Never has a place been more appropriately named than where Fiona Weir Warmsley and Adam Walmsely call home.
Buena Vista Farm. The farm with the magnificent outlook barely seems to do justice to the place, which lies on the southern outskirts of Gerringong, just south of Kiama on the NSW South Coast.
I can immediately understand why Fiona came back shortly after doing her seemingly obligatory break from home.
The huge dining table offers as magnificent a spectacle of the coast as does the kitchen garden, where I first stood in awe of the vista.
I linger longer over my coffee than I probably should, and probably nibble at more of the cake than I know I should, given that I’m booked for lunch shortly. But, really, I just can’t help myself.
Fiona’s family have been involved with the farm since the late 1830s, and it was bought by her great-great-grandfather in 1859.
It was a dairy farm then, and that’s what it remained until Fiona’s father retired recently. He still lives on the place and has planted a small coffee grove, which is sheltered and does surprisingly well given its southerly latitude.
Fiona and Adam quickly realised that dairying, as her family had known it, was dead in the water, and that their only chance of survival at Gerringong was to build a sustainable operation which would support a small family.
A quick walking tour of the farm showed the diversity that has been engendered.
They started with some chooks, both layers and meat birds, and have added bees, a small herd of grass-fed beef, a market garden, a kitchen garden (which has the world’s greatest view), free-range pigs, ducks, goats and geese, and a commercial kitchen.
Fiona and Adam now sell a range of produce, both online and at local markets, including free-range eggs, free-range meat chickens, honey, free-range ducks, chemical-free vegetables and a range of wholefoods from the commercial kitchen — traditionally fermented sauerkraut, fresh sourdough loaves, cultured butter, slow-cooked bone broths, etc.
More recently, Fiona and Adam have added cooking classes to their repertoire — cheesemaking, biscuit baking, chicken raising and processing, growing and making coffee, introductory fermentation.
Most importantly, they seem to be making a go of it — and they certainly seem to be happy doing it. And Fiona’s father, Malcolm, lives in his own house and is totally supportive of the new direction his farm has taken, even if it’s a bit out of his comfort zone.
The places that, meal-wise, book-end my visit to Buena Vista, certainly do well not just in the food stakes but also in building an appetite for scenery and in maintaining it, even in the face of just having witnessed what must be among the very best.
Penny Whistlers occupies a prime Kiama shopfront right on the water. It’s a perfectly fine autumn morning and the place is packed with the hungry, who are obviously well satisfied with what they are receiving.
I’m not surprised. My couple of poached eggs, with sourdough toast and bacon on the side, are delicious and sustaining — the perfect start to what is shaping up as a demanding day.
Meanwhile, the Blue Swimmer occupies an enviable ocean-front at Gerroa, just a few clicks down the road from Gerringong, and seems very much to act as a local hub, a stream of people calling in for at least a coffee and a snack.
The owners, Daniel and Paul Dewhurst, are as passionate about good food as they are about surfing, and the get a mighty good chance here to tick both boxes — and to do so with plenty of verve, especially with the skills and dedication of talented chef, Canadian-born and -trained, Lauren Brown on hand.
My entrée of grilled octopus is delicious and comes with generous helpings of preserved lemon, romesco chilli and garlic, as is my main course of sticky lamb ribs, served with harissa and spiced yoghurt.
Fortunately, I remembered I was in the country and only had an entrée-sized serving.
That was enough to prepare me for the rest of the day — which included a concert by radio’s and TV’s Tim ‘Rosso’ Ross and guitarist Kit Warhurst, bringing their quirky combination of song, chatter and strumming to Gerringong.
It was held in the magnificently conceived Headland House, available for holiday rentals and overlooking Werri Beach, just north of the town, and designed on an obviously bugger-the-cost basis by bespoke architects Atelier Andy Carson.
To say it is simply decadent is an obvious understatement. To say that the outlook rivals that of Buena Vista Farm equally so. They’re just two very different beasts.
IF YOU GO
Buena Vista Farm, 250 Fern St, Gerringong, phone 0414 703 958, visit www.buenavistafarm.com.au
Penny Whistlers, 5/31 Shoalhaven St, Kiama, phone 02 4233 2770, visit www.pennywhistlers.com.au
The Blue Swimmer, 19 Riverleigh Rd, Gerroa, phone 02 4234 3796, visit www.theblueswimmer.com.au
Headland House, Princes Highway, Gerringong, visit www.headlandhouse.com.au
John Rozentals was a guest of Destination NSW.