6 July 2021

Merivale to open paddock-to-plate bistro pop-up at The Whale Inn in Narooma

| Hannah Sparks
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Julian May and Elsa Marie

Moruya locals and chefs Julian May and Elsa Marie will partner with Merivale to run a paddock-to-plate bistro pop-up at The Whale Inn from late July. Photo: We Are Example.

No more than three weeks into its ownership of The Whale Inn and Restaurant in Narooma and Merivale has revealed exciting plans for the coastal venue.

Later this month, The Whale Inn will play host to an intimate paddock-to-plate bistro pop-up run by Moruya locals and chefs Elsa Marie and Julian May of Chez Dominique.

‘Chez Dominique at The Whale’ will draw on humble French roots with creative seasonal cooking that celebrates local South Coast produce.


The French-Australian couple has built close relationships with local farmers, producers, and artisans to create authentic, fuss-free dishes that let the ingredients speak for themselves.

Vegetables will be the stars of the show, all picked from four local farms the pair cherish: Borrowed Ground growers, Queen Street growers, Old Mill Road farm and Stepping Stone farm.

Elsa, Julian and The Whale Inn kitchen team will also be growing and harvesting a variety of vegetables and herbs on site.

Vegetables will be accompanied by fresh, locally caught whole fish and oysters from Narooma; grass-fed pork and beef raised and butchered by Ian and Rhys Martin of free-range Martin’s Ridge Farm; and duck from the regenerative farm, Tathra Place, in Taralga.

Dairy is provided by Tilba and Bodalla farms, fresh eggs will come from the chefs’ chickens, Thelma and Louise, as well as Bega Valley free-range eggs.

Sourdough will be baked daily in-house using all organic flours, grains, pulses and sugars.

“We have fallen in love with all of the incredible ingredients the Eurobodalla Shire has to offer. We have a strong passion for local, high quality, sustainable produce and wine and can’t wait to share our cooking with the local community,” said Julian and Elsa.

After more than a decade in renowned kitchens throughout Europe and Australia (Septime, Saint-Europe, Brawn and 10 William Street), including their own acclaimed bistro in the 20th arrondissement of Paris named La Vierge, Elsa and Julian returned to Australia last year.

They moved to the South Coast to learn more about organic farming and give their food a unique meaning.

After settling in Moruya and missing being in the kitchen, they launched Chez Dominique, offering private dinners in nearby homes and popping up along the coast. They quickly won the hearts of locals.

READ ALSO: Braidwood Bakery moving to new home after 89 years

They will welcome guests to their table at The Whale Inn for the next few months.

In June, Merivale took over The Whale Inn from the late Matthew Deveson and Jen Houghton Deveson who owned the venue for 15 years.

The news came two months after Merivale also announced its purchase of The Quarterdeck in Narooma.

It was a surprise to those who assumed Melbourne would be the likely destination for Merivale to break away from its Sydney base.

However, the South Coast has become a second home in recent years for Merivale CEO Justin Hemmes.

The billionaire hotelier purchased a property at Glasshouse Rocks in Narooma in 2015 and has made no secret of his love for the town or region since.

“Narooma has become my second home and the backdrop to so many of my happiest memories with my family. I think it is one of the most beautiful spots in the world,” he said.

Merivale has already begun renovations at The Whale Inn, which means the restaurant has closed for a short while. However, the accommodation remains open.

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Janene Collins10:33 am 12 Jul 21

Why do these stories never raise the allegations of underpayment other wise known as wage theft & bullying of staff by Hemmes & the Merivale Co.

It’s fantastic that this initiative is being undertaken more widely. I know it’s very traditional & something most cultures take a great deal of pride in.

As someone involved in the mass distribution of food stuffs on a national scale, I am becoming increasingly horrified at the volume of manufactured food that is being imported.

Much of the imported product is actually packaging and consumes enormous amounts of time & energy to distribute.

Local growers, providence and chefs is the best way to combat the undermining of our gastronomic futures.

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