Roadtripping on the NSW Far South Coast reveals the magic of one of the country's best-kept secrets. Helen Anderson explores its pristine beauty, discovering perfect oysters, hip new venues and a wave of savvy entrepreneurs along the way.
We could buy a live lamb for $80 in the front bar of the Dromedary Hotel, or a second-hand ute (best offer). We settle instead for a seat on the verandah and watch a steady stream of passers-by shopping for fudge and knick-knacks in ye olde main street of Central Tilba, on the NSW Far South Coast.
I'm here to see a man about a dog. And his 25 chooks, nine pigs, seven goats, four cows, three ducks, vegetable patch, cooking school, cookbook and TV series. On a former dairy farm on the outskirts of town, Paul West has built a crowded new life as the boots-and-all host of River Cottage Australia, learning how to feed himself in a homegrown version of the long-running British TV series by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.
In just three seasons of the series, the former Vue de Monde chef has become the face of the NSW Far South Coast and a powerful advocate for its natural beauty, exceptional produce and strong sense of community.
Digger the black collie-cross bounds to the gate when we arrive, trailed by a film crew finishing up for the day and the genial, ginger-bearded West. Behind them is the pretty '30s cottage where filming and cooking classes take place, surrounded by emerald pasture and dominated by Mount Gulaga. West and his partner, Alicia Cordia, live close by with their baby son, Otto. "It's been a bit of a whirlwind," he says, ushering us inside for tea and homemade Monte Carlos. "It takes a while to form bonds when you're new in a community, but the nature of TV programming means I've met people with shared interests from day one, fast-forwarding the process. I'd have to say this is one of the most welcoming communities I've ever lived in - it felt like home within six months."