For the last week I’ve been visiting Merimbula, situated on the Sapphire Coast in NSW. The town is tiny and mostly populated with holiday homes, accommodation, and oysters, but the beaches and cliffs are absolutely gorgeous. 10/10 would recommend people to come and visit.
Sadly, I didn’t get to set up camp in a cafe to write during this trip, but I did find one which I just had to review. It was more of a fine dining experience than a café, but let’s not be picky.
Since this establishment is both an aquarium and a restaurant, I’ll do this in two parts.
I’ve been to many aquariums in my life: Melbourne, Manly, Gold Coast, the little ones dotted around, and as far as Las Vegas. I’m a keen axolotl parent and also have a pet yabbie, so when it comes to seeing fish in captivity, I’m quite critical of their care, husbandry, overstocking, and overall stress factor.
Of all the aquariums I’ve visited, Merimbula Wharf is by far my fave. For $25 a head, I enjoyed it so much more than Melbourne Aquarium, which from memory cost around $40.
What I loved:
The variety of fish and critters. There were fishies, a turtle, different species of lobsters, anemones, an octopus, sharks, seahorses, and an occasional shrimp. Their tanks were clean but not sterile like in some aquariums. These ones had the correct amount of hides for those species that like some privacy, the correct natural substrate, and none of the tanks were over crowded.
The best part? The tanks are all connected to a large water tank that’s pumped from the sea – their natural sea water – and this water flows into the tanks, keeping them fresh at all times. The cycle ensures the water is completely changed every day which means no nasty ammonia and nitrate build-up.
Most of the fish are caught in humane catchments next to the wharf and ‘visit’ for a time before being re-released. My fave were the cuttlefish. Two separate fish in two separate tanks had laid clutches of eggs, which the volunteer aquarists were super excited for.
After visiting the aquarium, I headed upstairs for a much needed coffee and some lunch. I honestly wasn’t expecting such a fine dining experience; I thought it would be the usual freshly caught fish and chips (I don’t eat fish for obvious reasons) or a hamburger.
I started with a flat white coffee and to my surprise it was divine. It was almost as good as Brew Lab in Penrith (review coming soon).
For my main, I had pork cutlet with bacon maple jus, honey mustard carrot, wilted broccolini, and mash. The flavours of the maple and the honey mustard worked well together and infused into the mash. Even the cutlet was cooked perfectly and melted in my mouth. From the very first bite to the last, my palate was taken on a delicious journey.
I chose an alcoholic ginger beer to pair with the pork and wasn’t disappointed. When it comes to drink pairings I have no bloody clue. This choice worked though and I have zero regrets.
My final order has somewhat become my tradition for these posts. The good ol’ chai latte. Like I said above, this was a restaurant not a cafe, so instead of the usual chai in a takeaway container, it was a pot of brewed tea with milk and sugar on the side.
The first cup of a pot is always a little weak and I didn’t get to enjoy the full flavour of the chai. The second, though, was much richer in flavour and warmed me to my toes. It was completely different compared to a chai latte, but I wasn’t disappointed.
Overall, this was a great experience and I highly recommend going there if you’re visiting the area.