The ponds at the entrance are full of beautiful fish, swimming around in blissful ignorance that they might soon be on someone’s plate.
This barramundi farm near Port Stephens has a smart restaurant attached where you can lunch any day of the week.
Two dining areas cater for all-weather conditions.
The large inside room has glass bi-fold doors so you can still enjoy the view of the ponds, in air-conditioned comfort. And on fine days there is the adjoining balcony area.
Emphasis is on sustainability with all seafood sourced locally.
Waste from the barramundi is ploughed back into the large hydroponic herb and veggie garden on raised beds, visible from the dining area. And the produce also ends up on your plate.
Oysters are sometimes disappointing; pre-shucked and washed, ostensibly to remove grit but also eliminating any trace of natural, briny, iodine rich sea flavour.
Here, although they have been bought pre-shucked, they haven’t been washed and are in peak condition, fat and creamy.
With a squeeze of lemon, they slip down easily ($15/half a dozen, $26/dozen).
From a list of six entrees, smoked barramundi ($24) is served cold, with shaved fennel, translucent discs of radish and cucumber, and beetroot puree. Lemon dressing adds brightly fresh notes.
Add a side of their excellent fries and this could make an adequate light lunch.
It’s not all barramundi and seafood.
Pork and chive dumplings ($13) would not be out of place in a Shanghai noodle bar.
Steamed parcels made from won ton wrappers stuffed with pureed pork and chives rest on crisp salad greens next to a chilli and soy dipping sauce.
Deep fried onions scattered on top provide a contrasting crunch.
Or you could choose chilli prawn linguine ($28).
Tender pasta strands are studded with a plethora of fat, juicy prawns cooked in white wine with garlic oil and chilli.
But the go to dish must be poached barramundi (one fillet, $27.50, two fillets, $34).
The fish is perfectly poached in a seafood broth redolent of garlic, ginger and a hint of chilli from the chilli ‘flower’ garnish, which you can choose to add, or not.
A good dose of capsicum, celery, red cabbage and onion provides balance.
With all this seafood, it goes without saying that there’s a small selection of well-priced, crisp white wines from the Hunter Valley to choose from.
De Iuliis verdelho by the glass ($7) or the bottle ($29) goes down a treat.
And dessert? None made on the premises at the moment, just some very good quality pastries and ice cream.
The baked ricotta and berry tart ($8) or vanilla cream brulee tart ($10), which both come with vanilla bean ice cream would both satisfy the most exacting sweet tooth.
The service is a bit haphazard but so friendly; all is forgiven.
Children are welcome, and they are given cups of fish food to feed to the fish in the ponds.
- What: Cookabarra Restaurant & Function Centre, 476c Marsh Road, Bobs Farm; 4982 6740; cookabarra.com
- Chef: Aaron Perry
- Wines: Small list, mainly Hunter
- Hours: Lunch, seven days from 11.30am
- Vegetarian: 4 breads & starters, one entrée, one pizza
- Bottom line: Entrée, main, dessert and sides for two: about $120 without drinks
- Wheelchair access: Excellent
- Do try: Poached barramundi fillet