The Jaanning Tree

When native cuisine meets easy Nambucca Heads hospitality, the result is mesmerising.

Australia's favourite food blogger, Not Quite Nigella, discovers a hospitable lifestyle on the New South Wales coast.

"Feel free to jump in the water” Jane says to us as we stare mesmerised at the view from our table at The Jaanning Tree. Sometimes when you travel and are in a hurry, you look around, realise that there is something special going on where you are and just sit and stay for a while. And that’s what happened to the lovely Julie and I this sunny afternoon at The Jaaning Tree.

Situated right on Nambucca River, Jane, the maitre’d and wife of chef Clayton Donovan tells us that often between service they go for a dip in the river to cool off. And the lifestyle is partly why they have moved back to Nambucca Heads where he grew up because he wants his kids to experience the life that he had growing up.

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The water is served with native bush lime which resemble a tiny orange or mandarin but is in fact like a salty lime (perfect for a cocktail!)

Of course we had to try the local Nambucca Heads oysters. The natural oysters are lovely and we use the native wild lime from our drinks to give it a fresh kick. The Asian ones however with pickled and fresh ginger, coriander and wasabi are the pick with a lovely balance of flavours and a delicate hand. The salad in the entree is also a nice complement to the oysters and features violas and nasturtiums from their home garden as well as apple berry flower which is a native fruit that kangaroos like.

Clayton picked some up nearby and he tells us that as kangaroos like it so much, if you find kangaroo tracks then there is a chance that you have an apple berry tree. The apple berry flower has a texture like a green apple skin but a flavour like celery. While the actual apple berry itself has a flavour like quince and Clayton tells us that it tastes like bubblegum!

The crocodile is one of their signature dishes and once we try it we can see why. Here it is served carpaccio style cured in light citrus juice. It is draped between crispy wonton rounds with rocket, ginger and Spanish onion with a dollop of wasabi creme fraiche and a chilli and coriander dressing. It has a lovely fresh aspect to it and is full of flavour.

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We decided to go for three entrees and one main in an effort to still fit into our clothes and they had recommended these dishes to us. The cheese and macadamia nut beignets comes as three neat parcels of choux pastry mixed with cheese and crushed macadamias and they remind me of a bite sized cheese scone. They are served with turned baby beetroot, fondant potato and a balsamic & wattle seed reduction and a Davidson plum reduction as well as a choice of powders including a carrot, asparagus, beetroot and wattle seed powder and a toffee apple gel. I don’t know if it needs all of those powders though.

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