Building upon his local experience cooking at Flanagans Dining Room, Chef Arman Uz has reached new heights at The Postmans. While I find it hard to resist a jaunt out of the city at the best of times, my standout Seven-Course Degustation ($79/head) meal has firmly planted Thirroul in my head for another South Coast adventure before the summer is out.
With the restaurant sitting a block off Thirroul’s wonderfully uncrowded beach, it’s delightful to see the menu is centred upon fresh-caught, local seafood. Macedonian co-owner, Alex Stojanovski, is a dream on the floor of this 80-seater restaurant - and that’s not just because he arrived at our table bearing a basket of Coal Coast Sourdough breads. The breads are bested by the soy and linseed, and served with house-made butter topped with black salt.
Stojanovski’s informed dish descriptions will help you connect what is on your plate to the bounty of the Ulladulla, Shoalhaven and Wollongong basins, starting with Narooma oysters. Scoop them onto the squid ink cracker sails with a generous dab of black caviar tarama, a coil of cucumber and a tangle of seagrass (Neptune’s beard), then wait for your mouth to explode. This boldly flavoured dish is a perfect match to the Bibliotheque Chardonnay Pinot Noir ($40/bottle) – oysters, caviar and bubbles – what’s not to adore?
Caviar also makes a rather dramatic appearance in a cloud of cinnamon smoke, when Stojanovski removes the glass dome covering some Ulladulla tuna.
The smoking mound of glistening, ruby-red tuna is another fighting dish with lots of intensity from caviar, baby capers and a slightly heavy hand with the wasabi-citrus dressing. While my dining companion enjoys the accompanying match - a Sydney Brewery Agave Ginger cider - I tame the wasabi with the gently oaked, organic 2014 Frisky Farmer Chardonnay ($9/glass).
Textures of corn – before you groan – is a frightfully delicious cliché. It works as a clever pullback from the intensity of the first two dishes, and includes a few incarnations of corn you might not have seen before: corn shoots and corn salt. Somehow in this location where every second dish incorporates something grown in the kitchen garden at the rear of the restaurant, I find myself not adverse to the odd tasty cliché.
There's a bit of a gap between the corn and our next dish, with a long table for twenty all ordering the degustation. The dining room – a former post office - grows louder with an influx of people taking it almost to capacity. The sound reverberates against walls covered with framed postal memorabilia. As evening falls, the room is lit by seemingly endless rows of droplights, each dressed in a crystal decanter with the bottom sawn off. Even the powder rooms are well appointed.
Suckling pig, croquette, fennel, cucumber, is another beauty. The cucumber and its flowers come straight from the restaurant garden; the golden baton of suckling pig is beautifully rendered; and the house-made Chinese barbeque sauce is an excellent counterpoint. Stojanovski has teamed it with a 2015 Pachamama Riesling ($9/glass) from the Strathbogie Ranges, and it’s another excellent match, offering up great, palate-cleansing minerality. The strength of his pairing skills makes the Matched Wines ($55/head) package worth the spend.
There’s a generosity to the serving sizes here, and when the Kiama snapper lands, my stomach starts to catch up with my eyes. I muse that next time the Five-Course Degustation ($65/head, $45/matched wines) might suit me better; though it would be a shame to miss out on any of these dishes. This one has a gentle nod to Uz’s Turkish heritage, cemented in this country with time in Somer Sivrioglu’s Efendy kitchen, in the eggplant. The labne is house-made, the snapper well cooked, but my highlight is the moist and delicate squid, trawled somewhere between Kiama and Ulladulla.
Beaming with pride, Stojanovski introduces the dish, adding in a story of his own grandmother storing her labne under the sink when he was a kid. It sums up what I have come to admire about this restaurant - Uz’s modern dishes are all connected back to the restaurant philosophy. Everything is made in house, and staff can confidently discuss the people catching, growing or crafting everything that’s on your plate.
The Darling Downs wagyu is no exception – from the kitchen garden’s wood sorrel, to an exceptional king brown mushroom grown by microbiologist Dr Noel Arrold at the Li-Sun exotic mushroom tunnel, to organic carrots they contract a farmer in Dapto to grow for them directly – this is food with a rich tapestry of local stories.
We end with a nectarine panna cotta that would make Donna Hay proud. There are four treatments of nectarine on this tangy panna cotta, along with some gingerbread as a classy nod to the season. Like the other dishes I tried, there’s nothing on this ultra-pretty plate – all the way down to the Greek basil and edible flowers – that doesn’t serve a flavour purpose.
Yep, look out for this one when next they award regional hats.
258 Lawrence Hargrave Drive, Thirroul
Ph: (02) 4268 5546