue Melotte fell in love with the ramshackle old Cheddar House cheese factory in Moruya and has dedicated the past six years to restoring and renovating the heritage building. Now, 52 years after it closed, there’s life in the factory again with a craft brewery and cafe and bar up and running, and big plans for the rest of the space.

While Sue had initially planned to reintroduce a working cheese factory in the historic space, she realised that the possibility of cross-contamination between the beer yeasts and cheese yeasts was too high. So instead she’s planning a cheese cave, where she can purchase and then age cheeses from elsewhere on the coast and even from around the world.

3. Paul fills long order from Kythira to Crookwell and Goulburn
by John Thistleton

Paul Cassimatis has served people for 70 years. He sells fish crumbed, battered or grilled, chicken schnitzels, chiko rolls and sometimes has people asking him for photos with his hamburgers, or potato scallops. Photo: John Thistleton.

A typical 13-hour day for quintessential Greek cafe owner, Paul Cassimatis begins with putting out his blackboard menus, mixing his batter and deep frying or grilling fish, making hamburgers and bacon-and-egg rolls – and he’s earned a strong local following.

So typical of Greek cafes in the 1950s, the cafe’s laminated tabletops gleam under framed picture postcards of Kythira, the Greek island with sun-drenched beaches from where Paul left to sail for 23 days to Australia, joining family members who owned the Black and White milk bar in Sydney’s Martin Place and Taylor Square.

2. Nepali adventure with food in the former Forked restaurant
by John Thistleton

Rajan Gurung and Raj Acharya formed a partnership in Goulburn, launched their first venture on the Federal Highway and have returned to re-open the former Forked restaurant under a new name. Photo: John Thistleton.

A chef and barista who met in Goulburn’s Paragon Cafe’s kitchen will be giving a new restaurant, cafe and bar a red-hot go in the city’s main street.

Business partners Rajan Gurung and Raj Acharya came to Australia about 14 years ago and met two years ago as kitchen hand and barista at the Paragon Cafe in Goulburn.

And while Australians up for an adventure sometimes travel to Nepal to climb Mount Everest, the two adventurous Nepalis are in Goulburn facing their own mountainous challenge to reinvent the former Forked premises.

1. Seven crazy good coffee stops from Mogo to Narooma
by Lisa Herbert

A shot of Brazilian from Alfresco Coffee Roasters will get you sorted. Photo: Lisa Herbert

A shot of Brazilian from Alfresco Coffee Roasters will get you started on your coastal sojourn. Photo: Lisa Herbert.

It’s been over two years since we last visited the wonderful cafes of the South Coast but once again the pristine nature and glorious turquoise waters beckon, and soothe. Here’s a selection of excellent coffeehouses after a recent trip to the coast.

Please contact individual businesses for summer hours as staffing issues on the coast are still affecting some offerings and opening times. Be kind and enjoy the vibe of our fabulous coffee culture from Mogo to Narooma.

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