People flock to Mollymook for the picturesque white sandy beaches and the Mollymook Golf Club with it’s two quality courses – the Hilltop 18-hole Championship parkland course and Beachside 9 Hole Course with ocean views from every hole. But the real reason I’m here is Bannisters, and more specifically, to try the UK’s famed chef Rick Stein’s restaurant, which happens to be just downstairs from my room.
Rick Stein’s association with the area was laid down in the 1960s
Rick Stein’s association with the area was laid down in the 1960s when he spent a weekend trying local Pambula Oysters and flathead in Merimbula. The South Coast had stuck in his mind, and when an opportunity came up six years ago to move into Bannisters, he jumped at the chance. Stein’s passion for seafood runs deep, evident in his four restaurants in England, numerous television series and books, and his successful seafood school.
Check in is easy and I’m given some handy information about Mollymook – including the all important directions to the beach – and how it all operates at Bannisters. I’m booked in a luxury suite, and from the moment I step in the room I feel relaxed. The interior has a beachy but modern feel, with touches of ‘world travel’ – a large, beautifully woven Moroccan floor mat and fascinating coffee table travel books. But the view is the hero of this room – with floor to ceiling glass doors and a sweeping balcony with ocean views.
With my dinner reservation fast approaching, I take a quick dip and a pre-dinner drink at the Pool Bar simultaneously, before scrubbing up in the rain shower in my room and heading down stairs to start the gastronomic action.
The wine list is exciting, with some particularly good white wines, which is no surprise given the menu is predominantly seafood. We start with a shared entrée of warm shellfish with parsley, chilli, olive oil, garlic and lemon juice for two. In reality it’s a fresh platter crammed with clams, mussels, prawns, oysters, scallops and blue swimmer crab, doused in a divine soupy drizzle. It’s messy food, cracking open the generous crabs legs, but it’s fun and totally delicious.
After enjoying Rick Stein’s India television series so much, I opt for the Madras fish curry of Blue Eye Trevalla with tomato and tamarind as my main. The order comes with a warning, “Can you handle really spicy food?” I think I can, but I get a bit nervous. The description on the menu says “A beautiful hot and sour Southern Indian curry. Don’t believe it when people say spice ruins the taste of good fish, it accentuates it”.
I wonder how spicy things got for Rick in India? Can I handle it? My curry arrives with a host of extras – naan bread, chutney, a kachumber salad of spiced cherry tomatoes, onion, cucumber and rice. Here goes. It’s hot, but I’d put it about a six on the hot scale out of ten. On the delicious scale, it’s a 10. A great combination of spice, but balanced by the tomato based sauce and delicate Trevalla.
After a good night’s sleep, we’re up early for breakfast on the terrace and beach time. Breakfast is included for all guests, so it’s back to the restaurant for us. To walk off the fluffy ricotta pancakes, we head to nearby Mollymook Beach. We got a little lost along the way, and taking the ‘scenic route’ on a small bush track, we find it.
The two-kilometre beach sweeps from Bannister Point at the north end of the beach to the Mollymook Golf Club at the south. People are snorkeling, stand up paddling and swimming in the bright blue, clear water and it feels like I’ve discovered my own little paradise. It’s a picture perfect beach.
But it’s time to head home, so we take the coast road back to Sydney via the small village of Berry, with a call in to the Berry Sourdough Bakery for lunch. Alternatively, you can take the road back through Bowral and enjoy the shops and cafes of the Southern Highlands, all making for a great weekend getaway.