Slow Food From the Pacific

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The stories of Norfolk Island’s harsh penal history and impenetrable, rugged facade have been well documented. However, a new movement has cast a light across this mysterious island – the source of which has seen it flourish through the darkest of political times – its ability to produce some of the finest and most unique cuisine on the market today. Anji Bignell discovers a foodie mecca worth making the trip for.

The cultural immersion of the Norfolk language - an intriguing blend of English and Tahitian, still spoken to this very day – and its mix of Polynesian, British and American traditions (such as Thanksgiving Day), together with its isolated, tropical environment - have helped gather a following of tourists who make the trip back to this island time and time again.

Folks on the island have learned to embrace what they have in terms of produce, through necessity. On a recent visit to Norfolk Island, I could sit atop my cliff top cottage at Forrester Court overlooking the majestic landscape of Norfolk Island’s Cascade Bay – a light, sun-kissed breeze moving through the thick, tropical leaves of the banana trees – and watch the boat come in to deliver goods to the locals, from small tenders. The Port was too small (and treacherously close to the cliffs) for large ships to bring in large imports of food.

The Norfolk Blue Cow - with its blue sheen and stocky waistline – is unique to the island and is served up straight from the paddock to the plate at Robyn Menghetti’s ‘Norfolk Blue Restaurant Grill & Bar’. The restaurant prides itself on its sustainable and economical practices of running itself on a solar generated system while breeding the majestic Norfolk Blue cattle within one-kilometre food miles of its kitchen. Every part of the animal is utilised – including the carcass and offal – for a variety of fresh, amazing dishes.
Further around the hill and overlooking the pristine coastline of Anson Bay, is The Hilli Goat farm, run by Emily Ryves. Her goats roam freely around the farm and are milked daily to make fresh, local, Artisan goats’ cheese – only sold on the island and at the weekly Famers’ Markets.

Norfolk Island also runs a food festival in November, to celebrate the traditional British, American and Tahitian customs, with ghostly tours and dining in its convict quarters and demonstrations from celebrity chefs who forage for the freshest ingredients, including the local beef, pork, cheese, coffee and banana rum jam.

It is hard not to fall in love with the food, beaches and the friendly, beautiful people of this island. I still giggle at the thought of trying to master the ‘Norfolk Island Wave’ - a custom of fluttering your fingertips atop the steering wheel to greet other travellers in their cars – while trying not to drive into potholes that encumber the sides of the roads. It sent my heart bursting with happiness every time someone waved at me, even if out of habit.

Norfolk Island is unique in that you can wander freely through its history and sense a connection with it. What is left of the old gaol in Kingston, is open for people to meander through the cells that once held prisoners – the whaling boats, pretty as a postcard, are left to spend their idle time basking in the soft, glowing sun and sea spray amidst the backdrop of turquoise blue water – as if time had stood still from the day they were left there and held their last catch.

I can only hope that everyone can experience this place in all its beauty – and that it will still remain an untouched wonderland for families, foodies and romantics alike.

The writer was a guest of Norfolk Island Tourism (www.norfolkisland.com.au) and stayed at Forrester Court (www.forrestercourt.com).

Air New Zealand flies direct to Norfolk Island twice a week from both Sydney and Brisbane. For more information or to book, visit www.airnewzealand.com.

For more stories, you can follow Anji Bignell at www.anjibignell.com and Twitter: @anjibignell

Photo credits: Norfolk Island Tourism
Hilli Goat farm images: Emily Ryves

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