One of the things I like best about Canberra is the opportunity it presents for weekends away. Certainly, it’s more common to like a place for what’s inside it than what’s outside it. In Canberra’s case, though, the combination of some beautiful spots within a two hour drive and a culture of escaping town pretty regularly makes for the kind of glorious weekends away that make the Monday morning exchange of weekend stories frequently inspiring.
Last weekend, A and I dashed away to the south coast, a little more than two hours from Canberra. Celebrating A’s excellent week, we found a place that I’ve been eager to blog about ever since. It is Tyler’s Pantry, in Mogo, on the Eurobodalla coast (Facebook page here).
Tyler’s Pantry is a cafe, most of the time, with tasty sandwiches featuring slow-cooked meats and local salmon, good coffee and an inviting outdoor courtyard. On Fridays and Saturdays, they also serve dinner.
It is a rustic space, sparse but warm, a converted cottage with plenty of wood and lots of space between the tables. There are quirky decorating touches, like a milk crate on a big central table, filled with old-school milk bottles, each in turn filled with a single native flower. It is a small operation, and the arrival of dining parties is spaced carefully so as to keep food coming smoothly from the kitchen.
Dinner is rather confusingly offered as either two courses, four courses, or six courses. (We pondered that offering a choice of either three, four or five courses might have been a better idea – two courses would be meagre, and six courses gigantic.) A and I opted for four courses each, and shared five savoury dishes and three sweet dishes.
And what a feast it was.
Highlights included duck breast with blueberries; smoked potato with black garlic and manchego cheese; roasted leather jacket with its own skin as crackling; and my favourite savoury dish, venison with dried marigolds, served with a chunk of fresh honeycomb to squeeze onto the meat. Not everything is perfect (a lamb rump with peas and mint was less interesting, and a little tough), but it’s all beautifully prepared by a chef who must be having fun.
There were more surprises with desserts – a tasty but standard raspberry soufflé, followed by an adult interpretation of an apple roll-up (complete with riesling sorbet and solidified walnut oil). And then, in a spectacular finale, a white chocolate egg arrived nestled in dark chocolate crumbs. Our waitress smothered it in orange caramel, hiding a passionfruit curd revealed by our spoons cracking the egg as the caramel hardened. (As A remarked, it was a brave and unfortunate soul who had to wash the solid caramel off that plate.)
I suspect I am more predisposed to like a restaurant like Tyler’s Pantry than one in the city. There is the coastal air, the holiday mood, the relaxed charm of the service. But I think we would have been similarly impressed with this place had we discovered it (swarming with people) in Sydney or Melbourne or London.
This is so particularly because it is BYO ($9 per bottle) as well as licensed, and because the best dinner we have had in a while came to less than $130.
I have only two warnings. First, we only just managed a booking on a Friday night, and they haven’t been serving dinner long. And second, you might just miss out on that lovely egg: menus change daily based on the availability of local produce.