What a joy after one of the worst rain weeks in Sydney recently, to step off the plane at Kingsford Smith and have the clouds part way to let the light in. Sometimes you need to find a place to settle down, engulf yourself in brushed fleece and take a long deep breath of fresh, salt air.
About 1.5 hours’ drive North of Sydney lies the small township of Pearl Beach. A small pinch of our population coexist here quite happily with nothing more than a well-equipped general store, a modern cafe and an exquisite restaurant. That’s correct – there isn’t even a bottle shop. I should think residing here without some sort of motorised transportation would pose a real challenge or you would have buns in steel in no time flat. But what a spot!
This was to be a reconnection weekend with the women-folk of my family and months of careful planning soon turned to anticipatory conversations consisting entirely of GIFs; mostly women chugging champagne and doing the Macarena. We all couldn’t wait to get there and have a cold glass of bubbles (not me, gives me dreadful heart burn – red thanks) and don a stretch pant. Finally the time came – the descent through gum trees into the sleepy winter town was upon us; you can almost feel your shoulders un-knot on the turn off from Umina.
We had plenty of activities planned – walking, cooking, visualisation, yoga and the usual deep conversation about passed times. As an added bonus the accommodation we had booked came complete with shuttlecock, ping pong and a myriad of traditional and digital media for us to sink our teeth into. The house was perfect – small enough to be cosy and intimate, yet large enough to seek quite sanctuary away from popping corks if needed. The only noise of a night time were the bush turkeys and the waves. Do bush turkeys ever sleep? They really did hit every branch of the ugly tree those things hey, but if you’re keen the general store sells bush turkey cookies (shaped like, not flavoured).
After burying our toes in the freezing sand pre-sunrise, my sister and I hit the local café for breakfast. This food is really good. I have been to sleepy seaside towns off season before and you’re lucky to get a leathery potato cake (NSW: scallop) or a Dim Sim that has the innards of prison gruel, maybe even just the innards of a prisoner. Not Pearl Beach Café & General Store. Across the road from the beach, the café is a beautifully bright spot to dust off any red wine cobwebs. I dined on panko crumbed eggs in a potato birds nest with crispy bacon, rocket & chipotle aioli. My sister went for creole corn cakes, grilled haloumi, smashed avocado, pico de gallo, snow pea tendrils AND a fried egg. How the HELL were we going to fit in lunch from Pearls on the Beach?
Now look, I can’t say whether this special runs all the time but two courses with a glass of wine at Pearls on the Beach was an incredibly reasonable $45.00 per head (edit: just looked up and it’s on Thursdays and Fridays until 25 November 2016 – skates!) The restaurant must have an excellent vacuum system because it is literally on the beach; the front porch is surrounded by sand, that’s how ‘on the beach’ it is. By lunch time, we were a group of four so we shared starters and desserts, but each picked a main.
Good grief – I started with Berber spiced carrots, date labneh, cauliflower cous cous, almonds and green harissa. I have just written about labneh in a previous post and I have to tell you, date labneh is cheese of beauty. The whole dish exquisite. For main course Twice cooked Tajima Wagyu intercostals, spiced carrot puree, rocket, pickled carrot, lentils and crispy onion rings. Just read that again and let it sink in. Maybe it was the wine (a Clare Valley Grosset Springvale Riesling), maybe it was the sea breeze or the exceptional company, but this was a meal I’ll never forget. It would be remiss of me not to mention the impeccable service; you know the kind – so refreshingly friendly and accommodating but so not up-in-your-face. The kind that gets awkward when you leave and you just really want to hug your new found waiter-friends.
For the rest of the weekend, we ate copious amounts of beautiful cheeses and seafood. Drank great wine, sang, danced and talked. We bushwalked through to Patonga on Sunday and had a coffee with the pelicans. We watched seahawks circling over the water, all under a clear cerulian sky. It was the perfect break to unwind and reconnect with the girls in my family (sadly not all of them. But maybe next year…)
Accommodation at Pearl Beach is abundant and given its beauty and popularity, can also get a little pricey. I encourage you to look to going here out of season because it’s just as beautiful – if not more so, sans summer tourists.
Disclaimer: This was a family break, we paid for everything and we were a guest of no-one but ourselves.