Central Coast getaway

It was Terry’s birthday last month, and as usual, the kids were racking their brains as to what gift to buy him. Every year I am asked the same question: “ Dad has everything already, surely he doesn’t want another book, shirt or pair of socks?”. And every year, we brainstorm and come up with…books, shirts and socks.
Except this year. I put a little more effort and thought into it, starting a few months in advance. It was after one of these busy weekends, filled with fishing and private charters, the week had been busy dealing with aviation issues and he mentioned how he wished we could get away for a few days. As fate would have it, only days later I received an email from Groupon, offering a special 4-night stay at, a 5* luxury resort in Terrigal, on the NSW Central Coast. There was my answer to the birthday conandrum: a family getaway!

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I spent the following 3 months secretly organising the rest of the family, catering, dog sitting and generally ensuring the plan remained a surprise. Amazingly it did, and I was so relieved when Terry found the resort brochure attached to his birthday card and he actually beamed with a huge smile! The past couple of months had been stressful on him, so this was something to be excited about.

The plan was for the 2 of us to drive up to the resort on the Thursday and enjoy a night on our own, while the girls and Anne would arrive the following night. Craig and his family also drove up the next day, staying in nearby Avoca, where apparently the surf is better! Due to work commitments, Marc didn’t join us until the Saturday, as did Danielle and the kids ( sadly Mal had to stay behind and deal with the fishing charters…someone had to work!). As you can see, it shaped up to be a road trip for everyone, even the weather came to the party with sun and soaring temperatures giving us an early taste of summer.

Can you believe that after 29 years in Australia, I have never visited the Central Coast. It is only a 90mn drive north from the city, and stretches from the mouth of the Hawkesbury River to the Southern end of Lake Macquarie. Terry remembers surfing there a very long time ago but has not been back either, instead we always bypassed it on our way to and from Queensland. We feel like the odd ones out, as nearly everyone we know in Sydney seem to have memories of summer holidays spent at any of the coastal towns that dot the shoreline.

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The drive from Cronulla takes 2 1/2 hours to Terrigal, it could be shorter but we decide to explore along the way and check out the picturesque towns of Killcare, Copacabana and Avoca Beach.
Our destination is the Star of the Sea resort at Terrigal. Location is stunning, overlooking the beach and the Haven, and a 5 mn walk to the town. Our 3-bedroom apartment is pretty fabulous with partial ocean views ( the Groupon deal does not apply to full ocean views ) and overlooking the tennis court. It is full of light and a massive 250sqm with a fully equipped kitchen and a laundry room large enough to be a single bedroom! I can see how guests stay here for a few days and treat the resort as their home away from home, in fact most apartments are larger than most homes! For my part, I only plan to eat in once for Terry’s birthday dinner, and even then it will be a catered affair ( more on that later ).

 

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Our first dinner is booked at Yellowtail, a small restaurant in the middle of Terrigal, located within an unassuming shopfront. Whenever there are just the two of us, I like the intimacy of small neighborhood restaurants, and Yellowtail is definitely meeting the brief: it sits 35-40 people and definitely feels cosy. There is a projection of moving jelly fish on the wall above my head, which I think is cute but Terry finds distracting as his eyes keep being drawn to them rather than me!

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The menu combines influences from the Mediterranean, Middle East and Asia, all mouth watering choices which have us totally undecided. Led by our waitress’ suggestion, we eventually opt for the Chef’s pick Sharing Menu.

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We start with some Pambula oysters ( one each ) and a plate of snapper sashimi with finger lime, black sesame crisps, galangal and coconut. The fish is fresh and zingy from the lime.

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The first main course is ocean trout served with dashi broth, grilled asparagus and turnip puree. I love this dish: it is quite light, but so flavourful and the fish is cooked just right!

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Served alongside is a bowl of soy glazed fried eggplant with sesame and shallots. Terry is not an eggplant fan, but he doesn’t mind the sauce.

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The second main is a crispy duck breast cut in half ( we are sharing!) with smokey eggplant puree, broccolini, labne and walnuts. The duck skin is super crispy yet the meat remain very tender, and I love the combination of flavours ( though, there is just too much eggplant for Terry’s liking !)

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Lucky for him, there is a plate of roasted cauliflower coming along: charred florets, smothered with tahini, and a generous sprinkle of dukkah.

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Desserts appear simple on paper, but are quite sophisticated on the plate. One thick slice of triple cream brie is “stabbed” with tissue thin linseed wafers, surrounded by little blobs of guava puree and a scattering of candied walnuts.

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The poached rhubarb and yoghurt plate is quite refreshing, served with pistachio pastry and rose sprinkling.
By the end of the meal, we are feeling quite full and welcome the short walk up the hill back to the resort.

We wake up the next day to a glorious sunrise and the forecast of a mega hot day.

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That’s our cue to go on an early beachwalk and enjoy lunch by the water, our last opportunity for a tete-a-tete before the kids arrive!

 

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The Reef Restaurant is a bit of an institution in Terrigal, famous for its beachfront location and its unsurpassed ocean views. The menu reads fine dining, but they have a midweek lunch special at a reasonable $49 for 2 courses and a glass of wine. That’s perfect for us, since we are not that hungry after the previous night feast at Yellowtail and we promised the kids a pizza night on their arrival.

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I order an entree of soft shell crab with Vietnamese salad and cashew nut nam jim. The crab is crunchy on the outside and juicy in the inside, while the cabbage salad has just the right amount of spice ( not overly hot! ).

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Terry chooses the crispy pork belly on a bed of jerusalem artichoke puree, chorizo soil and scorched cherry tomatoes. The skin lacks in crispiness, but the meat makes up for it with it’s melt in the mouth tenderness.

There are a choice of 3 mains: fish, beef and duck. As much as we’d like something different from the salmon and duck which we ate the night before, that’s what we end up ordering as neither of us feel like steak and ratatouille in that heat.

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The salmon comes as a pan fried fillet sitting on a generous amount of broad beans and peas ( a mountain, says Terry!), with pancetta and cauliflower cream. The fish is cooked perfectly, and while the dish looks light it is quite rich with the creamy cauliflower and the beans.

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In contrast, the duck is nowhere near as heavy as it looks, it is a whole leg confit served with bok choy and shimeji mushrooms and chili jam. The sweet spiciness of the jam offsets the gamey flavour of the duck, and I end up polishing the plate while Terry struggles with finishing his ( we actually share every dish, and normally I would have handed back the duck as he clearly preferred it to the salmon, but somehow I didn’t…oops! )
All dishes from the set menu are an adapted version of what is on offer on the a la carte menu ( read, smaller serving and maybe an element missing ). We initially thought we’d still be hungry but at that stage, we both were full. Unfortunately that means neither of us felt like dessert, for fear of spending the rest of the afternoon dealing with food coma. I did ask for a coffee though, but by then the restaurant was extremely busy with the Friday lunch crowd and the staff was running in all directions, forgetting my request. I eventually walked to the counter to settle the bill and to their credit, was offered a free coffee to go, which I declined as I am not much of a coffee sipping driver.

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The rest of the afternoon was spent on the road, exploring the area north of Terrigal to the Entrance: beaches as far as the eye can see, holiday houses lining the foreshore…the kind of place where you just pick a spot to drop your towel and stay there for the day!

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Then walk back to your hotel/motel/resort and order takeaway pizza for the kids while enjoying the cheese platter and wine generously offered by management! I could get used to this…

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