On a clear sunny day there is no finer view on the Central Coast than the one you’ll find looking out from the balcony at Terrigal’s The Cowrie. Nestled high on the hill overlooking the bustling Terrigal beachside, the restaurant offers stunning panoramic ocean and bay views.
What’s better is that their fine dining cuisine is even more magnificent than the vista!
At just on 18 months since taking over the iconic Central Coast venue, Owner/Executive Chef Dimitris Aronis and his Head Chef Reece Timora have transformed The Cowrie into something special. Championing locally sourced and seasonally driven produce, the menu is as light, fresh and modern as the revamped décor.
Open for lunch and dinner Wednesday through Saturday, and for lunch on Sundays, The Cowrie offers a Two Course, Three Course and Four Course menu with the option of paired wines. There’s also a separate Plant Based Menu which can be optionally paired with a selection of Ikou Organic Teas. This is a bold move, and one that is really worth your time to try. Some of the plant based dishes, especially the beetroot course (a dish my wife never fails to order when we’ve dined here together), are spectacularly delicious.
But, for this review, I’m here on my own for lunch. I decide on the Four Course Chef’s Selection Menu with Paired Wines. There is nothing I like more than being served food and wine without having to think about the choices!
First up is what I was told was an Amuse-bouche, but it was the largest ‘single-bite’ I’ve ever seen. Not that I’m complaining, because the bowl of pickled vegetables and olives was wonderfully fresh and crisp. Carrot, cucumber, radish and cauliflower in a slightly sweet and palate-priming vinegar, all balanced perfectly by the brine of the olives. It’s a dish that really gets the appetite going.
Sourdough and Olive Bread, crusty outside and as light and fluffy as a cloud on the inside, are served with creamy ricotta and herb-infused olive oil. It’s tough not to eat it all in one go, and I’m beginning to worry I’ll be near full before the first course arrives.
The first course is Smoked Ricotta and Pumpkin Ravioli, served with pine mushrooms, baby cauliflower and a sage brown butter sauce. The pasta is light, thin and rich with just the right amount of filling. The sweetness of the pumpkin balances nicely with the saltiness of the ricotta and the earthy mushrooms. It’s all paired with a floral and slightly flinty unoaked 2021 Albino Armani Chardonnay Capitel from the Trentino region of Italy that perfectly compliments the creaminess of the ricotta and further enhances the flavour of the pumpkin.
A palate cleansing glass of cordial made from elderflower syrup infused with apples and fejoas is light and refreshing and definitely resets the tastebuds for the next course.
The Beef Tenderloin is served medium rare, tasy and tender. Alongside it rests a rectangular slice of fall-apart beef short rib, slow-cooked and pressed for 24 hours, topped with gai lan and white fungi. There’s a generous serve of smooth pomme puree, a sprinkling of wattleseeds, and then there’s the real star of the dish…the master stock.
The master stock is full of flavour and subtle spice, really lifting the profile of every part of the dish that it touches. It’s colour is golden brown and so inviting, I could almost just drink this on its own. Unfortunately, amongst all this wonderful umami and beefy goodness, the subtlety of the white fungi is a little lost. The 2021 Cooter & Cooter McLaren Vale Shiraz is light, fresh and fruity with just the lightest of tannins to cut through the fattiness of the short rib and the richness of the master stock.
The next course is something I really love about The Cowrie. Executive Chef Dimitris Aronis has a real commitment to the cheese course, something sadly lost at many a dining establishment where it is an optional extra available only at the end of the meal. I mean, who doesn’t love cheese and wine? I know I do!
In the past I’ve been served French Roquefort, Italian Taleggio, and this time Spanish Manchego. Always one cheese as the focus, surrounded by accompaniments such as walnuts, poached pear, marinated grapes, local honey, and the lightest crispest house-made lavosh you’ve ever tasted. Paired this time with a 2017 Tamburlaine Reserve Noble Riesling, this is one simple course I always look forward to. Just sitting there, mixing, matching, and enjoying all a good cheese has to offer. To me, that’s heaven.
The fourth and final course is dessert. A rich chocolate delice, served with house-made vanilla ice cream, salted caramel sauce, chocolate soil and a sprinkling of toasted coconut. There’s always a risk of a dessert being too rich at the end of a 4 or 5 course meal, and many menus will go for a lighter option of fruit, but Chef Aronis and Chef Timora know how to balance a portion size with the flavours and this does not disappoint. The pairing of a Visner Vino di Visciole – a dessert wine of Montepulciano and Sangiovese infused with sour cherries – is ingenious. Full of the flavours of cherry and stewed plums, this pairing turns every mouthful of chocolate into a delightful Black Forest cake of dark berry flavour. It’s a great, heart-warming end to the afternoon.
Overall, The Cowrie is a marvellous experience away from the hustle and bustle of Terrigal’s heart. The attention to detail that is put into every dish – from appearance to flavour to how it will flow into the next course – is impressive. The way fresh local produce, and even produce from the restaurant grounds, is celebrated is extremely commendable. This also means the menu changes and is tweaked often to suits the seasons, and always with an emphasis on freshness.
The staff are knowledgeable about the food and wine they’re serving. Polite and attentive. As fine-tuned to the room as the food is to the palate. But still, there’s something wonderfully relaxed about the atmosphere at The Cowrie. It’s fine dining with a very fine view, but don’t rush. Take your time. Soak up the view and the flavours. Savour the food with your eyes and enjoy the wine. It’s an experience you’ll want to come back to again and again. Highly recommended.
The Cowrie is located at 109 Scenic Hwy, Terrigal NSW 2260. It is open for Lunch and Dinner Wednesday to Saturday from 12 noon until 10pm, as well as for Lunch Sundays from 12 noon until 5pm. For bookings phone: (02) 4384 3016 or check out the website at www.thecowrie.com.au