The predominant language on Norfolk Island is English however many people also use the local language, ‘Norfo’k Laengwij’, which is a mixture of English and Tahitian. Originally spoken by the Pitcairners, they brought their Pitkern language with them when they moved to NI in 1856. The language continued to evolve and Norfo’k was recognised as an official language in the late 20th Century. ‘Dem es sweet wettles’ the locals might say. ‘That is sweet (delicious) food’. There’s no shortage of good eating on Norfolk. Between locally grown fruit and vegetables, fish from the waters surrounding the island and the wandering chicken population, fresh food is in abundance. If you’re not self catering, here are some ways to eat your way around the island.
Norfolk Blue – Out past the airport towards Anson Bay, Norfolk Blue is hidden in an area called 100 Acre. Driving towards the farm, there are views of the coast to the right and fields of contented cows to the left. Swing around the bend and you enter a country lane with the biggest fig trees you are ever likely to see, creating a canopy over the entire road. Norfolk Blue (or NB as they are known) is a paddock to plate enterprise. On an island where cattle have right of way over cars, NB are being just a little bit cheeky putting the cows back in their place. Norfolk Blue is an actual breed of cattle that of course, is only found on the Island. They offer farm tours so you can learn more about what it’s like to farm cattle on this remote island and also have a first class restaurant, showcasing their beef. Meals are taken on the verandah of the original homestead, overlooking the sub tropical gardens. There is an long menu as well as tempting specials board featuring additional seasonal dishes. NB has an extensive cellar list including a range of wines from local winery Two Chimneys. We enjoyed Tahitian Fish – a ceviche of trumpeter cooked using local limes, Beef Shank Wellington with Beef Liver Pate and, Beef Saltimboca. Mains are served with fresh vegetables and on this occasion, a small vegetable roulade. There’s also a chance to meet ‘Blue Boy’, the retired ageing stud bull who rather than being ‘sent to the farm’ is seeing out his days being fed and photographed by the tourists.
Sublime Lounge – some way out of town, on Stockyard Rd towards Steele’s Point is the Sublime Cafe. Offering light lunches, relaxed vibes and of course, sublime views. Like most restaurants on the island, the menu showcases seasonal local produce such as Pork Belly w Guava & Green Beans. It’s easy to while away an hour sitting on the large deck looking out towards Cascade Bay with a coffee or a glass of wine as Jack Jones croons in the background.
Fish Fry – I’d heard about the Island Fish Fry before I arrived on NI and knew not to book into one of the ‘cultural evenings’ offered by Island tourism operators which comprised fried fish, average buffet salads, instant coffee, local songs and a sunset at Puppies Point. It sounded awful and given we were 20 years younger than the target demographic and that Anthony was a dead cert to be selected for the Polynesian dancing, we avoided the Island Fish Fries. Down the road from our apartment, ageing signs at the NI Bowls Club declared ‘The Original Fish Fry’ and ‘cooked in Sunflower Oil’ (so much better than beef dripping). I wandered over to the bowls club to ask what the Fish Fry was, imagining trawler loads of fish, fried in great mounds, glistening with sunflower oil. No. In fact, it was just two pieces of the local fish,’trumpeter’ with chips and salad. A case of marketing ‘bigging up’ what was essentially ‘Fish’n’Chips.
The Olive Cafe – There are many places declaring ‘best coffee on the Island’ and whilst I can’t say for certain that The Olive has the best coffee on the island, it does have a head start by using Campos. They have a range of genuinely homemade cakes including a deliciously caramelised lumberjack cake. They also have a wi-fi hotspot. All wi-fi on NI incurs a cost so buy your voucher at the counter. $5 for 1 hour. The Olive Cafe is located in the centre of town (Burnt Pine).
Bailey’s – There’s no shortage of restaurants and cafes on NI and they are all competing for the same pool of tourist dollars. Bailey’s Restaurant, part of the Governor’s Lodge Resort has made it simple by offering $10 lunches, 7 days a week. There is a large selection including fish’n’chips, home made hamburgers, slow cooked beef ribs all served with chips and salad. Meals are taken in a charming wooden colonial building and whilst there is nothing exotic or unusual on the lunch menu, the meals are generous, well prepared and presented. Given a pie at the local shop is $7, a freshly prepared meal for $10 is a genuine bargain on this sometimes pricey island.
Bond Store – Once upon a time, NI was known for its duty-free shopping but the introduction of GST in both Australia and on the islnd has put paid to this. Spirits are still duty-free though and the Bond Store on the edge of Burnt Pine, beside the Tourist Bureau is the place to buy your duty-free grog before you head back to the mainland. There is a fairly good selection and certainly a better variety than you can get at the big duty-free shops at airports in Australia. There’s also an opportunity to buy the local Cascade Liqueurs as well as souvenirs such as Convict Gin and Hangman’s Vodka. All you need is your plane ticket. The Bond Store also serves as the island bottle shop so come here to buy your wine, beer or cider.
Sweet Wettles – There are a number of small businesses on Norfolk Island with a gourmet flavour. Here are just a few.
- Anson’s Coffee: On the steep, sunny slopes of Anson Bay is Anson’s Coffee. For a time they were offering tours of the plantation but have ceased these for the moment so they can concentrate on the serious business of coffee. Anson Coffee is not exported so you can only buy it on NI. Your best bet is at one of the local cafes or to buy the beans at the supermarket at Norfolk Mall.
- Cascade Liqueurs & Soft Drinks: I love a local soft drink and NI has it in spades with its own bottler making a huge range of brightly coloured flavours to make the local kiddies hyper. Not content to divert all of the kids’ pocket money, they also produce a range of liqueurs with local flavours such guava, feijoa and macadamia to open the wallets of adults too. Liqueurs can be tasted and purchased at Cascade directly or via the Bond Store. Soft drinks are available at Norfolk Mall.
- Trade Winds Country Kitchen: a little cottage industry doing their bit to keep the local chicken population in check. Producing the most delicious smoked chicken and chicken pate, it’s available at a tiny Saturday Farmer’s Market and at the supermarket. Supplies are extremely limited so if you see it, grab it.
Best Kept Secret
Getting over the minor gastronomic disappointment of the ‘Fish Fry’, we bought ourselves a serve of trumpeter and chips from the ‘Fish & Chook’ shop in town, grabbed a bottle of wine and headed to the top of Mt Pitt to admire the 360 degree view and watch the sun set. We didn’t see one person the entire time we were up there and were able to enjoy the splendour in complete serenity.
For a relatively small island, the food culture on Norfolk Island is thriving. There are plenty of other places to enjoy such as Two Chimney’s Winery, the Mi-Ni-Bar and a variety of gardening tours and cooking classes. You won’t starve on Norfolk Island.