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Even the menu comes fresh as can be

Date

Louis Andrews

WHAT'S COOKING?: Josh Tyler, with some beach spinach at his restaurant in Mogo, settles on the dinner menu just minutes before opening.

WHAT'S COOKING?: Josh Tyler, with some beach spinach at his restaurant in Mogo, settles on the dinner menu just minutes before opening. Photo: Rohan Thomson

Dinner menus are a fluid concept at Josh Tyler's Mogo restaurant - he doesn't print the evening meal list until five minutes before he opens for business.

And chances are you might spot some unusual ingredients: the restaurant's chefs hunt for your supper through the wilds along the South Coast.

The former owner of Tyler's Kitchen has recently downsized his operation, selling his Malua Bay restaurant and pouring all his energy into Tyler's Pantry on the Princes Highway.

He and his chefs abide by a strict locavore ethos. Their pantry is almost exclusively stocked from the region, forcing them to think creatively about their meal plans.

''From week to week, come Thursday and Friday we speak to suppliers, find out what's coming in, what's available, and from that we can start to write a menu,'' Mr Tyler said.

''We don't print the menu until five to six for dinner service; sometimes we're still waiting for fish to arrive or still thinking of some way to use an ingredient.

''That's probably been the most frustrating thing for staff since we started, it's been five to six and everyone's sort of wondering what's going on, what are we doing?''

On Friday and Saturday mornings Mr Tyler wanders headlands, beaches and mangroves foraging for fresh produce.

He'll pick samphire, salty vegetation also known as ''sea asparagus'', beach spinach and salt bush.

Salt bush can be fried like sage leaves; beach spinach is used fresh.

Pigface, a common succulent, can be juiced for oil to drizzle over shaved abalone or squid.

Venison comes from Narooma, squid comes from Eden, abalone and kingfish are plucked from the sea by local fisherman.

Mr Tyler learned to spot unusual bush foods through extensive research, as well as a little trial and error.

''I spent a solid month driving up and down the coast, going into nurseries, speaking to horticulturalists in the area who knew bits and pieces, some Aboriginal people in the area who pointed things out,'' he said.

The chef said the paddock-to-plate approach helped the restaurant ''stay true to our area''.

''Our produce, our dinners become more unique because we're not trying to source all this produce that's not available in our area, and we've become more seasonal and our menus change week to week and ingredients only become available week to week.

''Some things only become available for a few weeks and then they're gone.''

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