Roasted tomato, sheep’s milk fetta, raisin, basil and almond salad ($15) Soft sourdough, pan-fried fish, tomato ($17) Marinated garfish, light batter with real chips ($19.50)
Corned beef, potato salad, cornichon, mustard and iceberg baguette ($13) egg, homemade chutney and a large bowl of proper chips. We rely on a bottle of Langhorne Creek 2007 Zontes Footstep pinot grigio ($30) to inject some summer zing into this grey day.
The watermelon salad ($15) proves more a meal than a side: watermelon, lychees, a tumble of leaves and slivered almonds topped with fried halloumi and crispy pita bread oven-dried with sumac and lemon.
Dessert consists of a tempting collection of tarts and cakes baked by Theodoros’s partner and pastry chef Stephanie Vasileff, arrayed on the counter in the main dining room, where an old wooden rowing boat hangs from the wall.
After much umming and ahhing we settle for a lemon meringue cake (infinitely preferable to a pie) and a gorgeous raspberry and nectarine tart ($6 each).
Theodoros’s sea change, after a stint as executive chef at the up-market Amanbagh in India, is proving fast and furious, he says, but he’s relishing the local seafood: linecaught mulloway hooked that morning, Fleurieu squid and Coroong mullet.
Sitting so near the dwindling tail end of the Murray, I’m reminded of Rick Stein’s compelling passion for Mediterranean fishing towns and their unpretentious seafood restaurants. There, anglers risk running out of fish; here it’s water. And seafood has been a mainstay in this part of the world for millennia, as the shell middens and stone fish traps of the Ngarrindjeri people attest.
Sitting beneath an umbrella at the charming Aquacaf, willing those black clouds to open, it’s difficult to imagine Australia might sacrifice this magical corner of the world.
Aquacaf, Barrage Road, Goolwa. (08) 8555 1235. www.aquacaf.com.au. Open: Breakfast and lunch daily during school holidays. Dinner, Friday and Saturday (and Thursdays in season). At other times closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and for winter, late July to end of August. Dinner menu changes weekly outside the holiday period. Cost: Mains $10-$23.50; desserts $5-$6. Drink: Local (Langhorne or Currency Creeks) from the small, mainly South Australian, wine list. Reason to return: Spanking fresh seafood cooked simply but innovatively.
Sea change: Jordan Theodoros’s new beach shack-style Aquacaf is luring the chef’s long-time fans