Beached Jonah’s rel­ishes a whale of a sea­son

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Front Page - Ju­dith Elen

WHALE sea­son surges ahead with Jonah’s at Whale Beach in Syd­ney to­day join­ing the elite Re­lais & Chateaux fam­ily, the third prop­erty in Aus­tralia to be ac­cepted into the France­based ho­tel and restau­rant group.

Jonah’s chef Ge­orge Fran­cisco tells Food De­tec­tive the list­ing is very dif­fi­cult to get and food is judged as part of the process. There have been a num­ber of judg­ing vis­its over a cou­ple of years and Fran­cisco was not aware of them, but on the last visit three peo­ple came and ate, he says, and they found the food just per­fect.

Serendip­i­tously un­fold­ing at the same time as the list­ing is Jonah’s (Moroc­canin­spired, the chef says) move out­doors. Fol­low­ing re­cently won ap­proval, ta­bles are now out on the bal­cony full-ime. Fran­cisco says, ‘‘ In­stead of be­ing a box on a hill, the place is now open to the en­vi­ron­ment.’’ Coco Repub­lic’s Ro­maine Al­will has de­signed the out­door furniture and Fran­cisco’s ter­race menu of­fers dishes such as oys­ters (from across Aus­tralia, shucked and pre­pared to or­der, even singly) as well as ja­mon and shell­fish plates. Peo­ple can come from mid­day through the af­ter­noon and evening, to drink and nib­ble. ‘‘ It’s how peo­ple eat in Spain and France,’’ the chef says. Soon there’ll be a few ta­bles on the lawn as well.

Chateau Yer­ing in Vic­to­ria’s Yarra Val­ley is a mem­ber of Re­lais & Chateaux ho­tels and Syd­ney restau­rant Tet­suya’s is the only one in the coun­try to have been awarded a Re­lais Gour­mand. It was Tet­suya Wakuda who nom­i­nated Jonah’s en­try into the group. www.jon­ahs.com.au; www.re­lais­chateaux.com.

THE ground­break­ing cel­lar door precinct at Coon­awarra’s Poplars Win­ery has won the South Aus­tralian Tourism Com­mis­sion’s re­gional tourism award. Of­fi­cially opened in Septem­ber, the com­bined cel­lar door and cafe fea­tures a re­gional pro­duce store and a cheese bar (with such stars as Meredith Dairy and Shaw River Buf­falo Cheese Co). A find for wine tourists, the set-up is headed by Tim Fos­ter, for­merly of Up­stairs at Hol­lick and Piper’s of Penola, and chef Richard Moretti. Seven days, 9am to 6pm. www.chardon­nay­lodge.com.au.

PARIS-BORN chef Fred­eric Booms is ful­fill­ing an old dream with his long-time friend Yan­nick Bes­nard. The two met in Bris­bane 15 years ago, both re­cent ar­rivals from France, and de­ter­mined to one day set up a restau­rant to­gether. That day is here.

In the mid­dle of this year Booms ar­rived in Syd­ney just as Bes­nard and his wife, Michele Bes­nard, were in the mar­ket for a restau­rant. The trio bought The Lo­cal Wine Bar in Padding­ton, which they ran briefly be­fore launch­ing their real plan, L’etoile restau­rant & bar. L’etoile is a sparkler. It of­fers Parisian bistro lite. Bes­nard, ex Syd­ney’s China Doll and Tabou, tells De­tec­tive there is no cream and sauces are all made ‘‘ as we go’’, not held in a bain­marie. Chef Booms, who has cooked at Bris­bane’s Pier Nine, Ecco and Mon­tra­chet, says tra­di­tional dishes have a mod­ern twist (snails come not in their shells but in lit­tle pots with puff pas­try, a labour­guignonne ). www.letoil­erestau­rant.com.au.

SET­TLERS Tav­ern in Mar­garet River, West­ern Aus­tralia, whose own­ers Karen and Rob Gough are in­ter­mit­tent cor­re­spon­dents with this col­umn ( De­tec­tive , July 28-29; Oc­to­ber 6-7), has been hon­oured (for the sec­ond year) with Best Wine List WA Ho­tels and Tav­erns 2007 at the Aus­tralian Ho­tels As­so­ci­a­tion’s Awards for Ex­cel­lence. The tav­ern’s list is dom­i­nated by the lus­cious lo­cal wines but Europe, NZ, the US and South Amer­ica are also rep­re­sented. www.set­tler­stav­ern.com.

WED­NES­DAY watch: Maeve O’Meara, vet­eran with Joanna Sav­ill of SBS’s The FoodLovers’GuidetoAus­tralia , launches her new FoodSafari se­ries, at 7.30pm on SBS, with an il­lu­mi­nat­ing look at Ja­panese food: loved by all, cooked by few. Top chefs (in­clud­ing Wakuda), a sushi mas­ter and home cooks ex­plain and show, and all be­comes clear. Next comes French. www.sbs.com.au.

SOON-TO-BE Kam Fook ex­ec­u­tive chef Dar­ren Ho ( De­tec­tive , Novem­ber 24-25) shares some re­fresh­ing beer tips; with sum­mer com­ing, there’ll be lots of Asian food and lots of beer, Ho says. He tells De­tec­tive some restau­rants are adding knobs of ginger or ginger flow­ers to beer as they serve it, match­ing it with their dishes.

A fresh knob gives the beer a pri­mary ginger flavour, Ho says. Also, a fin­ger-sized twist of lemon­grass, tied in a knot to bruise it and re­lease the flavour, then tossed into beer, is fab­u­lous with seafood.

FIND of the week: The Cof­fee Guide 2008

PHILIPPE Mouchel, visit­ing Syd­ney from La Brasserie in Melbourne, is teaming up with the Sof­i­tel Went­worth Gar­den Court’s Jess Ong to of­fer a la carte ($78 two cour­ses; $94 for three) and five-course de­gus­ta­tion menus ($148 a per­son) for lunch and din­ner, De­cem­ber 4-15. www.sof­i­tel­syd­ney.com.au. (Guide En­ter­prises, $16.95), books for Melbourne and Syd­ney, with the fine grind on beans, roast­ers, baris­tas, and where to buy and sip. www.the­cof­feeguide.com.au.

DE­TEC­TIVE loves: Green Tabasco sauce, and she is not alone ( De­tec­tive , Novem­ber 17-18; 24-25). It can be found at the USA Food Store in Melbourne (www.us­afoods.com.au) and read­ers sug­gest other stock­ists: Chris Cham­bers has found it at Coles, Bendigo. Joy and Rob Haese at Robin­sons de­part­ment store in Bangkok and Koh Sa­mui, and the su­per­mar­ket at Chaweng. Ade­laide Cen­tral Mar­ket has it, as does Coles Caloun­dra.

Lynne Buck­nell writes: ‘‘ Won­der­ful Samios at Wool­loongabba has been on Bris­bane’s map for years and has al­most ev­ery­thing’’, in­clud­ing green Tabasco.

Alison Ben­nett-Roberts says James St Mar­kets, Bris­bane’s For­ti­tude Val­ley, has it (‘‘scram­bled eggs with­out it are a crime’’).

Best re­sult of all, Travel&In­dul­gence ed­i­tor Susan Kuro­sawa, who started it all, has news from Kan Che­ung of Tabasco Hong Kong that emer­gency sup­plies are on the way to her. There is a Santa.

DE­TEC­TIVE loathes: Good olive oil that uses cheap so-called pour­ing in­serts from which oil drips down the bot­tle, leav­ing rings on shelves and los­ing lus­cious drops.

in­dul­gence@theaus­tralian.com.au

Maeve O’Meara

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