Eating My Way Around Norfolk Island

20 November 2015
The Hilli Goat, Norfolk Island. Credit: Facebook.com/HillyGoat. The Hilli Goat, Norfolk Island. Credit: Facebook.com/HillyGoat.

 

"There's more to Norfolk Island" initially seemed like a slightly obscure slogan, but after visiting this delightful piece of paradise 90 minutes' flight from Auckland, I totally understand what they mean. Once dismissed as a playground for the over-60s crowd, Norfolk has undergone enormous change in the last few years and is now a fantastic destination for all demographics – especially anyone who likes to eat.

The only produce this tiny island imports are potatoes, onions, ginger and garlic, so eating here is very much “paddock to plate”. Everything is grown on the island and picked as close to eating as possible. Obviously the food miles are particularly low: Norfolk measures only 35 km2 so nothing has to – or can – travel very far. This makes it the perfect place to self-cater, especially if you enjoy fishing. The waters are beyond abundant and you could eat any of the local varieties for days and not tire of the taste.

Coffee is grown and roasted locally on a small plantation in Anson Bay by Fred Wong, who also owns a cafe and a local restaurant, (he's not unusual – many Norfolk residents have multiple businesses and jobs). There are over 20 varieties of bananas growing all over the island too. If you are self catering, a visit to Xtian Brothers (yes, they are descendants of Fletcher Christian of HMS Bounty fame) for fresh organic cow's cheese is a must. They also do haloumi and feta and have just started selling a local blue.

Goats cheese on homemade bread at the Hilli Goat. Credit: Alexia Santamaria. Goats cheese on homemade bread at the Hilli Goat. Credit: Alexia Santamaria.

 

Speaking of dairy, seek out the goat's cheese made by Emily Ryves, who owns the The Hilli Goat with her partner Zach. You can buy her product at the local farmers' market or, better still, take a tour of her lush property and watch her milk the goats and make cheese first hand. The tour finishes with a home-cooked lunch, using produce from their huge veggie patch. I can personally testify that the chevre-style cheese is extremely good (especially on their homemade bread), and the goats are extremely cute.

Apart from the cheese, there are all kinds of small artisan producers on the island. There's Norfolk Island Honey; chocolate maker Sweeties (make sure you try their caramel fudge); Norfolk Island Liqueurs, whose macadamia liqueur in particular is lovely. The company also produces the local soft drink, a lemon squash which tastes like the best old-fashioned lemonade you've ever had. Try them all at the Sunday Markets at Burnt Pine, the island's largest town. The cupcakes from Sweet Pea Cakery looked particularly enticing, although I was regrettably too full to indulge.

Trumpeter fish at Hilli Restaurant. Credit: Alexia Santamaria. Trumpeter fish at Hilli Restaurant. Credit: Alexia Santamaria.

 

There's even a winery on Norfolk Island. We enjoyed Two Chimney's fruity shiraz and could imagine their Sparkling Chambourcin would make a great aperitif with a plate of local cheese. If you visit Two Chimneys, make sure you leave enough time to enjoy one of Noeline's platters – as gorgeous to eat as they are to look at.

Though it might be tempting to try with all the great produce available, there's no need to cook for yourself on Norfolk. My favourite meal of the trip was dinner at Hilli Restaurant, an all-day restaurant and cafe (in case you're wondering, “hilli” in the Norfolk language means to relax or rest). The trumpeter fish was sublime and the vegetables tasted like they were picked from their huge garden only minutes before service. If you go during the day, make sure you visit the mind-blowing Fletcher’s Mutiny Cyclorama next door: a Norfolk Island must-see.

Emily Bay. Credit: Alexia Santamaria. Emily Bay. Credit: Alexia Santamaria.

 

In Burnt Pine, newly opened Joel's Cafe is excellent for lunch and even better for takeout picnics at nearby Emily Bay, or indeed at any of the island's pretty al fresco dining spots. Devouring their fabulous smoked kingfish salad beside the Bay's crystal-clear waters is an experience I long to repeat, and soon. The Olive Cafe and the Golden Orb are also great for casual daytime dining and I can still taste the wonderful coconut pie at the Blue Bull. Ask for cream on top.

Norfolk Island's World Heritage sights certainly make for some great walking after all that eating, but you still might need a bigger pair of pants for the plane ride home. There's definitely "more to Norfolk Island" than you probably know: a truly fascinating history, excellent swimming, snorkelling and fishing – and a million ways to fill your stomach.

Alexia Santamaria flew Air New Zealand and was a guest of Norfolk Island Tourism

 

Alexia Santamaria

Alexia Santamaria is a freelance writer for the NZ Herald, Metro, Next and others, focusing primarily on food and travel. Her past includes two years living in Narita, Japan, one year in London and another in Glasgow. She now calls Auckland home.