Keen home cooks are spoiled for choice in Fairy Meadow, which has become one of the region's top foodie suburbs. Just pick your time to visit wisely.
Pixie Paddock. Fezza Mezza. The Fez.
A suburb called Fairy Meadow will always attract its fair share of nicknames, affectionate and ... otherwise. Maybe Foodie Meadow should be next.
Not necessarily because of its restaurants - although there are some outstanding eateries - but by its vast and varied shopping options for the keen home cook.
We hope they know how valuable they are. Even the supermarket has a sushi bar. Fairy Meadow will only grow in popularity for home cooks. The only downside - and it's a biggie - is that the gridlock through the suburb's CBD - particularly on Saturday morning - keeps some shoppers away.
So pick your time wisely and remember your bags. From long-standing fixtures to newer operators whose presence indicates the area's growth, here are some of the Fez's finest foodie shopping stops.
Fedora Pasta - 10 Daisy St
Vitals: Since 1974 this family-founded business has been making some of the best egg noodle pasta you could hope to find - from all-Australian ingredients. Watching the pasta shapes come out of the machines is a joy in itself, as is cooking with, and eating, local produce of this quality - ridge-cut to hold more sauce. Pre-made family lasagne and cannelloni also available. Parking out the front.
Don't miss: Maybe this is nostalgia but there's nothing like the meat tortellini bagged up in the freezer. Fun for all ages.
Harley and John's Seafood - 7 Daisy St
Vitals: Pop across the road from Fedora and pick up the marinara for your spaghetti - and try not to empty your wallet on the fruits of the sea. Good luck among the quality oysters from the South Coast, fresh king prawns, whole sides of smoked salmon, plus fillets and salmon balls crumbed and ready to cook. Get to know your fishmonger and they'll not only give you recipes, but also clean and fillet for you. First time? Use the words "clean and fillet", and "please". Parking front and back.
Don't miss: Try buying the fish whole - it's cheaper, and opens up different possibilities. Gurnard and latchet are sustainable and affordable options, and both make a brilliant crispy whole fish deep fried in a wok, served with a Thai sauce.
Pasticciera Massimo - 130 Princes Hwy
Vitals: Massimo Papa's pastry place always has a healthy stream of customers, but its "Cannoli Day" in February drew hundreds of people who queued for the delicacies at half-price. That's the appeal of this special little Italian dessert, a crispy fried flour shell overflowing with cream, chocolate custard or ricotta. Perfect for a weekend visit when you don't want to arrive empty-handed. Easy parking off-street a plus.
Don't miss: You need to ask?
Paul's Quality Meat - 42-44 Princes Hwy
Vitals: Established in 1967, Paul's has made a name for selling traditional Croatian products alongside the usual Australian butcher's fare. Free range pork is sourced from two proudly ethical farms in the Hunter and the Hawkesbury and while the premises may be dimly lit, it's a bright light for lovers of cured meats.
Don't miss: Come for the smoky aroma but stay - and return again - for the csabai (pronounced chahv-eye), a paprika-rich cured sausage which hangs form the roof like trophies. Choose spicy or non.
STK Supermarket - Ambience building, enter from Elliotts Rd
Vitals: Wollongong's Asian supermarkets each have their strengths - Dong Phoung for Vietnamese goods, Wan Long for utensils and everything Chinese (and almost everything else as well). STK is smaller but popular with the locals. Park underneath the Coles supermarket and pop upstairs.
Don't miss: STK is the place for frozen dumplings - many Australian-made - in pork and cabbage, vegetable, pork and prawn, and so on. Mastering how to cook them is another matter. I recommend boiling for 5 minutes, then (carefully) straight onto a hot, oiled pan to crisp up one side. Don't try to move them too soon!
Yun Mart - 82-84 Princes Hwy
Vitals: Along with STK, one of the upshots of the number of university students living in Fairy Meadow is this Korean grocery store on the main road. From seaweed to sweets, bubble tea drinks and quality kim chi, it attracts customers from well beyond the international student community.
Don't miss: From the outside this shop looks like a packet of instant ramen. Surrender to the wild world of instant noodle. Millions of students can't be wrong.
Spice Corner - 27 Elliotts Rd
Vitals: Over the bridge towards Pioneer Dr, this subcontinental grocery store stands alone. Genuine masala mixes (sometimes called curries), pulses and breads, pickles, and cuts of buffalo and goat meat.
Don't miss: Roti. Oh my roti. Right down the back there's a freezer packed with a huge variety of these incomparable flaky Indian breads - also a prominent feature of Malaysian cuisine. Keep them in the freezer and heat on a flat pan.
Leisure Coast Fruit Market & Deli, 75 Princes Hwy
Vitals: An institution; an ecosystem. The best stocked deli for miles meets an extensive range of international breads, preserved goods and sauces. You get what you pay for and the cheaper fruit and vegies may not last long, so pick what's seasonal and cook quickly.
Don't miss: Spring means broad beans and artichokes and the Leisure Coast is reliable for both. They're a labour of love but there's nothing like carciofi alla Romana.
Al Aseel, Ambience building - Generous hospitality, quality food and an eye-popping range of cakes and baklava. The best falafel in the region: fresh and fragrant, crunchy on the outside, hot and soft within. With tahini sauce it's a partnership to rival Lennon and McCartney.
Peter's Bakery, 68 Princes Hwy: One of Wollongong's more popular places for banh mi - the legendary Vietnamese pork roll. Also available in a lemongrass chilli chicken version which gets great reviews.
OzHart Schnitzel & Meat, 9 Daisy St: Halal butcher whose fans call its produce the best meat in the region. Also stocks a variety of spices, pulses and cooking mixes.