Lookout Sydney and Melbourne, NSW now has one of its best burger joints on the South Coast of the state, between Sydney and Melbourne. Discovering Dulcie’s Cottage in Merimbula is one of the greatest food finds of my indulgence and hearing the story behind it and seeing everything the venue has to offer has made my culinary year already. And the best part was I did it with my parents, who both agree the burgers are some of the best they have had in their eons of time.
Imagine if the very cool people of Shady Pines opened a burger joint and moved it seven hours from Sydney, well that is pretty close to what has actually happened and considering Shady Pines is one of my favourite bars in Sydney this was win win for me from the get-go. The connection is a little obscure; Jason Scott of Sydney’s Swillhouse Group (owners of Shady Pines, Baxter Inn, Frankie’s Pizza) has offered some advice and assistance to his wife, Kirsty Pongratz and her business partner, Mitchell Nadin. Swillhouse Group also offered up chef Dan Pepperell from 10 William Street to work with local operating chef Zac Hidding to come up with an epic menu of burgerly (and other) delights.
Pongratz and Nadin saw the old weatherboard building for sale in their old hometown of Merimbula on the South Coast and wanted to do something to save it, the two neighbouring similar buildings were torn down and turned into a carpark and they decided to salvage the old girl and do something unique to the venue. They saw that the town had limited establishments for drinking besides the local clubs and restaurants, saw that hole in the market and in Pongratz’s own words “we created a venue out of necessity.” And like all genius ideas this will do more than work, it will become an icon.
Pongratz and Nadin took the cool factor next level, they researched the heritage of the venue and traced its entire history, and in turn created the venue in honour of its history. See that black and white photo above next to the stuffed dear’s head? Well that’s Dulcie Goodsell and her husband, they built the original cottage way back in the twenties and Dulcie raised her family in this small house.
Dulcie’s daughter, Fay Deveril, still lives in Merimbula and has worked with Pongratz and Nadin in the decor of the venue, all the walls are decked out in black and white photos and art from the history of Dulcie and her family. It is a beautiful touching tribute to history that gives the venue a nostalgic joy that is also reminiscent of the decor of Shady Pines (the peanuts also are a shout out to Shady Pines), an old saloon and an old Australian coastal home all wrapped into one. Dulcie’s Cottage also has a HUGE outside area that offers harbour views and is mostly shadowed by a giant jacaranda tree that Dulcie’s son gave to her as a present in a jam jar as a seedling. The history in this place makes you squee with joy and everywhere you look there is something amazing to look at.
One mysterious part of the venue that again is reminiscent to Shady Pines is actually finding the place. It is located at 60 Main St, Merimbula, put that into your GPS and stop when you see the cream-coloured picket fence and giant jacaranda tree, just like Shady Pines there is no signage and the venue hasn’t advertised in the slightest, it is building its own hype and on Thur, Fri, Sat nights is three deep at the bar with a full venue and courtyard. It’s amazing when great product speaks for itself.
After all the excitement I was already facing it was time for the menu. First stop, beer, the venue has nothing on tap but their menu is amazing. First of all, cocktails; enough to keep you happy, a wine list that is brilliant and an even better beer menu. It is like a Newtown Pub in a burger joint, just on the South Coast. I had the Newtown Pale Ale from Young Henrys and Mike went the 4 Pines Stout all the way from my hometown in Manly. Mum had a pot of tea delivered.
Oh, and the kitchen; no room in the actual cottage which is filled with the large bar, the toilets and seating for one and all, well it gets even cooler with a fully restored 1959 Carapark caravan under the jacaranda tree, it takes hispter cool to next level, I was longing for my tortoiseshell framed glasses and an apple vape pipe carved from local turtle bone. I was squealing in retro delight.
Let’s just start with the above burger shall we. Hands down the BEST CHICKEN BURGER I HAVE EATEN. Buttermilk fried chicken, Asian slaw and Sriracha Mayo for $14. It is epic – that buttermilk chicken is divine and the salad compliments it perfectly while the sriracha mayo is like the ultimate cherry on a chicken burger cake. 5/5 on the burger spoonometer.
All the ingredients at Dulcie’s Cottage are sourced locally, from the sublime milk buns all made up the road at the much loved Wild Rye Bakery, Pambula Broadwater Oysters from the waterways that are walking distance to the Goodall’s ground beef that (I believe) comes from Milton near Ulladulla. The local community has a hand in the product out of Dulcie’s Cottage and this adds that extra element of respect to the place.
My mum has some current dietary issues and the staff were incredibly patient and accommodating in fully tailoring a burger for her needs. The Cheeseburger is Goodall’s ground beef patty, sliced white onion, bread and butter pickle, burger cheese, ketchup and mustard for $12-. Mum’s had half of the ingredients with sauces on the side for her to add at her leisure and she still said it was one of the best burgers she has ever eaten.
Mike and myself ordered the chicken burger to share and the above Dulcie’s Burger to also share. The Dulcie’s Burger: ground beef patty, sliced white onion, bread and butter pickle, burger cheese, bacon, green oak lettuce and vine-ripe tomato ($15-). It was amazeballs!! Not the best beef burger I have eaten but more than enough of a match for smashing the big Sydney burger’s out of the park. Patty perfectly cooked, bacon crispy and all the flavour combinations sublime, the closest I can find to compare is the Deus Cafe collab beef burger with PLK and Barrio Cino. This one had more flavour :). 4/5 on the burger spoonometer.
And because those first burgers were so brilliant and Dulcie’s Cottage was seven plus hours from home it was time to get another one in the tummy :). But as opposed to a burger I wanted the Prawn Roll: poached Australian prawns in a soft herb mayo with a side of fries ($14-). Now while it is called a roll it is more a large fluffy soft white slice of bread that has been butter fried and folded around abundant prawns. The bread was so fluffy it was insane and the prawn stuffing was perfect. It should be noted though, this is a smaller meal than the burgers but comes with fries where the burgers do not. As for the fries, they are the closest things to Macca’s fries I have ever had (my favourite fries).
The one thing I haven’t mentioned was the staff; they were great, friendly, accommodating and had the country thing about them, they actually listened to conversation and were genuinely interested in talking as opposed to doing it because it is expected of them.
This photo of my ma pretty much sums up the entire experience we had at Dulcie’s Cottage. Merimbula is now on the culinary map and I will be returning every time I am on the South Coast.
DULCIE’S COTTAGE DEETS