When it comes to short getaways from the Central Coast, for some of us the compass tends to automatically point north. Not this time!
The mere thought of battling the traffic at the Sydney end of the M1 and floundering your way through the myriad freeway options, M2, M4, M7 and so on, is enough to put you off. Because we are north of the “big smoke” it can seem much more time-efficient to head up the coast. I’m one of these people, but silly me!
Recently, Breeze entered a photo in an art festival competition held on the South Coast. It was done at the encouragement of a dear South Coast friend, sent off without a thought. Much to our delight it won! The prize – accommodation for two in a beachside cottage and dinner for two at a newly established restaurant called Tallwood. Obviously it would be crazy to pass it up. I was forced to point my compass away from north. So I packed up my little family and headed off … south!
We strategically left at 10am on a Friday morning hoping to miss much of the traffic. Google maps had told us that the trip would take up to 4 hours, so we plotted a feed stop for my little boy and set off.
There was the usual traffic through Pennant Hills (and some slightly panicky motorway changes) but otherwise the trip is a steady and relaxed one, especially for any M1 commuting veteran. There are so many options to break up the trip with sensational stops at Berry, Kangaroo Valley, Kiama, Gerringong and Geroa just to name a few. These places are such a contrast to our own landscape and if you haven’t travelled in this direction for some time I highly recommend you remind yourself of how stunning the South Coast is.
With one stop for lunch, bottle-feed and a stretch of the legs we arrived at our accommodation at 3pm. We were met at Mollymook Beach View by Ken, a knowledgable local. Mollymook Beach View is a beautifully renovated original weatherboard holiday home a couple of doors up from Mollymook Beach. With a fair few options of the hotel and apartment type we were definitely happy with our lot. Dinner was booked for 7.30pm so we got ourselved sorted and relaxed.
Taking a look on Facebook, Tallwood looked stunning. Very fresh and impeccably fitted out. A quick glance at the website and based on where head chef Matt Upson has worked previously stirred a culinary excitement that increased by the minute. I had purposely not eaten much that day and it might be an understatement to say that I couldn’t wait to get there. Lets go!
Mollymook has one of the South Coast’s most popular beaches. It is a beautiful stretch of golden sand with a grassy reserve behind. There is a beautiful 9-hole golf course at the southern end of the beach and the golf club there has breathtaking views. Mollymook and the surrounding area has a great range of eating options for a small seaside town. Heaven for the foodlover!
Mollymook Beach View is an original 1950s weatherboard beach house. The outside retains all its original charm while the inside has been sympathetically renovated to create very comfortable self-catering accommodation for couples. It’s in a prime position, just up from the beach, with plenty of coffee options around. The front verandah (shown above) is ideal for sitting with a book and watching the waves roll in.
On arrival, we were pleased to see plenty of parking spaces available for guests next to the restaurant. We parked and began our usual ritual of unpacking pram, moving baby into pram, loading baby supplies on top and underneath pram and finally stowing assorted camera gear and lenses. Just short of requiring four Sherpa and a pack-horse, we rattled our way towards the entrance.
The first thing I noticed was the mix of people out the front and inside, both young and older, families and couples, all happily enjoying their Friday night out.
I had seen pictures of the interior on Facebook, but they really didn’t do the place justice. You’re instantly wowed by a large feature wall and bar dressed in a beautiful local blue gum. This is complemented by a mix of oranges, blacks and creams in the furnishings, giving the space an overall warmth which is created immediately upon arrival.
The staff somehow recognized us as we arrived (maybe the camera gear strategically placed on top of and around my son?). It was no problem for the them to find a comfortable area for us with the pram.
By this stage I was tingling with excitement as I must have researched the menu for over an hour … Recently becoming a dad again, and after months of late night bottle feeding, nappy changing, the thought of an evening of fine dining had me somewhat chomping at the bit …
Our hostess Chelsea made us aware that Head Chef Matt Upson had given us carte blanche, whatever we wanted, to enjoy and indulge in a night on Tallwood. My excitement threshold was quickly approaching … I let Michelle choose her entrée and main. Meticulously rehearsed. I ordered. And might I see the wine list please Chelsea?!
As we visited Tallwood in December, the restaurant was decorated for Christmas decorations and one in particularly had caught my attention. Underneath the bar, lit up with lights, an advent calendar made up of beautiful pictures and numbered cards. Along the back wall a stunning collection of local surf art for sale.
We were treated all night with an assortment of fine food that was nothing short of amazing. Tastes that I’ll never forget. Portuguese fish cakes with saffron mayonnaise; duck rillette with piccalilli and house bread; roasted duck breast with leg confit, braised lentils and baby carrots; local Eden black-lipped oysters … and the list went on.
Matt has an impressive resume behind him, including stints at Southern Ocean Lodge on Kangaroo Island and Capella at Lord Howe Island before returning to the South Coast. Business partner Clayton Till has a background in building, hence the stunning timber fit-out.
They originally partnered up on Merry Street Restaurant & Bar in Kioloa, further south, which quickly established its reputation. They were then invited to open a restaurant in Mollymook.
Tallwood opened in early 2013 and hit its stride straight away. They get an eclectic crowd with a lot of locals supporting the restaurant as well as the holiday-home crowd.
The food at Tallwood looks quite complex but at its root is a philosophy of good, simple food. Much of the produce is locally sourced and the menu changes regularly with food that is designed to be shared and enjoyed with friends.
For both Matt and Clayton the key to Tallwood’s success is the service and relaxed atmosphere. Matt likes nothing better than to see the same people in regularly. With such an influx of holidaymakers its not unusual to see people in for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
In the burgeoning food scene in and around Mollymook, Tallwood is a stand-out. Do yourself a favour and get down there yourself. Tell Matt that Tim from Breeze Magazine sent you!