Let’s get the negatives over and done with, right up front.
I appreciate that as soon as you step outside the confines of a ¼ acre suburban comfort zone, certain members of our national emblem feel like they have a God given right to test your functioning nerves. Not cool, you guys.
I’d driven to Moama (interstate!) for the weekend to have a look/touch/feel of Junction Moama but definitely more on that later.
Back to the fuzzy S.O.B’s.
Most of you who’ve been reading for a while know that I’m a very early riser – it’s been decades since the sun has beaten me to waking and when I’m on a break – nothing changes. Even when I’m staying in a tucked-away luxury yurt on the banks of the Murray. Up at 4am, I need coffee so I head back to the state of Victoria for a Macca’s latte. There’s a short walk to get to my car along the winding bush path and I can tell you that a little harmless kangaroo foraging for gum shoots at 4am sounds very much like a 6 foot 9 outback Yeti wearing a blood stained hockey mask and a chain saw slung across it’s back. Ever seen a FitBit heart rate monitor get to 200? I live and breathe.
I quickened my step but tried to remain calm because I suspect just like dogs, a fully grown Yeti can smell fear. Off I went, burning rubber through the resort and never glancing back. I got to McDonald’s and sat in the car park for 2 and a half hours until the sun came up.
Look, to say I was petrified is a bit of an understatement – though probably not as petrified as when three huge kangas decided the best time to cross the road in this VERY VAST AND EXPANSIVE LANDSCAPE was when my tiny Hyundai Getz hire car is driving along it. Who needs a defibrillator when you have kangaroos all up in your grill – literally. Jerks. I love all you vegans but the best kangaroo for me comes rare with a burnt cherry jus and a side of parsnip mash.
BUT ANYWAY. On to things more pleasant.
I arrived early Saturday morning and made a beeline to the Farmers market – no messing about, straight to the egg and bacon roll. It was exquisite. Michelin star exquisite because Maree or Beryl (can’t quite remember their names) make their very own tomato relish. I’d travel back for that alone. I also happened upon a young lass selling macarons. I don’t even like macarons but if you’re throwing fruit tingles at me, then I’m in. It’s the only macaron I have ever tasted that came close to what’s on the ‘label’ – most should just say ‘sugar flavour’. This is like a filet mignon of unicorn.
Jumping on paddle steamers was a big tick off the bucket list and I closed my eyes and pretended I was Sigrid Thornton for a few minutes although Sigrid didn’t have to deal with the current algae situation, I’m sure. It would be remiss of me not to mention this in any post about Echuca Moama because that would be elephanting the situation. You’ll note this didn’t make my negative section at the fore of this post because I don’t believe it impacts on any trip you are planning, especially now that the cooler months have arrived. But it’s real and not only do you need to know about it, you need to support the good folks that live along this aqua arterial as much as possible. Low water levels and low flow, ridiculously warm weather we are having and lack of rain is the cause for the algae. Don’t tell me climate change isn’t real – I’m still fending off mozzies in MAY. And don’t let the algae put you off at all – the paddle steamers are still paddle steaming and the grapes are still growing – the whole region is as stunning as ever. Town drinking water is absolutely safe, just don’t go sticking a straw into the banks of the river to relieve any dehydration. This situation will correct itself, keep an eye out on its progress here.
After checking into my stunning tent-on-steroids (otherwise known as a yurt) and cracked open my bottle of cab sav from Morrison’s winery, I got dressed for dinner and met my driver for the quick trip to Junction. There are no full length mirrors in the yurt so make sure you bring the right sized jeans with you. That’s all I’m going to say about that.
What a sexy place Junction Moama is and completely unexpected – cool concrete, warm brick and wood, glass and jewelled-toned fabric, Junction Moama is all kinds of flash without the pretense. A good indicator of an exceptional venue is the standard of service; right from the get go I felt welcomed and by the end of the night, we were all like best friends (at least I thought that – may have been the whisky….). I would suggest if you are a solo traveller as I quite often am, ask to be seated at the bar which as an added bonus places you closer to the whisky. Just sayin’.
The website states ‘quality food, local suppliers, seasonal produce’ and all of those elements are present in every dish on the menu. Head Chef Michael Giarusso (former Fenix) claims that the zucchini flowers stuffed with Persian feta and house made romesco sauce is a favourite on the menu. And although they are indeed delicious, I’m gonna have to stop you right there, Mike – the Baharat spiced cauliflower, saffron vinaigrette and black garlic small plate is hands down the best plate of food I have tasted this year – possibly last year too.
For a very reasonable price you are going to be stuffed to the gills with inventive food – Wagyu beef tataki with black bean vinegar and tempura betel leaf, king prawns with tomato, lime and prawn oil, roast pumpkin and lamb kibbeh. Out comes the slow roasted Bundarra pork shoulder, tucked neatly into a soft steamed bun with Asian slaw and Korean sticky, piquant bbq sauce. Keep it coming, people. Keep it coming.
It got to that time of the night when one naturally chooses the donuts for dessert – donuts have some mystical allure that just make people choose them above anything else. However my waiter convinced me to try the banana rum semifreddo with salted hazelnut caramel and honeycomb. I agreed under duress because there’s bloody donuts on the menu! Once again – the recommendation was spot on. What a textural knock out this dish was, crunchy, fizzy, creamy, sweet. Talk to the hand, donuts. Our relationship is over.
I rolled on out of there full of all kinds of flavours and headed back to my yurt to obliviously await the Great Kangaroo Fright Night of 2016.
You can google as many iterations of the menu as you like but it keeps changing with the seasons – use any search engine finds only as a guide to the standard of experience you’ll encounter and the quality of the food you’ll receive. Out of the ball park – even in to the next state!
6 Shaw St, Moama
1800 806 777
Most of the food pics you see here have been supplied by Junction Moama because a) it’s very ‘ambient’ at 8pm in the dining room, b) I was dining alone and don’t love pulling out industrial strength flash cameras in a packed venue on a Saturday night, and c) whisky.
I visited Echuca-Moama and dined courtesy of Junction Moama but as with all of my experiences – if anything was truly manure, I would tell you. Nothing was manure. Except the kangaroos. And I missed out on a bucket list cactus farm visit on the way home.