It’s a pretty giddy feeling having your birthday fall close to a long weekend. I’ve been thankful that for the last couple of years my birthday has fallen on or around the October Labor Day long weekend, however it also coincides with the return of Daylight Savings so it means that any partying done on the Saturday evening is usually cut short by an hour! This year called for a road trip though and a party for a different reason – a good friend of mine who just so happens to be my boss at a dance studio I teach at in the city was having her wedding down the south coast at Wollongong. As my birthday was near the end of the long weekend, Night Owl and I decided to extend it to a four-day weekend and continue on the drive down south to the picturesque Jervis Bay for a bit of a sea change.
I don’t think there has been a single time that I’ve gone down to Jervis Bay and it wasn’t cold and windy. The view is nothing short of stunning though, and if you do happen to make the trip I’d recommend you visit Husskinson’s Beach rather than the ever-popular Hyam’s Beach. The sand is just as white and there’s a lot less people! Having extended our trip one day past the long-weekend, most people had already headed back home to start the late working week and we were lucky to have the beach mostly to ourselves. There’s no waves to speak of and the water is so clear you feel like you can keep walking in further and further. In the last two photos, we went at low tide the evening prior and the rock ledge was clearly visible; in the morning when they were taken the clear water had risen over the rocks but was shallow enough that you could still see and feel the platform by which you could still walk out quite far from the shoreline – and it felt like you were walking on water – the chilly water only mid-calf high.
Unfortunately neither of us could get too much time off work thanks to our Japan trip earlier in the year (no regrets), so Tuesday – the actual day of my birthday – was the day that would be spent doing a lot of driving from Jervis Bay all the way back up to Sydney. The roads were thankfully mostly clear however we had hired a little Nissan Micra which wasn’t so smooth over the bumpy 100kmph motorways. Luckily we were making frequent stops on the way home, our first being Berry – you can’t miss it as the highway runs straight through the quiet little place! Of course one of its most famous foodie attractions is the Berry Donut Van, but we had stopped by to meet and greet Dan, the owner of the Thai Berry restaurant situated just off the main street.
The menu at Thai Berry is simple. Weekdays call for a lunch special, and there’s a slow-cooked pork and egg roll, as well as the usual pad thai, pad see eew, or thai curry and flat breads. Dan says that the weekend brunch is fairly popular, with items like the fresh donuts, coconut rice pudding, French-toasted banana bread, and spicy eggs on offer. Not having come from a hospitality background, Dan says he is simply “a feeder” and loves cooking, and we chat to him a bit about his intentions of opening a fast-food restaurant in Papua New Guinea in the near future and his experiences in cooking a pineapple cake in a buried fire pit during his visit to one of the island’s villages. He has found that the people of Berry still prefer to come by for the “white” version of Thai, and so is happy to keep the pad thai and curry items on the menu. There are plans to get the restaurant a liquor licence – as how could any Australian traveler forget the experience of a bucket of Thai beers and spicy wings had on one of Thailand’s lush beaches?
Dan sets us up with coffee before heading into the kitchen to rustle us up a meal. The coffee is Papua New Guinean single origin coffee served in a plunger with organic milk from South Coast Dairy. Almost all of their ingredients are sourced from local growers and suppliers, and mostly organic. Dan comes out with a plate of Fresh Donuts ($9.50) for us to whet our appetite, but warns us not to eat too many! The dipping jam is made from mandarins grown at the back of Dan’s property, and both of us girls love the tart, sweet-sour acidity of the sticky marmalade. In true bartender fashion, Night Owl says that it would taste amazing added in a cocktail (rolls eyes).
I was expecting something air-filled like loukoumades but the ping-pong ball sized rounds are more cake-like in texture; the flavour reminded me of cinnamon teacake. Having had a very light breakfast it was very hard to stop at only a few each, but luckily we did as Dan came around with one of his signature dishes.
The Slow-cooked Pork and Egg Roll ($15.00) apparently is an adaptation of a Kylie Kwong recipe. Dan uses pork loin as it’s less fatty than pork belly, simmers it for a few hours before resting it overnight. It’s sandwiched with a fried egg, Thai BBQ sauce, and a squeeze of Sriracha sauce (cock sauce, as I like to call it…) in a house-made buttery brioche bun, served with an orange and fennel salad.
I am thankful that Thai Berry is located nowhere near my workplace in the Sydney CBD or nowhere near where I live in the Lower North Shore or I would be making frequent visits to get this. The pork is tender, succulent and flavoursome; the perfect balance of meat and melt-in-the-mouth fat. Dan had cooked the egg so that it was still slightly gooey, but not so much that it created a runny mess when you bit into the yolk. I really loved the addition of the salad on the side, as it gave the dish a much needed element of freshness and lightened the palate at the end.
We were nearing dangerously full by this stage but I had asked to sample one of their curries – it is a Thai restaurant, after all. Dan brought out one of their typical “curry plates”, the Beef Massaman ($18.50) which came with fresh flat bread, coconut rice and tangy salad.
While it looked small, it was really the perfect-sized amount. I like how Dan added the orange and fennel salad to the curry plate, as usually at Thai restaurants I never see a salad accompanying the heavy curries and it’s really good to finish off on a lighter note. I was expecting a single large serve of flatbread rather than the small rectangular pieces that arrived, but when I dipped it into the curry sauce I was delighted to find that they were extremely buttery and crispy, almost like a puff pastry in flavour. They almost stole the show from the curry, where the chunks of locally-sourced beef had been slow-cooked to perfection. I’m used to my Massamans having more boiled potatoes and sauce than actual beef, and with the complete lack of gristle this curry plate was excellently created.
To finish off, I had been eyeing up the Coconut Rice Pudding ($11.50), but Dan said it was similar to the coconut rice I just had with my curry, just with more coconut milk. He recommended I try one of his favourite signature dishes, the French-toasted Banana Bread ($17.00), and I nodded in enthusiastic agreement as my stomach gave a strained grumble of acquiescence.
What arrives is two gargantuan pieces of locally-made banana bread (gluten-free – which makes it good for me, right?) which had been French-toasted in a coconut milk-egg mixture, topped with caramelised bananas, lemon-strawberries, and natural yoghurt. Dan brought around some condensed milk to drizzle over the top, as he said “it doesn’t look that good in the photo but you need to have it when you eat it.” Night Owl and I could only manage a few mouthfuls of this before we had to concede defeat. When I questioned Dan’s motive for feeding people such a large serving, he reiterated that his mantra was to provide hearty servings of great quality food, and this dish eclipsed that perfectly.
Not wanting to fall into a food coma whilst driving, I availed Dan of a couple of takeaway boxes into which to pack the curry and the sweets to take back to Sydney. I will freely admit now that when I went into work on Wednesday I took in the breakfast box with me, enjoying an early morning meal of leftover donuts with mandarin jam and French-toasted banana bread 😉 It’s ridiculous when I hear people say that there’s nothing to do in Sydney when there are so many beautiful spots to visit (and eat) to your heart’s content all along the stunning coastline, only a few hours drive away from the main city. Now that Night Owl and I have purchased our very own car (a Holden Astra we call “Betsy”), we both intend on making many more road trips in the upcoming warmer months.
Shop 2/92 Queen Street
Berry NSW 2535
(02) 4464 2087