Thelma and Louise hit the road again! Ahem I mean I am hitting the road with Queen Viv to attend the Narooma Oyster Festival. When Mr NQN wasn't able to get time off work I knew who to ask immediately-the woman who had driven for an hour to get some oysters and champagne. So on this chilly autumn day we set off for a the drive to Narooma. We pass through small towns-we can't really stop as we need to be at Moruya for lunch and we pass location names such as Cockway Creek, Wheelbarrow road and Mount Agony road and after a 4.5 hour drive and one very ordinary, forgettable sandwich along the way, we arrive for lunch at The River restaurant where we meet Cath.
The restaurant is owned and run by three chefs originally from Melbourne called Toby, Tim and Peter. The building was built by an architect who moved here from Sydney as he wanted a venue where he could entertain his friends. The three young chefs worked here for a while and then returned to Melbourne but missed it so much that they bought it from him a few years later. The menu changes every season and on the first Friday of every month they host a producer's dinner for $60 a head where the producers themselves come in and discuss their produce with the diners. The produce is mostly local and organic where possible and there is a slow food movement here.
The service is friendly and there is the a la carte menu as well as a set menu which is great value with 2 courses for $40. Queen Viv eyeballs the eel while I like the idea of the lambs brains-apparently this is always on the menu as diners won't allow them to take it off!
Lambs brains $18
They assured us that they wouldn't come out looking too brain like as Cath has never tried them and is hesitant. Instead they come out resembling croquettes with a pool of sauce gribiche which is like a tartare style sauce with pickles and boiled egg. The lambs brains are crumbed in herbs and parmesan. Cutting into them, they're soft and spongey and rich (and incidentall a reader told me that brains are very high in cholesterol). They actually seem like the perfect filling for a croquette and I wonder why we haven't seen this done more. Indeed the waitress tells us of a diner who comes in with his wife and he orders brains for an entree and then a main and while she has dessert, he orders another serve of brains!
Mille Feuille of smoked eel in toasted pumpernickel, cucumber and cornichon salad $19
The lightly smoked eel salad in very thin toasted pumpernickel is delicious. The paper thin pumpernickel is crunchy and the eel is differently prepared to what I'm used to (Japanese style) and it's like a smoked trout but very, very rich.
Beetroot tart fine, goat's cheese cream, rocket, balsamic reduction $19
I try a bit of Cath's beetroot pastry and it's delicious, with a flakey buttery distinctly layered pastry.
Cannelloni of blue swimmer crab, seared scallops, cauiflower puree, beurre blanc $20
This was an easy choice-and it was elegantly presented with the crab filled cannelloni tubes and fat scallops. The crab is flavoursome and strong and rich in flavour with a beurre blanc sauce.
_Roasted saddle of organic rabbit, chorizo, spinach, pastilla of confit leg, carrot puree, maderia jus $35
Queen Viv's rabbit is very rich and comes in three cylinders. They also use that multi layered pastry baked around an rabbit pie.
_Pan fried sage gnocchi, rosted pumpkin, caramelised onion, spinach, parmesan and pine nuts $ 28
The gnocchi is soft and spongey and rich with pumpkin and sage. It's a very generous sized serve!
Assiette of chocolate $18
We all agree that if we share three desserts then that obviously negates any calroies consumed (and surely this means that we only eat a third of the dessert right? ;)) so we start with the chocolate assiette which has a dark chocolate brownie, a chocolate creme brulee and a white chocolate and lavender ice cream. The ice cream is rich and creamy with a distinct lavender flavour whilst the dark chocolate brownie is rich and thick and the creme brulee light on the chocolate with a crispy crunch on top.
Baked honey and macadamia nut cheesecake with poached pear sorbet $16
The cheesecake is undeniably the star dish. The crust is buttery and crumbly and delicate. It has macadmaias interspersed throughout the slender slice and it comes with crunchy toffee pieces that resemble amber chips and a refreshing pear sorbet (all sorbets are made in house).
Poached quince tart, granola and rhubarb and ginger sorbet $16
This was the prettiest dessert with that gorgeous pale quince blush pink echoed on the tart and in the ginger sorbet. The tart is made from very dry and crispy pastry and topped with tender quince slices and granola which Queen Viv find is a bit too dry for her whilst Cath and I both like the crunchiness. It is the end to a fantastic meal!
We then take the 45 minute drive to Narooma. Later that evening we head back to the Whale Inn for the cocktail party where the local luminaries, media and politicans are hob nobbing over champagne and canapes. Julie Goodwin from Masterchef Season 1 is in the corner with her incredibly tall husband (and I thought there was a big height difference with Mr NQN and I!). Queen Viv and I don't want a terribly late night and we're getting peckish for oysters so we get a table the The Whale Inn's restaurant and the choice is made instantly and quickly: a dozen each of your oysters natural please! We also order a seafood tasting plate for good measure.
Seafood platter $33
The seafood tasting plate arrives and again I recall the very generous servings from our last meal here. There is smoked salmon with a mascarpone, a grilled oyster with a gorgeous white balsamic saffron sabayon (I don't usually like grilled oysters but this is lovely and not flavour killing like a kilpatrick can be), tender and very lightly battered salt and pepper calamari, a gigantic, fat fish cake with tartare sauce, a fish fillet with wasabi which is a strong combination that overwhelms it slightly and lastly there is a crumbed fish fillet with a peanutty Thai salad which goes very well together.
A dozen oysters $36
The oysters arrive on a long green glass plate and come with a white miso dressing and finger limes - that gorgeous green caviar like flesh of the finger lime. I make fast yet satisfying work of these creamy, briney kisses. Queen Viv and I look at each other and say "Could we do some more" and before you know it, we're ordering another dozen to share.
So tell me Dear Reader, do you like oysters?
_NQN and Queen Viv travelled to Narooma as guests of Eurobodalla Tourism _
16 Church St, Moruya NSW
Tel: +61 (02) 4474 5505
The Whale Motor Inn
104 Wagonga St, Narooma, NSW
Tel: +61 (02) 4476 2411