On a recent Coffs Harbour dining getaway, my girlfriends and I caught wind of a local groundswell of la dolce vita for a new restaurant called The Mermaid Beach House. It’s across the road from the iconic Hoey Moey pub in Park Beach. So, just a short $9 Uber from our favourite and fantastic accommodation in Coffs Harbour, Pacific Marina Luxury Apartments at the Jetty, and we were there at the most exciting new diner in the area. Luckily, we managed to sneak in, just, but like any good restaurant, arrival without a booking will likely lead to plan B, so pick up the phone and reserve your seat on 0492 950 124.
Coffs Harbour Dining to Remember
We learned the Mermaid is the September reincarnation of the café OP-81. Dripping with charm, the old beach house is fronted by a beautiful white posted deck alfresco that screams a long lunch. At the centre of the said deck, new owner Rowan keeps a colossal arrangement of native flora on the round white-clothed table designed initially to hold our opened bottles of vino. The casual surfboard sign, the deck and those flowers build an eclectic postcard setting for what our neighbours at Pacific Marina Luxury Apartments told us had ‘completed their trip’ with service and a menu that had redefined dining on the Banana Coast for them. No pressure!
Rowan Brings Style and Talent
We were seated and greeted by Rowan, who is both delightful and the everything man at Mermaids. His endearing understated, charming nature is the essence of the place. Furthermore, his carefree ‘Cameron Datto’ features certainly add the batting of one’s eyelids to the whole experience. Ultimately, his true talents, of course, were soon to be recognised as undeniably kitchen based.
Delicious Italian Cuisine Bursting with Flavours
The food at The Mermaid is excellent. Indeed, nothing is overproduced, every ingredient is included with care, and no dish is served without Rohan’s nod. Italian is the theme. First, Focaccia with whipped ricotta, honey and spices is lux. The dough is complex, the crust crackles with salty rosemary. Essentially, it’s the ultimate nod to the classic bread course and a brilliant start to a meal.
Then, Crudo of swordfish, marinated blood plums and macadamia cream was our next revelation. This was expertly matched with an orange wine – nope, not a wine from Orange. The wine was skin contact sauvignon blanc from the Pyrenees in Western Victoria. It had the onion skin colour of a good dry rose but with grip and flavours the like of which we were pretty unfamiliar. But, brilliant with the Crudo. In fact, every splash was sipped and slurped with delight against the backdrop of the dish. In short, well-done Mermaid, this place might just stack up to the hype!
Pasta La Vista Baby!
Pasta is at the centre of the menu. And yes, there is a good selection, plus you can be assured all pasta is produced fresh on site. We ordered the Cassarecce with honey and squash as advised by the same server that poured our orange wine. Who would argue? The pasta arrived, and it remains the single most memorable plate of food I have eaten in Coffs Harbour, period. Now, honey written on any menu that isn’t pancakes, crepes or smoothies is pretty controversial to us. However, the balance this tiny spoonful brings to the pasta is almost a miracle. Our sources say the honey squash pasta is about to go out of season, so don’t walk Coffs Harbour, run. It is a Coffs Harbour dining experience not to be missed.
We’d heard the slow-roasted lamb shoulder secondi was stopping traffic. So, we tucked in, and barely a word was said to each other until the entire kilogram of ‘melt off your fork’ deliciousness was consumed. A few groans, some barely lucid eye contact, and I recall one of my companions crossing herself at one point as if in mass – that was it. The accompanying fennel and orange salad was a lifesaver at the end. This restaurant seems to have a knack for making these little vegetables stand up very tall. The fennel salad is no exception.
Perfectly Paired Italian Wines
We drank well, opting for bottles rather than glasses and erring towards the classic Italian reds. First, we drank a very savoury and serious bottle of Chianti Classico of Sangiovese and Cabernet. After which, we blessed ourselves with a bottle of Nebbiolo from the Lange hills of Piedmont in the North of Italy. The wine was beautifully served. Moreover, we wouldn’t hesitate to take the sommelier’s recommendations next time. Be assured, he really knew his stuff.
The Kitchen is Proud of this Coffs Harbour Dining Experience
Finally, one of the more humble things the restaurant does is allow the young kitchen brigade to come out on the floor and proudly introduce their creations. This is no longer an original point of service, but it absolutely charmed us as these youngsters are genuinely energised and one can sense their love and passion for the place and their place within it. You can’t fake that—what a wonderful Coffs Harbour Dining Experience this has been.