The Great Australian Bite

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Jimmy Thomson takes a trip to the and develops a taste for long fast cars and long slow dinners. As a tourist destination, has so much to offer it’s a surprise anyone ever gets to the Eyre Peninsula unless they were on their way somewhere else. But Eyre isn’t on the way to anywhere.  By road from Adelaide, you would head north to and take a left towards the Nullarbor and Perth, before quickly turning south again. By air, is almost due west from the capital and barely a 50 minute flight by turbo-prop.  What you find there are a lot of wide open spaces and a coastline punctuated by villages, some with cafes and serving the region’s pride and joy …  the best you will ever encounter. The Eyre coast is fisherman’s paradise and every other vehicle seems to have a at least a tinny (and more often motor cruiser) following it around. We were staying in the and while I’m usually not a big fan of hotel – a good plan B if there’s nothing else open –  the seafood in the Port Lincoln Hotel’s Sarin’s Restaurant could not have been fresher if it had been flipping about on the plate. All the dishes you would expect were there – oysters, kingfish, salmon, tuna and more prawns than you could shake a skewer at.  However, there was a Japanese flavour to many of the dishes and a refreshing availability of vegetarian choices to go along with the steaks and fish. Considering that once upon a time if you ventured half an hour beyond capital city  limits, you’d find yourself in a vociferously carnivorous, determinedly tofu-free zone, it’s reassuring that even this quiet corner of South Australia recognises that gluten-free bread and decaff coffee are not sins of omission. It was odd, however to think that the next day we would be swimming with some distant relatives of the food on our plates. Swim With The Tuna, based in Port Lincoln, does what it says on the tin. A tourist boat ferries you out to a giant pontoon where you can swim with something that might, sometime in the future, end up on your dinner table.  There’s about 60 Southern Blue Fin Tuna, as well as salmon, snapper and trevally,  contained in netted pools on what is basically a man-made island about 40 minutes offshore. Back on land, seafood is still very much on the menu at the in the morbidly named .  Oysterbeds is like a traditional tourist tearoom that has exploded out on to its forecourt, bringing a slice of Brunswick St or Darlinghurst to this corner of a small national park that juts out into the ocean. Fed and watered in spectacular style, we headed off to the park for some car pictures (see panel) made all the easier by the fact that every corner seemed to reveal views each more stunning than the last. Further up the coast awaited more opportunities to get up close and personal with the life aquatic at Baird Bay  Ocean Eco Experience which is based on a remote beach south-west of Streaky Bay.  Being a non-swimmer, these underwater close encounters often have limited appeal, but I was able to pootle around hanging on to a float while the sealions came up for a bit of a play.  Truth be told, they are impossibly cute and made the dolphins that the stronger swimmers splashed around with later in the day, seem like smartypants show-offs. Our last stop was Streaky Bay where we stayed at the and Villas which, in an odd way, summed the feeling you get from travelling through the Eyre Peninsula.  There’s lots and lots of room … and it’s so clean. Thinking back, from Port Lincoln all the way north, it was like the country and all the little towns had been given a good scrub. We managed to squeeze in another couple of meals before we left and add yet another top notch eatery, the Mocean Cafe, to our list of memorable feasts. And that’s another lasting impression, wherever we went, whether it was a hotel restaurant or a roadside cafe, people were really into their food. The same passion that drives all these TV cooking contest makes every dinner an event. Anyone for a great Australian bite?

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