TA­BLES On a deep-sea jour­ney

Chris­tine McCabe dis­cov­ers a seafood cafe with a taste for the ex­otic on South Aus­tralia’s re­mote Eyre Penin­sula

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Indulgence -

THREE hun­dred kilo­me­tres is a long way to drive for lunch, only to dis­cover you should have made a reser­va­tion. Mo­cean Cafe Restau­rant, set above the long town jetty in far-flung Streaky Bay on South Aus­tralia’s Eyre Penin­sula, is buzzing. It’s mid­week and we’re a long way from any­where, yet this is a crowd large enough to make even a Syd­ney restau­ra­teur smile.

Restau­rants are pretty thin on the ground in this re­mote cor­ner of Aus­tralia; the last we spied was at Cof­fin Bay about 260km back down the road and it was closed. Which wouldn’t be a prob­lem if I didn’t have two ado­les­cent sons in tow. The cho­ruses of ‘‘ are we there yet?’’ and ‘‘ I’m starv­ing’’ are reach­ing a crescendo as we cruise into Streaky, a re­mark­ably pretty lit­tle town set on a broad bay flut­ter­ing with white­capped waves.

We’re lucky to nab the last ta­ble in Mo­cean, join­ing a happy throng of hol­i­day­ing fam­i­lies, lo­cal busi­ness folk and mums do­ing cof­fee and cake.

The lun­cheon menu is de­signed with all-day din­ing in mind and in­cludes melts, yeeros and tapas plates as well as seafood and steak, while the din­ner op­tions are more grown up, with greater em­pha­sis on an imag­i­na­tive use of the Eyre Penin­sula’s out­stand­ing seafood.

We be­gin with a plate of lo­cal oys­ters, farmed by for­mer wheat farmer Tom Evans in the bay we can see through the win­dow, one of many peo­ple on this penin­sula to make the move into aqua­cul­ture. Given the chilly weather, we de­cide to or­der the meaty mol­luscs kil­patrick ($15 a half-dozen, $21 a dozen). This old­fash­ioned dish is han­dled very well. The oys­ters are plump, sweet and spank­ing fresh, and the sauce is not the least bit over­pow­er­ing, just sharp enough to warm the cock­les.

Mo­cean’s decor cel­e­brates its re­mote lo­cale. The ex­te­rior is daubed with a colour­ful mu­ral (an art form we’ve no­ticed in sev­eral towns on the penin­sula); in­doors, wooden floors, a high-pitched ceil­ing lined with hes­sian sack­ing and a jaunty bar clad in cor­ru­gated iron cel­e­brate the Aussie rural ver­nac­u­lar.

Restau­rant pro­pri­etors Margii Cald­well and her part­ner, Mo­cean chef Hardy Weyrauch, have a pen­chant for re­mote bush restau­rants, hav­ing for the past six years been based at the Prairie Ho­tel in Parachilna in the Flin­ders Ranges.

They moved to the coast six months ago and,

Docked at the bay: Chef Hardy Weyrauch has plans for feral food of the sea at Mo­cean Cafe Restau­rant bring­ing his ex­per­tise in feral and bush food with him, Weyrauch has das­tardly plans to chal­lenge the taste­buds of a lo­cal pop­u­lace al­most weary of the plea­sures of dirt-cheap seafood, with scary sound­ing dishes such as stingray with sea pars­ley.

‘‘ Our menus are al­most to­tally seafood ori­ented in the sum­mer,’’ says Cald­well. ‘‘ But we need to in­clude a variety of dishes. The lo­cals don’t al­ways want to eat fish when they go out; they catch that them­selves.’’

Lucky them. Son No 2 is itch­ing to drop a line but, un­for­tu­nately, the town jetty ap­pears in dan­ger of be­ing swamped by a large swell (not sur­pris­ingly, the restau­rant’s broad deck is com­pletely de­serted), so it’s back to the menu where beer-bat­tered, line-caught King Ge­orge whit­ing ($18) seems a good choice. And it is served with an ex­cel­lent homemade tartare sauce.

The hot tapas plate ($16) in­cludes gen­er­ous serves of grilled chorizo and spinach and mush­room frit­tata, to­gether with mar­i­nated mini ribs, olives, pesto and toasted cia­batta. Like­wise the duck sausages ($14) are enor­mous, served on a great pile of sweet potato mash with a driz­zle of blood plum glaze. Just the thing on a win­ter’s day and prob­a­bly even bet­ter washed down with a glass of shi­raz.

Un­for­tu­nately, though, we have an­other 100km to drive for din­ner, so I’ll have to make do with sim­ply read­ing the small wine list, which fea­tures a nice se­lec­tion of South Aus­tralian reds and whites (in­clud­ing sev­eral by the glass). The Bun­daleer shi­raz ($6.50 a glass) is a re­minder of Cald­well and Weyrauch’s

Pic­ture: Se­bas­tian Mansell

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