Aussie Retreat Satisfies Appetite for Adventure
Hike half-a-mile down a windy, brushy path in Cape Range National Park in Exmouth, Western Australia, and you'll find a retreat that will remind you of the beauty that lies in the simplicity of life.
Sal Salis is a beachside, safari-style camp that is nothing more than nine tents dotting the shores Cape Range National Park. Though Sal Salis isn't considered full-on glamping, it's not exactly roughing it, either. Each tent is fitted with a king size bed, private bathroom, a small desk, a chest of drawers, racks for hanging clothes, and “porch” with a hammock, table, and two chairs. Come dawn and dusk you can sit back and watch as Australian wildlife comes out, with kangaroos hopping about, the occasional emu trotting across the land, an ekidna slowly making its way somewhere or spiders weaving impressive webs.
This beachside getaway is one that caters to two appetites. Its endless itinerary for exploration and knowledgable guides quells that appetite for adventure, while a young chef takes your palate on a culinary journey, making Sal Salis a real gem.
At the heart of Sal Salis is the endless opportunity for hiking, snorkelling, swimming with whale sharks and other marine life or diving off the pier that stretches out into the water.
Yet the adventure doesn't end there. The food is as powerful an experience, and it deserves as much reveling as the sheer magic of the location and the activities.
At the helm of the dining expedition is the young but not to be second guessed Brendon Haberle, the 21-year-old chef from Tasmania, which shines in Australia's food scene. Joining Haberle is sous chef Sabinaya Devkota, a native of Kathmandu, Nepal.
Haberle has been the head chef at Sal Salis since the beginning of the 2014 season in March. Prior to that, his resume includes positions as chef at Freynciet Lodge in Tasmania and second chef at Bamurru Plains, a sister lodge to Sal Salis in Australia's Northern Territory.
Haberle, who grew up on a dairy farm in Tasmania, dropped out of school his sophomore year to start working professionally as a chef at age 15. He says he first knew he wanted to be a chef when he was just 10 years old.
“I didn’t know much of the depth of it, but I knew I enjoyed cooking and growing up on the farm gave me good work ethic," Haberle says, who credits his dad's experimental ways of cooking as first inspiring him to cook.
Despite, the simple luxury of Sal Salis, Haberle and his staff ensure that the dining is no small affair. While I was there, we enjoyed an impressive menu of starters mains and desserts.
Come mealtime, all of the guests gathers together and eat at a community table. Breakfast consists of pastries and made-to-order eggs. Lunches tend to be seafood dishes including calamari with soba noodles or red peppers stuffed with roasted veggies and cashews. Though I must say that dinners shine the brightest at Sal Salis.
Dinners saw dishes including scallops with cauliflower puree and crispy pancetta or pork belly as starters (called entrees in Australia) and chicken stuffed with mushrooms or duck with beet root salad and red wine jus for the main course. Dessert was, as always, the cherry on top of the meal, with Roswater panna cotta and berrie coolie on top or chocolate mousse adorned in fresh whipped cream.
Other nights featured dishes including quail with pear and walnut salad, osso bucco with soft polenta and chocolate fondant cake for dessert, or prawns and roasted snapper, chat potatoes and brocolinni for the final meal.
The week or so I spent at Sal Salis was a bright one. From the incredible staff to the uniquely interesting group of people I shared my experiences with, from the culinary journey and opportunity to explore, Sal Salis is a place where wanderers and dreamers connect with the environment and the experience that lasts long after all the dishes have been put away and all the bucket list adventures have been crossed off.
Jenny Block is a special contributor to The Daily Meal.