Scott Price packed up his life in Queensland and drove south with little more than a vision. Two years on, his vision has become one of Terrigal’s favourite fine dining destinations — proving you don’t need beach views and fancy décor to impress a discerning culinary crowd.
There’s probably been a time when most of us have dreamt of packing up and taking off with no plans other than to settle in a place that just feels right. It’s a brave feat – and, for most of us, an unlikely one – but after selling his café business and home in Brisbane, Scott Price began the drive south to hunt for the perfect place to open a new restaurant.
‘I knew I’d know it when I found it,’ he recalls.
He arrived in Terrigal and never left.
Born and bred in Queensland in the rich food bowl of Darling Downs, Scott’s family owned a farm on which they predominantly grew grain. And while growing up in the country meant he had a lot of space and freedom to do things, it also taught him a lot about fresh food and where it’s best grown, as well as how tough it can be for our farmers.
‘I’ve always been interested in cooking … and getting into the food industry was a means of escaping farm life,’ he admits.
Long before his Brisbane venture — and like many young Australians — Scott headed to London where he spent valuable years training under lauded restaurateur Sally Clarke. Her eponymous restaurant was a favourite of such luminaries as the controversial artist (and grandson of Sigmund), Lucian Freud. Working with Sally, the ‘unsung hero of British food’, is quite the accomplishment, but this gentle, modest chef isn’t one to boast about the fact, describing his time with her as his professional learning curve.
‘From Sally I basically re-learnt how to do everything. Properly. Using the best ingredients available. This was simple food, but the attention to detail was intense. The respect for produce was paramount. And that’s become my creed.’
Then, at age 24, he had had enough of London’s ‘concrete jungle’ and moved to Edinburgh, where he operated a small seafood restaurant.
‘It started as a pop-up restaurant, well before pop-up restaurants were a thing’, he says. The philosophy was fresh seafood with an Australian approach to flavours. ‘The reviews came first, then the customers. A lot of them!’
With an ignited passion for cooking fish, Scott returned to Queensland and worked with a number of celebrated Brisbane chefs including Simon Palmer, ex- Gerard’s Bistro, and Phillip Johnson at hatted restaurant, E’cco. His last Brisbane venture was a big city café that he part-owned, but it didn’t turn out as he imagined.
‘I ended up doing 18 hours a day poaching eggs and frying chicken wings. It wasn’t my plan. I didn’t want to just feed people.’
Instead, his plan was to create a warm, relaxed restaurant with polished service and a menu of good, simple food with punchy flavours. He just needed to find a coastal village with a gap in the market for this sort of venue. He had never been to the Central Coast before, but when he arrived in Terrigal, it ticked all his boxes: a beautiful coastal town, not too far from the city, and he could see that things were ‘beginning to happen’ there.
‘I thought that surely there were people in Terrigal who wanted great, interesting food and wine, but could do without the starched white tablecloths and waterfront location.’
And so a dilapidated old Subway shop was transformed into Yellowtail, a stylishly intimate restaurant with a changing menu of expertly prepared dishes made from fresh, mostly local ingredients with Middle Eastern, Mediterranean and Asian flavours. There’s a new yum cha lunch menu, and ‘Test Kitchen Tuesday’ has recently returned with a small one-off tasting menu alongside the normal menu.
As for life away from the kitchen, Scott has settled in easily, he says with the immense help and support of other local restaurateurs and business owners who he describes as a tight-knit crew. He spends his free time at Spoon Bay, and with his beloved rescue dog Jaki. He picked her up from the Central Coast Animal Pound back in July and she has been the ever-so-cute hero of his Instagram feed ever since, seen frolicking on Wamberal Beach and spending time at The Haven.
Packing up his life and choosing Terrigal, based on no more than a feeling, ‘was a gamble,’ Scott admits, ‘but my intuition was right.’
Yellowtail restaurant — named after a local fish that is prized for its taste and tenacity — is a success story driven by word of mouth… and the product of its owner’s good taste and tenacity.
Yellowtail is open seven nights from 5.30 pm, and lunch from midday on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Shop 3/1 Campbell Crescent, Terrigal.
WORDS MEGAN ARKINSTALL
PHOTOS JACS POWELLS