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Lentil soup may not sound like the sexiest of dishes, but rest assured, it's a heart-warmer. We've added warming spices and served the soup with a dollop of garlicky tahini. Thin slivers of shaved raw beetroot add earthiness and texture - the beetroot is also excellent simply grated and served piled on top. The poached egg is optional, but highly recommended.

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"I'd love the recipe for the eggplant dip the wonderful Fatuma Tikuye serves at Blue Nile in Blacktown." - Helena Rosebery, Annandale, NSW REQUEST A RECIPE To request a recipe, email fareexchange@bauer-media.com.au or write to Fare Exchange, Australian Gourmet Traveller, GPO Box 4088, Sydney, NSW 2001. Please include the restaurant's name and address or business card, as well as your name and address.

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First look: Dulcie's Cottage, Merimbula

"Shady Pines goes to the beach" - even if the elevator pitch isn't exactly accurate, the opening of Dulcie's in Merimbula today is going to cause a splash.

Okay, so it's not precisely on the beach, but set, rather, in a 1925 weatherboard cottage on Merimbula Main Street. And the Shady Pines connection is also slightly tangential. Dulcie's are Merimbula-born Kirsty Pongratz and her business partner Mitchell Nadin; Pongratz's husband, Jason Scott, is a co-founder of the Swillhouse Group, which operates such Sydney landmarks of conviviality as Shady Pines, Frankie's and The Baxter Inn, and soon Hubert, their new CBD restaurant. Pongratz and Nadin stumbled across the site after a high school reunion and thought it too good an opportunity to miss.

"We saw it and just thought, we can't let anyone knock this down," she says. "Merimbula is such an amazing town, so we want to make it more of a destination."

Scott is helping out in an unofficial capacity, and has brought on Daniel Pepperell, the former 10 William St talent who will also head the kitchen at Hubert, to advise on the menu. Working with chef Zac Hidding, Pepperell has come up with a short, sharp menu of local oysters and American-style burgers, all cooked in a restored 1950s caravan at the front of the property. There's a classic cheeseburger with smoked speck, and a buttermilk fried-chicken burger with Asian slaw, as well as a roll stuffed with prawns.

"What's nice is that the Merimbula community has contributed to making this happen," says Pepperell. "From the beautiful burger buns made by the bakery to the local Milton grass-fed beef ground by the butcher, everything's been made with love."

"And let's not forget rock oysters from world-class Merimbula Lake only 100 metres away, and Broadwater," says Scott. "Doesn't get more local than that."

On the drinks front, Dulcie's offers a list of five or six cocktail classics, including a Margarita, a Negroni, an Old Fashioned, and a wild card, a Clover Club made with house-made raspberry coulis.

The cottage's walls are hung with op-shop paintings, tapestries and family photographs of Arthur and Dulcie Goodsell, the couple who built the house. A deck has been added to one side of the house overlooking the lake, and there's plenty of space for beers and buns under the jacaranda at the front.

"One of the problems that we face in Merimbula is that the opening hours are really inconsistent," Pongratz says. "If you want a drink at four o'clock in the afternoon, any day of the week, we'll be here, and you'll be able to get something to eat, too."

Dulcie's Cottage, Mon-Sat noon-midnight, Sundays noon-10pm, 60 Main St, Merimbula, NSW


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