Justin Hemmes' Narooma restaurant opens with Chez Dominique pop-up menu

French-Australian chefs and Chez Dominique founders Julian May and Elsa Marie have opened a new pop-up dining experience at The Whale Inn at Narooma.
French-Australian chefs and Chez Dominique founders Julian May and Elsa Marie have opened a new pop-up dining experience at The Whale Inn at Narooma.

Justin Hemmes' Merivale group has officially opened the doors to its new dining experience at the Whale Inn on the NSW South Coast, and with lockdowns all around locals will get the first taste.

Chez Dominique, based in Narooma, is described as an "intimate farm-to-table pop-up" in collaboration with local French-Australian chefs and Chez Dominique founders Elsa Marie and Julian May.

Merivale group confirmed the purchase of Narooma's boutique hotel and restaurant, The Whale in June.

The purchase followed that of The Quarterdeck, which was Mr Hemmes' first acquisition outside Sydney, announced in March.

While accommodation at The Whale has remained open, the restaurant underwent a brief closure and refresh before its official reopening this weekend.

Drawing on humble French roots and creative seasonal cooking, the menu celebrates South Coast produce.

Having moved to the area last year to learn more about organic farming and to give their food a unique meaning, Ms Marie and Mr May said they are proud to have built close relationships with local farmers, producers and artisans with whom they will create the ever-evolving menu.

Chez Dominque's menu is said to celebrate South Coast produce with authentic French-Australian dishes.

Chez Dominque's menu is said to celebrate South Coast produce with authentic French-Australian dishes.

Vegetables and fruits are picked from four local farms the pair cherish in Moruya on the NSW South Coast - Borrowed Ground, Queen Street, Old Mill Road and Stepping Stone - supplied by local green grocer Southlands, and harvested from The Whale Inn's own kitchen garden.

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Free-range eggs are from Bega Valley, free-range chickens from Camden Valley and dairy is provided by Tilba Real Dairy. Grass-fed heritage breed pork, beef, quails and ducks are courtesy of Martin's Ridge and Tathra Place.

The Whale Inn's kitchen garden supplies ingredients for the ever-changing menu

The Whale Inn's kitchen garden supplies ingredients for the ever-changing menu

"We have fallen in love with all of the incredible ingredients the Eurobodalla Shire has to offer. We have a strong passion for local, high-quality, sustainable produce and wine, and can't wait to share our cooking with the local community," the pair said.

Merivale's Jenn Black and team are delivering the restaurant service, delivered in harmony with Chez Dominique's aesthetic and approach to cooking.

In true French-bistro style, the menu is written up daily on blackboards and will change frequently depending on the fresh produce available.

Think Narooma oysters with pepper berry mignonette; Tathra Place Farm Maremma pastured quail salad with brussel sprouts and caramelised walnuts; locally-caught fish of the day in escabeche with carrot, fennel and coriander; and Martin Ridge Farm rolled pork shoulder with roasted carrots, chards and mustard sauce.

The menu will change depending on seasonal produce available that week.

The menu will change depending on seasonal produce available that week.

To finish, there is Elsa and Julian's favourite Rhum Baba with chantilly cream set alight at the table and enjoyed with a specially curated rum degustation, if so desired.

When it comes to drinks, Merivale's Victor Costa (Bar Topa, The Paddington and will's) has curated a cocktail list with flavours befitting the coastal surrounds.

The wine list has been designed to align with Chez Dominique's food philosophy and features sustainable and minimal intervention winemakers and organic and biodynamic wines, alongside classic, easy drinking Australian and international drops.

The pop-up will run for the next few months, accommodation remains open and plans for the evolution of the property will be announced in due course.

This story Justin Hemmes' NSW South Coast venture launches paddock-to-plate pop-up first appeared on Bega District News.