Champagne and good food at The Happy Fox to create something completely new in Shellharbour

Simply the best: Shellharbour's Nicky Goodyer is recognised as the number one champagne brain in Australia and last week shared her knowledge at The Happy Fox with chef Brad Quintal and his partner Renee Kelly. Picture: Greg Ellis.
Simply the best: Shellharbour's Nicky Goodyer is recognised as the number one champagne brain in Australia and last week shared her knowledge at The Happy Fox with chef Brad Quintal and his partner Renee Kelly. Picture: Greg Ellis.

A Warilla mother and flower shop owner with a passion for champagne has teamed up with new Warilla eatery The Happy Fox for a first of its kind event in Shellharbour.

Aahh Flowers owner Nicky Goodyer is the reigning Australian Vin de Champagne Award Laureate. 

The national champion in the amateur division of the awards has a real love of champagne. And a lightbulb moment occurred recently when she called into The Happy Fox for a coffee.

The food and service was so good she thought a unique tasting event for other connoisseurs of a good bubbly might be a good idea.

The Happy Fox owners Brad Quintal and Renee Kelly loved Mrs Goodyer’s concept of matching dishes with different champagnes in a degustation style dinner. And for her to share her award winning knowledge between each course.

When Mrs Goodyer won the national title she was described by one journalist as “the number one champagne brain in Australia”.

“It is very unusual to have more than one champagne at any sitting. So what I wanted to do an evening that gives people the opportunity to try different champagnes with a meal and showcase the many different profiles”. 

“We have worked together. I presented some champagnes that I wanted people to experience and Brad has presented me with some of his menu ideas. Together we came up with six courses matched with six champagnes.”

Mr Quintal and Ms Kelly loved the idea and so did everyone at the first tasting event of its kind. So much so it is likely to happen again soon at the Warilla eatery that only recently opened as a breakfast and lunch venue with an all day menu.

The Happy Fox owners have been looking for opportunities to open some evenings so Mr Quintal can showcase more of his talent in the kitchen. He has been a chef for 12 years. When he met Renee Kelly a couple of years ago they began to talk about they would both like to do.

Mr Quintal has worked at a number of Wollongong eateries and had developed a loyal following north of the Windang Bridge. But he always dreamed of one day owning his own business. “I have always enjoyed trying to do things my way. And creating dishes that push people’s comfort zones a little to see just how far they are willing to go”.

Mr Quintal described what he was doing at Warilla as not like a cafe or a fine dining venue. He wanted to create something in between. And it seems to have worked because The Happy Fox is already popular with locals for its quality, service and affordability.

That is only likely to grow into the evenings with Mrs Goodyer wanting to use the eatery because of its great food and Mr Quintal’s experience and ability to match a menu with French champagnes.

Ms Kelly said their vision in opening the new eatery was clear. “It is what Brad and I really enjoy when we go to a restaurant”.

And that is good food, the simple things done really well and some things done differently and a little out of the ordinary.

  • Run biennually by the Champagne Bureau Australia.
  • The 2018 Vin de Champagne Awards will be the 43rd edition of this coveted wine accolade unique to Australia.
  • It is organised on behalf of the Comité Champagne, representing the Houses, Growers and Co-operatives of Champagne.
  • The Comité Champagne’s continuing support of the Vin de Champagne Awards honours the importance of the long standing relationship between Australia and the Champagne region in France.
  • Australia is an important market for Champagne and is ranked as the sixth largest export market in the world, importing 8.534 million bottles in 2017 - a 15.5 per cent increase.
  • The Vin de Champagne Awards aim to educate consumers that Champagne only comes from Champagne and encourage the enjoyment of Champagne in Australia.
  • The awards program has established a network of over 40 Champagne specialists who act as ambassadors to promote the Champagne Appellation Australia-wide by sharing their knowledge and appreciation of the wine.
  • The Vin de Champagne Award is an opportunity for people who enjoy Champagne, to take their interest in Champagne on a life changing trajectory.
  • The Champagne Bureau’s team of Vin de Champagne Award winners such as Mrs Goodyer are a key part of our education program and provide a number of dynamic classes throughout Australia to consumers and wine professionals alike.
  • There are two award categories.
  • Professional, for people working in the food, wine and hospitality industry, or those whose main enterprise is associated with food and wine communications.
  • Amateur, for those who simply have a passion for Champagne.
  • To enter candidates first answer six essay-style questions about the history, viticulture and wine-making traditions of the Champagne region.
  • State finalists are selected and flown to Sydney in September, where a panel of expert judges test the entrants’ skills in a blind tasting of Champagne wines.
  • A program of Vin de Champagne Award training classes are run concurrently with the award to ensure entrants are able to taste a diverse selection of Champagne.
  • The judging of the Award is carried out by a panel of industry experts and past winners.
  • These authorities include wine writer, Huon Hooke; writer and presenter Peter Bourne; and author and Champagne educator, Bernadette O’Shea.
  • Winners are announced after final judging at an invitation-only dinner attended by Australia’s most respected wine and food industry luminaries.
  • The grand prize for the two winners is a two-week educational tour through the Champagne district where they are presented with their medal by the Comité Champagne and are immersed in the wine culture of Champagne district.