Latitude 30 reaches great dining heights
COFFS Harbour's waterfront pillar of fine cuisine, Latitude 30, has been named one of the state's top 10 outdoor dining experiences.
The Destination NSW title is one locals and celebrities alike have already pinned on the restaurant, with owner and executive chef Marcus Blackwell regularly hosting (albeit discreetly) some of the biggest names on the world stage.
Mr Blackwell moved to Australia 12 years ago from the Isle of Scilly, off the south-west coast of England, where he ran a renowned fishing and hunting lodge.
Even then he was no stranger to entertaining the elite.
Duke of Cornwall, Prince Charles, who visited the lodge on several occasions, owns most of the land on the Isle of Scilly.
Mr Blackwell also has served Princess Diana's sister, Lady Sarah McCorquodale.
"Lady Sarah used to stay with us in a hotel we owned in Scotland," Mr Blackwell said.
"They are both very nice people, and generally speaking those sort of people are very nice."
At the lodge, Mr Blackwell quickly learned it was "best not to mention" when stars came to stay.
He did, however, let slip on a few of his more recent glitzy diners - and a few big-name footy players.
"We get the (NSW) Blues here whenever they're in town - they were here on three nights last year," he said.
"We're a country town and we appreciate that people in country towns eat a bit more than Sydney portions.
"That always goes down well with the boys."
World champion rally car driver Sebastien Loeb popped in for some nostalgic fare while competing in the Coffs Harbour leg of the World Rally Championship season in 2011.
Salivating, he rattled off a couple of favourite French dishes which reminded him of home.
"He was over the moon. We had instant success with the Citroen team after that," Mr Blackwell said.
"Since that, they've patronised us every year they've been here."
A few weeks back, heiress to the Walmart fortune Nancy Walton Laurie pulled into the marina in her $200 million yacht.
She and her entourage headed straight to Latitude 30 for their on-shore victuals.
"They were lovely, down-to-earth people," Mr Blackwell said.
"We knew about them coming a long time before they arrived, contrary to some stories around town.
"We treat them the same as everyone else and they appreciate that."
Mr Blackwell was surprised to be named on the top 10 list, as Destination NSW - the state's major tourism board - made no prior contact to tell him he was in the running.
While the honour had a lot to do with the flavours and the freshness of fish brought straight from boat to kitchen, Mr Blackwell admitted the plaudit was about more than just food.
To be named one of the best outdoor dining venues, the geography has to be spectacular.
"On one side, you can sit on the breakwall and look at the Pacific Ocean, and on the other we have the marina," he said.
"When whales come through, we sit on the balcony and watch them from the deck.
"And we see dolphins from the deck on a daily basis - not from half a mile away; they're about 30-40m from us.
"If you fly into Coffs, you could be flying into Mauritius or the Caribbean.
"We have white sand islands and lush green mountains coming down to the sea. That's a rare thing."