NESTLED at the end of the Tilligerry Peninsula is Lemon Tree Passage. It’s not directly on the way to the popular Port Stephens locales of Nelson Bay and Shoal Bay, and so it stays fairly protected from the hustle and bustle that comes with those tourist spots.
I have to admit to never having ventured there before, but word of a new restaurant with a trained French chef at the helm had me making the 45-minute drive from Newcastle to check it out.
Arriving a little early for our lunch booking, we decide on a stroll to explore this sleepy village. At the end of the main street a boardwalk has been built over the mangroves. This then leads onto a longer path around the water’s edge. We follow it for around half an hour, working up an appetite, and are rewarded with glimpses of sleepy, furry koala bears.
The restaurant itself is perched over the water at the Albatross Marina. It’s a new space with a nautical theme of blues and white; catching the breeze as diners watch the pelicans soar past and the boats quietly chug by from a mornings’ fish in the bay. Wrap-around clear windows enables views from every table and the space caters for big and small groups. This is a venue that will no doubt get very popular on the upcoming summer weekends.
Our French hostess is friendly and helpful. The menu can be as casual or as formal as you’d like with a choice of tapas plates or a la carte. There are a few daily specials as well.
We order a dozen oysters – the waitress has to check if she has enough as they are so popular. It’s the perfect fit considering the surroundings. A dozen mixed oysters come natural, and with three other dressings: soy, kilpatrick or truffle oil with parmesan and sour cream. It’s their version of mornay and with that earthy truffle oil it’s on par with the original in terms of rich flavour.
To allow room for dessert, I try a tapas-sized blue eye cod special. The fish is really well cooked with moist fish hiding underneath a crispy skin. It sits on a bed of sweet mango and pineapple risotto. Despite it being a tapas dish, it is still generous in size and feels lovely and fresh. Pastas are made in-house and the crab fettuccini is a great way to sample the best of the bunch. The freshly-made pasta is al dente with plenty of bites of sweet crab. Flecks of chilli and a squirt of lime add zing and freshness. Parsley and crunchy breadcrumbs add texture. It’s really balanced with none of the heavy oil that often comes with seafood pasta dishes.
Thankfully the light entree and main has allowed enough room for dessert and I can never go past a chocolate fondant. This version is decadently rich with a just-baked crust over a lava lake of chocolate goo. Indulgent vanilla cream anglais on the side makes it fondant from heaven.
The Cafe Gourmand option allows you to see the pastry-making expertise from the kitchen: your choice of coffee with a plate of petit fours – we receive a colourful selection including two macarons (strawberry and chocolate), a coconut rough, a palmier, a florentine and a friand. It’s a little treasure trove of tiny sweet treats.
The Poyer’s is the perfect addition to the peninsula. It’s laid back and lovely.
We order a dozen oysters – the waitress has to check if she has enough as they are so popular. It’s the perfect fit considering the surroundings.