Winding your way along the Far South Coast means you can visit eateries that will float your boat in one way or another: with fresh produce, gorgeous views, an eclectic environment, tiki cocktails, French method, or simply great cooking.
Lunch or dinner, surprises are waiting for you this season.
Shop 5 73-79 Lamont Street, Bermagui
Upstairs at the Fishermen’s Wharf in Bermagui, this casual Italian restaurant looks over the village’s fishing-boat harbour.
Settle in to the red leather banquettes of this large, comfy dining room, or perch outside on the deck with a glass of wine. Perhaps a spritz and some antipasti are all you’re looking for, or an excellent red wine and three-course dinner; this is simple Italian food that explores the produce of the region and serves great pasta.
Along with its sister providore, Il Passaggio produces its own house-made pasta, sauces and more. Also worth checking out is its shop in the main street of Bermi. Simple Italian-style pizzas are also available to take away. Must try: the legendary polenta chips with smoky tomato sugo. Open for dinner Wednesday to Sunday (more days in the high season).
3/5 Wallaga Lake Rd, Bermagui
Nerine Hoek’s eatery has a reputation for simple, hearty cooking – think Mediterranean with a South African touch. The locals flock here for great burgers with fat fries, occasional dishes such as the Bobotie, a South African favourite of minced meat, fruit chutney and egg, classic seafood dishes and abundant breakfasts including eggs Benedict and laden bacon and egg rolls, using fresh seasonal ingredients and delivered by friendly staff.
Octopii serves Allpress coffee and excellent baked goods throughout the day – muffins, cheesecakes, scones and tarts. Indoors or outdoors, this is a friendly space, popular with the locals. Open for breakfast and lunch from Wednesday to Sunday. Must try: the burgers … big, balanced and non-greasy.
1 Bate Street, Central Tilba
You may find yourself in this unique little joint, sipping spirits from a tea cup while breathing in the aromas of smoked delights. Lucky you.
Enjoy a small plate of pork sausage or Narooma oysters, Jarvis Bay mussels with smoked tomato, or a larger plate of smoked chicken breast, or pork belly and peach, perhaps a smoked lamb shoulder with fermented cumin, or a smoked pumpkin and dukkha salad with truffle dressing.
A must try are the steamed kipfler potatoes with a whiskey and herb butter, and the rich dark-chocolate mousse. Hosted by the convivial Chris Scroggs (the brains behind the original Quarterdeck), you can enjoy this inviting, unique bar and eatery from Wednesday to Sunday for dinner, with music every Sunday.
Riverside Drive, Narooma
Resting on the boards over the clear, aqua waters of Wagonga Inlet, this tiki bar and grill will lift your spirits and fill you with happiness and robust flavours.
Loads of seafood, fresh Latin flourishes, spectacular tiki-style cocktails, great service and those wraparound water views. It’s open seven days during the summer season, and you’ll enjoy big serves of golden corn chips and guacamole with salsa roja, the tastiest grilled scallops, bounteous fish tacos, local oysters, big bowls of mussels, crispy fish and chips, and more. Desserts are worth indulging in and the vibe is always up, but staring out over changing colours of the inlet is calming and so photographable. Must try: the frozen pina colada made with Brazilian Cachaca.
The Air Raid Tavern, Moruya Street, Moruya
Exquisite weekly menus of produce-driven dishes are presented by French chef Elsa Marie and her partner, Australian chef Julian May. The eclectic environs of The Air Raid Tavern and an excellent wine list add to the character and feel of this couple’s wonderful food.
Think pancetta, walnuts and pickled carrots, or confit zucchini with Stracciatella chilli and mint. There may be a beef tartare on the menu, or quail with polenta, a perfect tart, or a layered tagine. This season, try the Araluen peaches with kefir and lemon verbena mousse, local rhubarb and blueberries.
The atmosphere is one of diners enjoying themselves and changing menus that constantly celebrate the region’s produce. Thursday and Friday evenings feature small plates to share or a surprise set menu. If you are dreaming of a heaven where they serve French country food, get yourself to Moruya posthaste!
Please note: Lisa Herbert dines at her own expense.