“We strive to offer a truly local dining experience,” Kuti Shack’s drinks menu states. “With this in mind, we have sourced our wines from within an hour’s drive of the cafe. How fortunate are we to live in the Fleurieu.”
The Fleurieu is equally fortunate to have Kuti Shack, a new seafood cafe and kiosk overlooking Goolwa Beach. The new diner, which opened in December, is backed by Goolwa PipiCo and run by three local chefs with reputations that extend beyond the south coast.
“It’s beautiful,” says chef Billy Dohnt (ex- Salopian Inn and d’Arry’s Verandah). “It’s one of the last little kiosks along the run.”
From this humble dining space – it really is a shack – Dohnt and chef Brendan Roach (Osteria Oggi and Press* Food & Wine) are serving pipis, Coorong mulloway and mullet from local waters with produce such as saltbush and samphire foraged from the surrounding sand dunes. The two chefs run Kuti Shack with Vanessa Button (ex-Bombora), a trained chef who works front-of-house.
The produce is foraged, caught or harvested by local companies including Goolwa PipiCo, Hoad Fisheries and the Ngarrindjeri-owned and -operated KutiCo. Kuti Shack also operates as a test kitchen for Stehr Group’s Kangaroo Island bluefin tuna, which is served here sashimi style with ponzu and squid ink crisp.
Kuti (meaning pipi or cockle in the local Ngarrindjeri language) have been harvested by the Ngarrindjeri for more than 10,000 years. They’re also the star of the menu, which has already built a reputation for inspired dishes such as sashimi pipis with samphire and Bloody Mary sorbet; and pipis with XO sauce and crusty dunking bread. There’s also Korean fried chicken-style Coorong mulloway wings and bits (best tackled by hand); and their take on the Australian pub staple, salt and pepper squid – salt bush-crusted baby squid. “It’s honest food,” says Dohnt.
Diners can wash these dishes down with drops from Langhorne Creek, McLaren Vale and Currency Creek, including Bleasdale’s pinot gris and Lost Bouy’s grenache, as well as Coopers beers and Simple Brew Co’s Pale Ale. The only drink not from South Australia is Corona as, according to the menu, “a couple of our locals can’t live without it”.
The trio barely knew each other before they were handpicked by Goolwa PipiCo to run the seafood eatery on the former site of Bombora, which moved up the road to the Murray River in late September.
“None of us really knew each other until about a month before we started,” says Roach, who returned to the Fleurieu to work the pans at Kuti Shack. The trio had little time to get acquainted having got the place ready for peak holiday season, opening just five days before Christmas.
“We got our running shoes on in a big way – all-night painting sessions and that kind of thing,” says Button. “We only picked [the space] up at the end of October. There was a bit of work to do, things to purchase. We did a refit outside and opened as quickly as we could.”
“[The process] always felt really calm and comfortable,” adds Dohnt. For the last few years, he has run his catering business, Billy Dohnt Does. “I never wanted to go into a partnership,” he says.
Neither did Roach, whose food truck Clark Street Catering is parked in the adjacent Goolwa Beach car park to help on busy days. But the Kuti Shack opportunity was too good to pass up; there aren’t many beach-front spots like it in South Australia serving local produce. “We were really lucky, I’ve always loved this spot – everyone has. Everyone wants beachfront,” Button says.
There are plans to redevelop the area in 2021. But for right now, Kuti Shack’s bare-bones vibe with million-dollar views of Goolwa Beach is the ideal beachfront diner.
Kuti Shack is closed this week until Friday January 31.
Goolwa Beach Car Park, Beach Road, Goolwa
Fri & Sat 8am–late
Sun & Mon 8am–4.30pm
(open daily during school holidays from 8am to 4.30pm, extending to dinner on Fridays and Saturdays)