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Nine Cafes to Seek Out When You're Road Tripping Down to NSW's Shoalhaven

If you like a good out-of-town cafe, the south coast is brimming with them — from healthy harbourside brunch spots to small specialty coffee bars.
By Jasmine Crittenden
January 19, 2020

Nine Cafes to Seek Out When You're Road Tripping Down to NSW's Shoalhaven

If you like a good out-of-town cafe, the south coast is brimming with them — from healthy harbourside brunch spots to small specialty coffee bars.
By Jasmine Crittenden
January 19, 2020


If you like a good out-of-town cafe, the south coast is brimming with them — from healthy harbourside brunch spots to small specialty coffee bars.

Over the past few years, the south coast's Shoalhaven region has gone through a bit of culinary revolution. Long the source of some of Australia's best oysters, it's now home to a bunch of top-notch cafes, restaurants and eateries. And many of them come with views – from sweeping oceanscapes to rolling farmlands.

In recent, months, however, the region has been hit by devastating bushfires. As well as destroying property and land, the bushfires have caused tourism rates to drop significantly during one of the busiest time of year — and many local businesses have taken a hit finally. So, grab some mates and head on a road trip with hungry stomachs, an empty boot and money to spend. We've scoped out nine of the best spots to visit along the way.

Before you head off on an adventure, download the Fires Near Me app, Live Traffic app and check the NSW National Parks and Visit NSW websites — and heed any warnings or alerts.

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    As the name suggests, Treehouse Cafe feels like a secret hideaway. You’ll find it in a former country cottage with timber floors and high ceilings, and just behind Ulladulla’s legendary Funland, an old-school arcade packed with dodgems, pinball games and air hockey machines. Whether you’re with your family, your dog or just yourself, there’s plenty of room. The menu’s all about generous, good-hearted fare, made with veggies from local farmers and ethically sourced meats. If you’re there for brekkie, try the signature eggs benedict, fancied up with turmeric, dill, capers, olives, paprika sweet potato, garlic mushrooms and wilted spinach.

    Come lunchtime, you’re in for an internationally inspired feast. Head to Mexico with the burrito bowl, crowded with spiced beans, pickled eggplant, jalapeños and quinoa. Or stay closer to home with the miso noodle salad with poached chicken. The coffee comes from Young’s Art of Espresso, where organic beans are bought directly from independent farmers. If you want to skip coffee, choose from a smoothie, warmed golden almond milk (spiced with turmeric, ginger and cinnamon) and a bunch of Bodhi organic teas.

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    Milk Haus

    Turn inland at Milton and you’ll enter a world of rolling paddocks and winding streams — just one section of the little-explored south coast hinterland. After a few minutes, look out for an old high-ceilinged building surrounded by veggie gardens and peppered with free-range chickens. Welcome to Milk Haus. This idyllic escape is the vision of owner Danielle McKeon, who previously owned Canberra’s much-loved A Bite to Eat and Cafe D’lish. She’s not just passionate about organic, sustainable, ethical food production — at Milk Haus, she lives and breathes it.

    Arrive anytime between 8.30–11.30am for brekkie. If you’re up for a hearty feast, the silky ribboned eggs with aged cheddar, orange zest, dates, walnuts and toasted sourdough are hard to beat. From midday–2.30pm, lunch kicks in. The monthly changing menu includes the likes of spicy chicken with a toasted rice salad, slow-cooked lamb shoulder and a ploughman’s plate packed with smoked ham, fennel salami, aged cheddar, pickles and sourdough.

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    Native is quite possibly the healthiest cafe on the south coast — and also one of the tastiest. Perched on Ulladulla’s pretty harbour, this eatery serves up dishes loaded with superfoods and veggies grown by neighbours. If you’re an early riser, you’re in luck. Brekkie begins at 6.30am, which means it comes with incredible coastal sunrises. Spice up your morning with fried eggs, corn, chilli, guacamole, turtle beans, coriander and house-made flatbread. Or start sweetly with a mango chia pot, packed with passionfruit, coconut milk and roasted macadamias.

    Like a sleep in? You can also count on being looked after. Brekkie goes on all day, plus there’s an additional menu. For a major health boost, tuck into the Red Salad, a mountain of mushies, radicchio, broccolini, freekeh, quinoa, pumpkin hummus and pomegranate dressing. Carnivores can swap the mushies for braised lamb. The coffee is Will & Co’s Eight-O-Eight house blend, plus there are Mayde organic teas, turmeric lattes and a ‘rosetta’ latte: local milk infused with beetroot, hibiscus, ginger and maca.

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    Hampden Deli

    Before setting up Hampden Deli, owners Nick Gardner and Stevie-Lee Bounader spent years in fine dining restaurants. Head Chef Nick trained at Nelson Bay’s Zest, before working at some of Sydney’s best restaurants, including Quay and Tetsuya’s, where he was sous chef. So when you slip into this cosy deli, cage and cooking school in Kangaroo Valley for brekkie, take high expectations with you. The tight menu — which offers just two or three dishes at one time — features classics transformed into gourmet delights. Among them are an bacon and egg roll, with brown sugar bacon, local eggs, cabbage, fermented chilli and, surprisingly, Kettle chips, and the Eggs Royale: a muffin layered with local eggs, smoked salmon, Avruga ‘caviar’, maple hollandaise infused with coffee beans and chives.

    Cruising by at lunchtime? Linger over a grazing board, loaded with meats, cheeses, breads, croutons and house-made pickles, accompanied by a glass of local wine. Or grab a takeaway snack and keep going — the counter is crowded with sangas, salads, quiches and some very impressive pastries that are made in-house each morning. If you’re lucky, you’ll time your visit with the deli’s cinnamon cream buns or one of its salted caramel cube croissants filled with wattleseed cream.

    Image: Tammie Seidel, Take Five Photography.

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    Hyper Hyper Coffee

    Get ready for a serious lift because Hyper Hyper Coffee delivers on its name. In an unassuming shed in north Nowra, barista Pip de Pulford roasts and serves coffee as it’s been done in Italy since the 1950s: dark, rich and strong. His weapon? A 1959 Probat G22 roaster, which was hand-built in Germany of rock solid cast iron.

    Rather than playing with a stream of ever-changing beans, Hyper Hyper sticks to tried-and-tested classics. There’s the Blend 6, an old-school European style coffee, and the Cut Snake, made up of 100 percent Arabica beans. If you’re a connoisseur of black brews — short or long — it’s the one for you. In keeping with its simple yet powerful approach is Hyper Hyper’s surroundings. The decor consists of milk crates, boulders and, for shade, umbrellas. If you’re keen to drink and walk, grab a takeaway and stroll north to Harry Sawkins Park.

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    Just seconds from Mollymook Beach — and Bannisters Pavilion — is Tallwood Eatery. Here, head chef and co-owner Matt Upson plates up inventive dishes driven by local produce and inspired by his travels through Europe and Asia. Brekkie, served every day, kicks off at 8.30am. The eclectic menu is an international journey, from an Indian-spiced pancake with roasted cauliflower and lime pickle, to a bowl of ramen filled with greens, kimchi, mushroom dashi and a poached egg. Plus, there are some classics, like a mighty bacon and egg roll powered by eggplant chutney and chipotle mayo.

    Dinner, is just as creative — and a bit fancier. Among the share plates you might find on the ever-changing menu are sprightly cuttlefish skewers with preserved lemon, pine nuts and fennel; glazed lamb with kohlrabi and kombu oil; and pumpkin with labneh, pomegranate and chickpeas. However you feast, you’ll be doing it in Tallwood’s earthy-toned light-filled space. Plus, the restaurant doubles up as an informal art gallery, with works by local artists changing every few weeks.

    Image: Sam Walklate.

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    The Dairy Bar

    Step into the 1950s in The Dairy Bar. Hidden down a laneway off Berry’s main drag, this old-school milk bar is the new offshoot of The Treat Factory, which has been doling out sweet goodness for years. Grab a seat on the shady verandah overlooking Irish-green farmlands and dig in. Every dairy dish on the menu comes from local milk, sourced from farming cooperative South Coast Dairy. That includes the gelato, which is made daily. Try tried-and-trusted classics, like vanilla, Belgian chocolate and pistachio — or go for something more adventurous, like lemon cheesecake.

    There’s also a bunch of OTT sundaes if you want to kick things up a notch. The S’more is a tower of vanilla and chocolate gelato, layered with Graham Cracker crumbs, chocolate pâté and a piping hot s’more (that’s a Graham cracker sandwich, packed with chocolate and marshmallows). Meanwhile, the Apple Pie is a mountain of stewed and fresh apple, vanilla gelato, cinnamon almonds, waffle crumbs, caramel sauce and cream.

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    Maverick Coffee

    Chances, you’ll smell Maverick before you see it. Tucked away behind a car dealer and Ulladulla Macca’s, this isn’t just a cafe, but a microroastery, too. Owner and obsessive barista Andrew Gibson worked his way around Australia, New Zealand, the UK and Europe before setting up shop on the south coast. He knows his beans inside-out, including where to source those that are both ethical and tasty.

    Sink into a couch in the light-filled industrial space and order your brew of choice — be it a house blend or one of the ever-changing single origins, like the Blue Bianca from Indonesia, which has notes of grapefruit and tobacco. And, in case you’re travelling with your best mate, puppaccinos also on the menu. Feeling a bit peckish after your drive? Take your pick of sweet treats – from vegan donuts and hand-crafted chocolates to fresh pastries.

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    There might be a familiar face missing when you next venture through Berry, a town located about two hours drive south of Sydney. The region’s legendary Berry Sourdough Cafe shut its doors for good in October, wrapping up an incredibly popular 17-year run. But while one institution’s gone, there’s another in the making, with the owners’ other venture Milkwood Bakery still happily baking up a storm over on Queen Street. With seven years under its belt, this one’s got its own legion of fans and is known for slinging a tempting lineup of signature cakes, pastries, bread and coffee.

    The cabinets are chock full of sweet delights, including fruit-filled danishes, buttery croissants and delicate chocolate caramel hazelnut tarts. Savoury options might include rustic sausage rolls and pizza slices, while the bread selection showcases classics like organic sourdough and chewy ciabatta. It’s the perfect pit-stop for travellers, though if you’ve got the time, nab a seat in the leafy courtyard for a coffee and some brunch. The extended menu features cheery options like a loaded brekky burger, cheesy toasties and a vibrant brunch bowl

    Image: Kate Shanasy


Top image: The Treehouse Cafe.

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