Shining down from the trusses of the Nowra Bridge, bright yellow lights illuminate the fast-flowing waters of the Shoalhaven River. Flickering headlights from cars crossing its waters on the main route south give the picturesque scene an even greater sense of motion.
I’m watching this all from Wharf Rd. Restaurant & Bar, housed inside the old Harbour Master’s quarters.
This relaxed, blonde-wood restaurant oozes South Coast charm; presenting a likeable, contemporary menu showcasing local produce against a well-priced, nearly all Australian wine list.
After a little wine hiccup, their friendly, young team of local staff soon have us sipping the 2013 Lino Ramble Rousaanne, Marsanne, Viognier ($65). This South Australian wine from the McLaren Vale region has enough richness and power to cope with White Anchovies ($8) served up with quince and onion jam. While we did want for a few more little fishes to cover the generous acreage of brioche toasts, it’s hard to complain when you’re paying less than ten bucks for the whole dish.
Keen to exploit the local parts of this interesting, but not particularly cohesive menu, we move on to Moonlight Flat Clare de Lune Oysters ($25/6). Presented with a sherry vinegar dressing, these bivalves come from a hundred kilometres down the road in another South Coast locale - Batemans Bay.
The tangy Pecora dairy goats’ curd that arrives with the Charred Peach ($17) is sourced from half that distance away, up in the Highlands, in Robertson. Using extensive charring on the restaurant’s wood-fired parilla (South American-style grill), plus beetroot discs and an intense basil rendition of Ferran Adria's famous microwave sponge, owner and Chef Dave Campbell, manages to keep this dish from seeming too much like dessert.
While they aren’t much to look at, Snapper Wings ($17) are put to good effect under a chunky, Texan-style prune barbeque sauce on a bed of well-handled quinoa. Despite these two entrees being priced the same, they're wildly dissimilar in portion size.
Fat cassava chips add a strange (but not unsuccessful) Pasifkan edge to the 12-hour Wagyu Brisket ($32) chosen by my dining companion. Handled in a way that’s totally new to me, the locally grown (Gerringong) spice-rubbed, pressed slabs of pasture-fed wagyu brisket are full of flavour and pleasantly devoid of fat.
I stick to the bounty of the sea, moving on to Hot Smoked Bass Grouper ($32) presented in an orange pool of lobster bisque. The crisp-skinned fish fillets sit among a handful of clams and a tangle of sea vegetables – it’s a great combination that really showcases the flavours of both smoke and sea.
After such a solid meal, we decide to leave dessert for next time, earmarking Wharf Rd. for a daytime visit next time we're heading south.
Wharf Rd. Restaurant & Bar
10 Wharf Road, Nowra
Ph: (02) 4422 6651