French food masters remind us: Oui, Coast is still special
A YELLOWING newspaper clipping, carefully cut out and sealed with contact, has a permanent place behind the bar of 434 Esplanade amid glassware, receipts and a rolodex of retro cocktails.
This has been its home since the day a "delighted" Liberty Saint-Jon spotted a classic Nancy Bates editorial outlining the qualities that make the Fraser Coast the happiest place in Australia.
The owner of the Aegean Waters French Restaurant said it made her feel as though "we had made the right decision to choose Hervey Bay to relocate from Melbourne".
When COVID-19 hit and life and business as she knew it suddenly stopped, she came across the ageing Chronicle article (pictured) and thought locals could do with a reminder of how special the region was and still is.
Excerpts of the article read: "When we shone out in a national survey as head and shoulders above the rest of the country in our sense of well-being we felt immense satisfaction. The news confirmed our good sense in choosing to live in what we believe to be one of the most exceptional places on earth. It also made people who had regarded our region as the economic basket case of Australia sit up and take a closer look. In a world almost swamped in negativity we have to take a check now and again even in our happy corner - to keep our crazy world in perspective."
There could be few people better placed to put a modern twist on past treasures than the French couple inside the walls of Hervey Bay's first fine dining restaurant.
Twenty-five years later they still serve up a memorable dining experience amid jewelled harps, chandeliers, oil paintings of bare bosomed French maids and a menu featuring fine dining staples from the golden era of silver service like lobster mornay and bombe Alaska.
In the kitchen, beret-wearing Christian is possibly the only chef in Queensland brave enough to pump out course after course of A' la Carte delicacies for a full restaurant entirely on his own.
Collingwood colours meld into the quirky décor - a sure sign the blood of an AFL fanatic still runs through the veins of the formerly-Victorian king of the kitchen but Liberty says home for the couple is now truly in the heart of the community described in the clipping.
"Whenever I feel a bit low and business falls quiet, I read it and smile, and say to myself ... 'yes'". Aegean Waters is open for business. Tables must be booked ahead of time.