Famed Australian journalist David Dale often delighted in telling Sydney and Melbourne about Noosa. As a highly respected SMH and Good Food Guide reviewer he spoke of the holiday spot’s relaxed and exciting fine diners.
In his much-loved 1996 travel title ‘Essential Places’ he wrote, “Instead of the mini Miami I had been dreading, the Noosans have somehow managed to put together a combination of inner-city sophistication, resort comfort and untouched nature – Santa Monica without the squalor, St Tropez without the snobbery, a tropical rainforest with good coffee”.
He declared, “… Noosa as the food capital of Australia … has the nation’s highest concentration of imaginative eateries”. That was the mid-nineties, but as we all know Noosa’s dynamic food scene is both bigger and better in 2017. Now many gastronomic tragics count the days until the next Noosa Food and Wine weekend. But 365 days a year Noosa’s got it going on.
It was later in the 90’s when Noosa officially became about surf and sand and sensational food. Award-winning chef Gary Skelton left Sydney’s The Edge for a sea change when he opened Season. He was instrumental in cultivating a food scene that has ensured Noosa’s long-term food cred.
Treating simple, local ingredients with a minimum of fuss was what Season did best back then and still does today. The menu features the freshest of the best with respect. Pescatarians and Vegetarians can rejoice – the menu offers sizzling local fish and shellfish and local vegetables are given a star turn in pizza, pasta, curry as well as salad options.
By day it’s breakfast or coffee a stone’s throw from the sand. At night it’s all about celebrations with many tables ordering multiple bottles of Duval LeRoy, Moet or Louis Roederer.
It seems at Season the whoosh of the ocean alternates with the pop of champagne corks.
Winter never comes to Noosa and it’s after 7pm so we order Solerno Martinis – a sunset coloured mix of Bombay Sapphire, Solerno blood orange liqueur, Chambord and lime juice. Tender lemon peppered squid is served simply on a bed of micro herbs with taramasalata and is both an appetiser and entrée option.
The kitchen knows to never take their delicious crispy beer battered fish and chips off the menu. Succulent lamb back strap is superb with carrots, zucchini and the year’s first broad beans. The 2015 Craggy Range Pinot Noir seems made for it.
I’m overjoyed to see semifreddo on the dessert menu. This is sweet, salty, crunchy, cold, fruity with caramelised popcorn and citrusy sorbet. Wow.
Season is what Australian restaurateurs do best – a laidback atmosphere with serious food on the plate. https://www.seasonrestaurant.com.au/
Sunshine Beach often plays the little brother to Noosa’s glamorous food credentials. Multi-million dollar listings overlooking the beach guarantee a regular local clientele. Embassy XO takes very good care of both the regulars and holidaymakers alike with a menu that seems familiar but continually surprises.
Walk to the top of the stairs from an unremarkable neighbourhood shopping mall and you’ll find a sophisticated space divided into dining room and bar. We can’t think how better to while away an afternoon. Sit at a window table and take in the view of blues skies and even bluer Pacific shaded by pandanus.
Yum Cha banquet is the best way to do lunch at Embassy XO every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Lisa tells us about the menu and pours two glasses of an excellent 2015 Les Copines Aussi Gamay from the Loire Valley with serious legs.
The Pork Sandwich is pork belly crunch with the cool sweetness of cucumber on a mini bao. Not 11 herbs and spices but 7 for the crisp and delicious Spice Chicken ribs marinated in chilli buttermilk. Crab spring rolls are dipped in a light, green chilli mayo and corn cakes go to another dimension with black vinegar caramel.
Some wok greens with oyster sauce are up next with a parade of delicious dumplings – ocean wontons with tobiko roe, beef with cauliflower puree and sweet BBQ duck buns. A vegetarian menu looks like one of the better options for the non-meat eaters around with the excellent corn cakes, vegie spring rolls with yuzu caramel as well as green bean and garlic shoot gow gees.
We sat down with Restaurant Manager Richard Dean who said the menu changes seasonally but just enough to keep the mainly local clientele happy. Wednesday and Thursday night’s 3 course dinners allows chef Samuel Tapscott to experiment a little. The ‘hit’s then make it onto the regular menu. Sommelier James Alcock offers an amazing 33 wines by the glass and over 100 wines in the cellar. http://www.embassyxo.com.au/
Lunching at the incomparable Noosa Waterfront Restaurant & Bar on a warm, sunny, Noosa afternoon makes you wonder, “what did I do right to end up here?”
At the quiet end of Noosaville – just two minutes from the ferry, the restaurant stakes its claim on this little piece of paradise by the river. The interior brings the outdoors in with bi-fold doors on 3 sides with the river view for decoration.
Andrea Ravezzani is well known to both locals and Noosa regulars as the former chef at fine diners Lindoni’s and Locale. He and wife Kerri took ownership of Waterfront Restaurant & Bar in May after managing the restaurant in 2016.
Chef Ravezzani leads a kitchen team that has worked in Michelin-starred restaurants from Rome to London and you can tell with a menu that features unfussy classics with a modern Aussie edge. The proof is on the plate – the talent here is inestimable.
The menu is divided into bread and olives, appetizers, antipasti, pasta, second course, vegetables and of course pizza. Always listen for the specials. So many choices, so little time.
We start with Ruggeri Quartese Prosseco (DOC) and golden zucchini ‘chips’ made crunchy courtesy of panko and Parmigiano with a side of fennel and yoghurt dip.
I may have heard angels sing when the first mouthful of the Fraser Island Spanner Crab ravioli tossed in crab butter with tomato, Taggiasca olives and basil touched my lips. Sublime – fragrant of the sea and very, very Naples. The flame-grilled snapper was fish of the day and was cooked to just translucent with a scattering of baby vegetables.
For chocolate lovers a Venezuelan 72% dark chocolate and banana textures with a crème fraiche gelato, cocoa nibs and muscovado is magnificent. The prettiest dessert on the menu was unforgettable – Miele e Lavanda was a local honey and vanilla gelato with chunks of honeycomb, a sprinkle of feuillantine, lavender snow and almond clusters.
Waterfront Restaurant has perfected the art of Italian simplicity in a very Australian setting. This is the restaurant that everyone will be talking about.
For holiday-goers who love to eat Noosa has you covered. From breakfast or brunch through lunch and dinner, you can eat at fine diners with unbeatable beach or river views and think you’ve gone to heaven. Noosa does that. I think David Dale was onto something.
This Magnificent Life also reviewed some more casual options in Noosa – coming soon.
TML was hosted by Tourism Noosa: http://www.visitnoosa.com.au/