Written by Lizzie Macaulay
Palavas Les Flots.
A once-sleepy fishing village in the south of France that has experienced rapid growth and development as tourists and residents became drawn to coastal life…
Hmmm… this sounds awfully like somewhere else I know.
Hervey Bay a once-sleepy fishing village in the north of Australia that has experienced rapid growth and development as tourists and residents became drawn to coastal life…
And now, the two worlds intersect thanks to local chef and restaurateur, Serge Delagnes, who graciously opened his kitchen to me for this month’s column.
Serge has found himself emigrating from the first former fishing village to the second over the meanderings of life and finding his permanent home here.
A resident of the Fraser Coast since 1994, he’s been delighting locals with his sumptuous offerings from the expansive setting of his restaurant beneath the Riviera Resort.
This month, it was my turn to peek behind the curtain, so to speak, and find out what life is like in Palavas Les Flots – the restaurant, not the town.
Meeting Serge was a delight, of course.
Seeing him come alive in his element – the kitchen – was something truly special.
There was something about stepping over that threshold from the front of house to the back that was magical – I caught a definite twinkle in Serge’s eye as he spoke about produce and pasta making and olive oil. (All questions I’d thrown at him as a rank amateur cook myself)
I’d been prepared for literally making pasta, but as he’d already made a whopping 10kg of fresh pasta earlier in the day, Serge made the executive call: that was enough pasta making for one day.
Quite right, too, I say.
So, we did another thing instead.
A classic pasta dish… with mushrooms… and cream …and wine…
Err, all the good things in one plate!
As the pan was warming, Serge brought out a curious little tub. He shows me a treasure he’s procured from Brisbane: a soft, endlessly creamy ball of Burrata cheese.
I had no idea how it was going to be incorporated yet, but I was definitely ready to experience the delicate flavours Serge had so animatedly described.
With the pan ready, in went the key ingredients to cook down – the mushrooms, garlic, white wine, and a chef’s secret ingredient I couldn’t possibly divulge.
It sizzled away and I’m struck by how effortless Serge makes it all look – a practiced chef, I know, but there’s a definite grace to the way he moves around the kitchen.
A grace, I’m sad to say, that is not emulated in my own kitchen at home. Elephants on roller skates may be a more accurate picture to paint.
Once the base had been adequately prepared, Serge added a generous lashing of cream to the pan and let the sauce reduce.
I was astonished at the rapid boil this cream was experiencing – I’d been labouring under the misconception that cream would lose its mind if it bubbled away like that.
But nope, it’s comfortably holding up to conditions and I’ve learned a new thing.
Serge stepped away from the stove to retrieve some tomatoes from the cool room.
And before my eyes, a whole new dish began to form – and the Burrata was finally going to make its epic debut.
Colourful, vibrant tomatoes, chopped to perfection, laid out beautifully and glistening with the finest olive oil.
An incredible house-made red wine balsamic reduction.
And… the Burrata.
Well worth the wait and the hype!
With the finishing touches coming together for the main attraction, it was time to set up somewhere to eat.
Another glorious Hervey Bay afternoon meant alfresco dining was mandatory.
We found a shady spot with a cool breeze in the restaurant’s outside dining space and laid out three settings – for me, Joy and Serge.
All that was left to do was plating up and enjoying.
As the three of us sat outside enjoying the meal and the conversation I can’t help but remember how wonderful our region is – the produce, the people, the climate.
Where we live is so conducive to a happy life, and I’m so grateful that we moved here 9 years ago.
I can see why Serge laid down roots here, too.
Palavas Les Flots – his home away from home.
With thanks to Serge for opening his kitchen to us. Palavas Les Flots is under the Riviera Resort – 385 Esplanade, Hervey Bay. To make a reservation, call 07 4112 3370.