Vanessa Pike-Russell

On signing up for (a food and restaurant review site) I was asked to list my top 5 dining experiences. I have decided to share them here with some illustration as to why I rate them so highly.

Top 5 dining experiences in the Illawarra

  1. Ocean Beach Hotel, Shellharbour Village

    I love this restaurant so much that I hired the venue as my wedding venue in December 1996. I have returned countless times for their seafood platters, oyster medley, steaks, pork belly, mushroom entree - all delicious! The childrens meals have been very popular with friends and family, especially since kids eat free!

    Shellharbour Village by you.

    The view is of Shellharbour village boat harbour and Little Park and the atmosphere is always one where you can relax and enjoy a great meal with a view. Wonderful service and reasonable prices.

  2. Emeralds Restaurant, Warilla Bowling Club

    The restaurant is upstairs in the Warilla Bowling Club, one of the largest bowling clubs in New South Wales and one of the best restaurants in the Illawarra. We have dined at Emeralds more time than I can count and it is always a hit with friends and families visiting from interstate. I have tasted most of the items on the menu and I can honestly say that there is something to please everyone on their menu.

    What a view! Tonight I dined at Emeralds restaurant at Warilla Bowling club.

  3. Fujiyama Teppanyaki Japanese Restaurant

    One of the best dining experiences in my life was my first visit to Fujiyama. We payed for a banquet which consisted of several courses including salad, fried rice, wagu beef, teriyaki chicken, grilled fish and some fruit and saki. Absolutely delicious! It was long before I started my food blog and taking photos of food, around the time I was married. I have been back again several times since with friends and family and everyone loves the novelty of catching the raw egg in a bowl from a distance from the experienced japanese chef, then catching the bowl of cooked fried rice as it hurls through the air at you from across the room. A definite party environment and I remember being racked with waves of laughter as my husband had egg on his face - literally. Don't go in your best clothes unless you are agile. The food is amazingly delicious and the decor makes you feel as if you have boarded a plane for Japan but only a few minutes from North Wollongong station and the heart of Wollongong. I don't have any photos of Fujiyama Teppanyaki but the image below is from Shinju Teppanyaki in Sydney to give you an idea of the teppanyaki experience. Your chef cooks your entire meal in front of you on a BBQ and you get to watch the action as he spins the salt and pepper grinders in the air, dices and slices the ingredients with expertise, then marinates and cooks your meal as you sit mesmerised, hunger intensified with the smells and sights as watch the display.

    shinju japanese teppanyaki restaurant by you.
    Misoyaki Steak at shinju japanese teppanyaki restaurant by you.

  4. Beachouse Seafood Restaurant, Wollongong

    My visit visit was the result of winning a competition on Wavefm radio station answering the question 'what's the most unusual or disgusting food you've ever eaten'. My reply was 'ding ding mukh muhd' which is a Middle Eastern delicacy known commonly as 'pig snouts with avocado sauce'. Yuck! A 'friend' made it for me in 1995 and I could not get over my aversion to seeing hair on the pig snouts and the chewy texture somewhat like pork rind that hasn't crackled properly. For my troubles I won a $100 voucher to Beachouse Restaurant on Cliff Road, opposite North Wollongong harbour. It was an amazing dining experience with a seaood platter for two and toasting each other with a bottle of sparkling wine. Divine! We returned to Beachouse in 2007 for the 'blood moon' lunar eclipse for some oysters and a small seafood platter.

    Hot Seafood Plate featuring scallops, prawn, fish and a rocket and tomato salad served with bernaise sauce
    Carribean cocktail - $13

  5. La Marina Tapas Bar and Restaurant, Wollongong (previously located in Shelharbour)

    A little piece of Spain in Wollongong. My favourite restaurant for Spanish food in New South Wales with a great menu, unbelievably great prices - especially for their tapas which are $10 each including seafood such as Tasmanian scallops or pippies. We first visited for a birthday party but I am sure we will be visiting them at their new location in Wollongong. The great food and sangria make you want to shout 'Ole!'

Other restaurants I would recommend:

  1.  Harbour Front Restaurant, Wollongong Harbour

    I haven't visited in the last few years but on every dining experience I have had in the past I have been nothing but truly satisfied. When I lived in Corrimal I used to travel out to the restaurant for their buffet lunch which included oysters, seafood and a range of dishes and desserts. The view of Wollongong harbour an added bonus and customer service second to none. I'd love to go back and take some photos and sample their new menu and wine list.

  2. Five Islands Brewery, Wollongong Harbour

    A wonderful micro brewery with an amazing restaurant. Their delicious mezze platter is responsible for my love of Avocado and Kalamata olives. Previous reviews have been birthday celebrations and there is a great party vibe with all the specialty beers flowing. 

  3. Crooked River Winery Cafe, Gerringong

    Crooked River Winery Cafe - Tasting Platter

    I have only visited Crooked River Winery Cafe once on a winery tour of the South Coast (Gerringong, Berry, Coolangatta) but it is definitely in my top 5 dining experiences. There was a set menu for our tour but everything the people at my table at looked divine.

    The view was breathtaking. I could have stayed there all day.

    Crooked River Winery

  4.  Harbour View Thai, Shellharbour

    Amazing Thai food with a harbour view. The food is fresh, full of flavour and the staff were friendly and very helpful. I love Thai food so I was so glad to find one within a short walk from Shellharbour beach, one of my favourite spots to relax.

    Harbour View Thai, Shellharbour Village by you.

  5. Tandoori Junction, (Indian) Shellharbour Village

    As seen on 'the chopping block', this restaurant is the best Indian food I have tasted since I left Corrimal and the amazing Indian restaurants Aamaru and Manjits located there. Located on Addison St, Shellharbour you can enjoy a water view if you sit on the balcony and enjoy some of the sea air and wonderful decor with great food at wonderful prices. I heartily recommend the Tandoori Chicken and their famous 'Junction platter' which is great for people new to Indian food as it gives a sample of some of their favourite dishes. For those with milder tastes, try the Butter Chicken and Garlic Naan.  

  6. Addisons Seafood Restaurant

    Seafood platter for 2  from Addisons Seafood Restaurant ($40)

    I have to be honest and say that Addisons nearly didn't enter this list due to the great 'rubber lobster' incident of 2007 but on previous visits it has been a dining highlight. I took my Mother for dinner at Addisons Seafood Restaurant for her birthday and the only thing she really felt like was Lobster Mornay. I chose a Seafood Platter for One ($40) and was very happy with the contents which my Mum shared with me after disliking the lobster which was rubbery and tasted like it was cooked from frozen which was disputed by the waiter who asserted that it had been caught fresh that day. My Mum is an expert cook of seafood and had worked in a fresh seafood business when I was five and there is nothing in the world she loves more than a perfectly cooked lobster. I hope that one day she will return to Addisons and experience that. This restaurant has a reputation for good food and fresh ingredients. We may have just been unlucky on the day.  

All photos by Vanessa Pike-Russell Photography
for Illawarra Food Reviews

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