Tuesday, February 24, 2009

sun, sea, rain, fish and roos

The flight from Melbourne to Canberra was smoke haze from end to end. Once the car park had been navigated, the SE sprinted me away from the nation’s capital and off to the blue beyond.

ACT and NSW were green and lush. I spent the first couple of days exclaiming “water!” like an excited child every time we crossed a river. After the parched earth of Victoria it was like entering some kind of Neverland.

Our first pleasant culinary surprise was in the delightful town of Braidwood. Snuggled in a wooded valley between Canberra and Bateman’s Bay, a town as cute as a button that yielded a wonderful eatery, the Albion Café. I’m not sure what the local’s first thought when their iconic pub, that deco style typical of all hotels of the age, was turned into a modern restaurant. One of those city gems found in the perfect country setting, I knew we were onto a winner the moment we walked over the threshold in search of a late lunch.

We sat at on comfortable seats, gratefully plonked down at a table. The menu was small but even for a fussy eater, I found enough choice to make me feel spoilt. The SE opted for a generous roast lamb sandwich ($10), while I went for the smoked trout salad ($16). The city slicker waiter was apologetic; sorry the delivery of trout was delayed. The downside of being in the country being that supplies could be unreliable. So too the glass of sauvignon blanc I ordered, replaced by a local pinot gris that was delicious and reasonably priced. My substituted smoked salmon salad came with roasted beetroot and potatoes on a bed of greens, garnished with thin spears of asparagus. The horseradish mayonnaise was light-on herbal pepperiness but a perfect lunch that restored my appetite. I’d cleared the plate for the first time in weeks.

Reluctantly we left and drove on through the forest. After a pit stop at Coles, to pick over the worst “fresh” produce I had seen in a while we headed off for our first night under canvas. I’d chosen Murrmarang National Park as suitable spot and left it to the SE to choose between the three beachside camping areas to head for. He selected the largest and furtherest away – Pretty Beach. It lived up to it’s name and although the 70 sites were small in National Park terms, it was sparsely populated with the roos and wallabies far outnumbering the humans.

It’s been a while since I’ve been camping and I was scratching to remember my old repertoire. One pot dishes work best on a small stove but after frolicking in the sea almost anything tastes good. We came up trumps on the second night when our vegetable Sri Lankan style curry expanded with fresh fish, an ocean salmon caught by our neighbour. I will never cease to be amazed at how many guys who like to fish, do not eat their catch.

Our trip home revealed no culinary gems. A pub meal in Tathra that specialised in jumbo serves of meat or seafood battered and fried, a rubbery stack of corn “fritters” the size of frisbees in Eden, The same town served up the worst coffee I’ve tasted in a while. When I sipped the local water I understood why, undrinkable in any form.

The sea air, vibrant greens, splashing in the waves and nights under the stars has restored my soul for a while.

Thanks for hanging in there while I’ve been off the air!

Albion Cafe
119 Wallace Street
Phone: (02) 4842 1422

our spot on pretty beach

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Blogger F.G. Marshall-Stacks said...

There will be even more 'worst fresh produce' in the near future and we will be glad to get it.
I always wonder how the poor market-gardeners manage to raise,harvest and ship a kilo of broccoli for only $X; and have been saying for some time now, that in the future everyone will want 5 acres to grow their own food (and will find out how hard and costly it is).
Braidwood was where the 1969 Ned Kelly movie was filmed - look for the DVD - Jagger's performance of The Wild Colonial Boy is one of the best ever movie musical moments.

9:24 am  
Blogger Zoe said...

Oh, I'm so glad you enjoyed a little break. Murramurang is very pretty, and Braidwood is ace. I have fantasies of running a little cafe there ;)

1:19 pm  
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