The Shoalhaven is a large region towards the south coast of New South Wales enviably settled between expansive coastlines and unspoilt mountains. A single road trip can take you across a variety of charming villages and welcoming beachside towns, inevitably with some irresistible food stops along the way.
Guided by Shoalhaven Tourism, we visited some well-known foodie destinations in the region as well as some lesser known but locally-adored favourites. If you love fresh seafood, fresh produce, cheese and wine, chocolate, lush green landscapes, and learning all about a region’s best culinary offerings from passionate and friendly locals then read on and add some of these places to your next holiday itinerary.
Our first stop along the Shoalhaven Foodie Trail was Cupitt’s Winery in Ulladulla. Over the years, the property has seen rapid expansion, with the Cupitt family’s boutique award-winning winery now joined by a restaurant, a micro-brewery and, most recently, a fromagerie. Aside from this, the grounds are just beautiful – a perfect place to pull out a picnic rug and laze on the grass with a bottle of wine and one of Cupitt’s cheeses.
We booked in for the Cheese & Wine Experience and took a tour of the grounds and had a thorough tasting of the family’s creations. Cupitt’s wines are a direct reflection of what the family itself loves to drink. They’ve prioritised their own tastes over the technical flavour requirements that win top awards in the winemaking industry. The result is range of great tasting wines adored by both locals and visitors for their deep flavours and clean finishes. I always love a good Rosé and found myself especially drawn to Rosie’s Rosé – named after the much-loved Cupitt matriarch who had the dream of opening a winery in Ulladulla and the supportive family to help her bring it to fruition.
Our recommendation? Even if you only stop by for a visit to the cellar door, don’t leave Cupitt’s without trying their Crottin. This goat’s milk cheese is very earthy and robust, and maintains a creamy, fluffy texture. So good.
Milton is home to a number of quaint little cafes that line the main road as you drive through the town. We spent quite a bit of time driving around Milton and definitely felt its charm.
For our accommodation, we stayed in a little studio provided courtesy of Shoalhaven Tourism and Raine & Horne (Mollymook Ulladulla Milton). Aptly named ‘The Green Buddah’, the holiday house is nestled within the Milton country landscape, with rolling hills in the distance and dense native shrubbery providing privacy and a peaceful sense of seclusion. Complete with a bathroom, kitchen, open deck and private pool, the studio provides a lovely alternative for those who want something a little more private than a hotel and want a location immersed in the Australian landscape. The studio itself is comfortable and spacious, but The Green Buddah’s beauty really shines through its outdoor spaces and its extensive views. Possums do roam around a little at night and the Kookaburras will want to give you a good greeting in the morning, so visitors will feel just as immersed in the Australian country backdrop as the house itself.
The Milton Country Retreat, otherwise known as ‘The Chocolate Cottages’, has been embraced by locals and visitors alike. The property currently offers accommodation in a charming, newly-renovated cottage, in addition to Chocolate & Champagne Experiences for those seeking something both very sweet and very special to share with someone dear. Owner Cassandra treats guests to stunning tempered Belgian chocolate creations alongside delicious champagne cocktails. When you look at Cassandra’s creations, it’s clear that a lot of meticulous detail, hard work and passion has gone onto the plate. It almost makes it impossible to eat, but Cassandra assures her guests that half the fun for her is watching them enjoy their chocolate picnics.
The Milton Country Retreat’s appeal is owed in equal parts to the beautiful Belgian chocolate artworks, to Cassandra (the ultimate hostess who radiates warmth and kindness), and the property itself – which offers a tranquil, lush green landscape with an unspoilt view of Pigeon House Mountain. It’s a lovely experience for anyone after a little romance!
The beachside town of Mollymook, situated a short drive half-way between Milton and Ulladulla, offered some of the best food we tasted throughout the entire trip. We dined at Mollymook on two nights, the first of which was at Rick Stein at Bannisters and the second at Tallwood Eatery.
Rick Stein is located at Bannisters by the Sea, one of Mollymook’s two stylish boutique hotels under the Bannisters’ name. The restaurant is well-known as one of the places to dine in the Shoalhaven if you’re after fresh seafood prepared with culinary expertise and keen awareness of complementary flavours. We started with some freshly shucked Narooma Rock Oysters before sharing the Coconut Chilli Prawns with Cumin Puris as an entree. This was served with toasted naan bread and had a sauce that was absolutely divine. Such a description is only appropriate, given the dish features a combination of ingredients that Rick Stein calls ‘the Holy Trinity’ of Indian fish cooking – that is, chilli, coconut and coriander. For any chefs out there, you can find the recipe for this dish in Rick Stein’s cookbook, My Kitchen Table: 100 Fish and Seafood Recipes.
For mains, we ordered the famous Bannisters Fish Pie and the Roasted Duck Breast. The pie had a beautiful creamy fish velouté sauce and included salmon, blue eye, snapper, scallops and prawns, along with mushrooms, black truffles, and a parmesan and breadcrumb top layer. The duck, on the other hand, was served in a red wine sauce alongside pommes puree. Having these two dishes allowed us to gage the skill and expertise across Rick Stein’s menu, and we were not disappointed at all.
The excitement continued with the dessert menu. We ordered the Free Standing Passionfruit Brulee served with a mandarin sorbet and the Valrohna Caramélia Sphere served with an orange and cardamom ice cream. The Valrohna Sphere emerged looking like a delicate artwork, with gold foil and tempered chocolate, and was a subtly sweet end to a very filling main meal. The Passionfruit Brulee, while not as craftily presented, won our tastebuds with its deliciousness. The sweetness of the fruit and the sugary top layer were well balanced with the freshness of the mandarin sorbet, and left us happily satisfied with our Rick Stein dining experiences.
While Rick Stein’s restaurant can be described as the loudly popular gem of Mollymook’s elegant seafood dining scene, Tallwood is a smaller, more understated place to dine that shouldn’t be overlooked. The restaurant has a vibe reminiscent of an art gallery courtesy of the stunning photographs that line the main walls. When we visited, the restaurant exhibited a series of photographs by Sam Walklate, whose images completely capture the magnificence of the local landscape from viewpoints you can’t help but be in awe of. The restaurant manages to pull off this classy vibe without a hint of snobbiness to it. Tallwood is warm, fun and inviting and exudes a casual confidence courtesy of its head chef’s delicious share-focused menu.
The Taro Chips served with Chipotle Aioli are a must-have starter. Being thin, light and crispy, the chips have a delightfully sweet and savoury flavour with the added bonus of not filling you up before you’ve reached the mains. We shared the Pork Belly with Parsnip, Apple, Mustard Greens and Cider Jus and a half serve of the (very large) Tallwood Paella with Chicken, Chorizo, Fish, Prawns, Mussels and Clams. Both dishes conveyed head chef Matt Upson’s ease in dealing with a variety of meats and seafood, and were perfectly emphasised the restaurant’s focus on share plates. The standout for us, however, was the special of the day, a Pan-Fried Snapper served with cabbage puree, broadbeans, tamarind and parsley. The fish was fresh and flaky and was cooked to perfection with a crispy layer on top. The flavour was very clean and complemented well by carefully chosen ingredients. Overall, this dish was a standout.
You’ll never in a million years catch us saying no to a dessert menu. This night was no exception. We had the Vanilla Rice Pudding with Sticky Coconut and Palm Sugar Ice Cream and the White Chocolate Cremeux with Tamarillo and Rhubarb Sorbet. The cremeux (French for “creamy”) was just that: creamy. Mixed with fresh fruit, it was a light dessert with a well-balanced sweetness that was just lovely. The rice pudding, however, is a popular choice at Tallwood and we understood why from the first bite. The still-warm pudding is a perfect contrast with the ice cream and the overall sweetness just makes it a comforting and thoroughly enjoyable dessert from start to finish.
Huskisson in Jervis Bay is a beautiful waterside town to visit. Dolphin- and whale-watching cruises depart regularly from the dock and the impressive white sands of Hyams Beach are only a 15-minute drive away.
We spent an afternoon in Huskisson lunching at Kanpai Japanese Restaurant. Under the guidance of Yoshi Tanimo, the restaurant offers diners authentic Japanese cuisine in a laid-back and fun environment. The first thing you see upon walking into Kanpai is the bar, so naturally we couldn’t resist ordering a couple of cheeky afternoon cocktails. We picked The Wolfe which appealed to my love for coconut cream and rum and Geisha Girl which was so easy to drink with its sweet mixture of Umeshu Sake, vanilla vodka, cranberry juice and cherries.
Having our drinks sorted, we started with the Kanpai Fried Chicken and the Nanban Fried Chicken. This was some of the best fried chicken I’ve ever had – and I’ve grown up in a Filipino household where mum’s fried chicken is an absolute godsend. The meat was juicy and tender. The batter was gloriously crunchy. And the flavours were just amazing. The nanban chicken was dipped in a sweet and sour dressing, while the kanpai chicken was accompanied by an addictive kupi mayo.
We were treated to a spread of Kanpai’s freshly prepared Sushi, Sashimi and Nigiri. There was a mixture of kingfish, salmon and tuna sashimi, as well as salmon nigiri and the Tataki Salmon (Carpaccio) which had a lovely citrus sauce. This was followed by a thorough sampling of the restaurant’s tempura range. We had a mix of the Tempura from the Sea (prawns, oysters, crumbed white fish) and the Tempura from the Garden (selected vegetables). The batter was light and crunchy, and the dipping sauce added a kick of extra flavour.
Dessert was a simple yet effective Green Tea Mousse with Berries. I love green tea desserts so this was right up my alley, with the berries providing the much-needed sweetness to complement the green tea flavour.
If you’re obsessed with Japanese food or you love raw fish then you’d be silly not to visit Kanpai while in the area. The front deck and side deck, complete with a barbeque area, make it a relaxed and enjoyable place to spend your afternoon or night in good company.
Halfway between Huskisson and Berry, we also stopped by Greenwell Point – home to the Shoalhaven’s Kingtide Oysters. We spoke to oyster farmer Anthony Munn about the various stages of oyster farming, and the very hands-on and strenuous work that he and his team must do year-round. Before reaching your plates, oysters go through very long stages of growth under the watchful eye of the farmers. Because they require very specific conditions to thrive, Anthony estimates that they probably lose half the oysters they start with by the time they’re sent out to buyers. It’s definitely hard work, but Anthony has always had a passion for farming and is happy to do the job. And I’m sure all the oyster-loving foodies out there are eternally grateful to him and other oyster farmers for the goodies on their plates!
Berry is one of those towns that everyone who’s been there can’t help but rave about. Located about a 2-hour drive from the Sydney CBD, Berry makes for an ideal day-trip destination. It’s home to a seemingly endless number of cute coffee shops, charming cafes, boutique stores and local foodie gems.
We started our day in Berry at the very busy and very adorable Milkwood Bakery, which specialises in coffee, freshly baked breads and wholefood breakfasts. We ordered our coffees alongside the Haloumi and Egg Roll, complete with a tasty relish, and the Granola with Fruit. I’m a sucker for edible flowers and dishes that are aesthetically pleasing so the granola was my perfect match, even though I usually order dishes that are a bit more hearty. But this filled me up well, and left me happily satisfied with the mixture of both fresh and dried fruits with the yoghurt and granola. Milkwood Bakery has such a calming, peaceful vibe that we could have sat on those benches outside in the sun all day. However, there’s just so much to see in Berry.
One of the best ways to get your fill of Berry is by taking a walking food tour. We booked in with Foodscape Tours and were lucky enough to have Cameron take us around a few local foodie hotspots for some informative chats and taste tests.
Our first stop was Nourish Kitchen + Lifestyle, a coffee shop and concept store owned by Michelle Darlington (from Masterchef Australia, series one). Michelle’s store is like a little paradise for those who love cooking. From gold-speckled pepper and chocolate covered corn to stylish crockery and adorable utensils, everything in Nourish is aimed at adding extra flair to anyone’s kitchen. There’s plenty to see in this store. Make sure to take your time browsing so as not to miss anything!
Next we spoke to John and Linley, owners of Flavours Shoalhaven. The store stocks a range of artisan goods from all around the south coast of NSW, as well as a number of award-winning cheeses and meats. John and Linley are incredibly passionate about every single item they stock on their shelves, and can rattle off fascinating facts and stories related to every producer. They’re strong supporters of all things local in Shoalhaven, and its a real treat to speak to them and hear their recommendations.
The Berry Chocolatier, located right next door to Flavours Shoalhaven, has all your chocolate cravings sorted. Everything is prepared and produced by owners Sonya and Simon and their team, so you can be sure that the chocolate is of the highest quality. The chocolate-coated freeze dried strawberries are packed with flavour and the chocolate honeycomb has a beautiful natural taste (they use actual honey in it, unlike many commercial branded honeycomb sweets). The Berry Chocolatier also does drinks and cakes so it makes for a great place to relax after the tour and to get another chocolate hit.
Our last visit was to South Coast Providores, owned by Berry locals, Geoff and Julie. South Coast Providores sells home-cooked meals, conserves and preserves, and a balsamic vinegar that is to-die-for. Everything is prepared by Julie herself, including the store’s ever popular Far Meadow Lodge baby marinated figs (after taking some home, we can confirm these are great with vanilla ice cream) and dukkha. We were greeted at South Coast Providores with a plate of freshly baked sausage rolls to have with some of their chutneys and relishes, and this feeling of being spoilt rotten with homemade goods lasted for our entire visit.
You could always explore the town on your own, but it’s a bit more special having the inside knowledge of where to go and who to speak to – which is exactly what Cameron was able to provide us with. We learnt just how friendly, passionate and supportive of one another the locals in Berry are – and this shows in their amazing food! We’re already planning another trip there.
I Ate My Way Through visited the Shoalhaven as guests of Shoalhaven Tourism, along with Raine & Horne (Mollymook Ulladulla Milton), Cupitt’s Winery, Milton Country Retreat, Rick Stein at Bannisters, Kanpai Japanese Restaurant, Tallwood Eatery, Milkwood Bakery, and Foodscape Tours.