Rick Stein at Bannisters – How much for the Lobster!

A post from No Experts Australian Correspondent

I have always been a fan of watching Rick Stein on TV, and loved his seafood cookery book with step by step instructions and photographs on how to deal with seafood, filleting, preparing crab, lobster etc. , it is a virtual seafood cookery bible.

Several years ago, we made a trip to the Seafood Restaurant in Padstow in the beautiful county of Cornwall, England, which we thoroughly enjoyed.

Rick Stein’s  NSW restaurant is located in Mollymook some 3.5 hours South of Sydney. A weekend trip down the coast gave us the opportunity to book in for Sunday lunch. Now mid May is pretty much the start of winter, but we were blessed with a beautiful sunny day, and were delighted to be offered a seat on the terrace.  I have to confess that I was surprised at how quiet the restaurant was on a Sunday afternoon.

Food was typical Rick, the freshest seafood, cooked simply with big bold flavors. I teased Mr T, as it appeared to me that he chose identical dishes to when we visited the Seafood Restaurant in Padstow a starter of Mussels with black bean sauce, coriander and garlic, and an Indonesian seafood curry for main course.  In my humble opinion the black bean dominated the delicate flavor of the mussels, however Mr T was quick to disagree!  The Indonesian seafood curry struck a nice balance, and I am sure will be chosen again!

For my starter I chose seared tuna served with guacamole and a lemongrass dressing. This dish was simple, but delicious, and one I will definitely re-create at home.  For main course I selected the Grilled lobster, priced at an eye watering $21 (£13.60) per 100 gms. My 878gm example set me back a whopping $184 (£119.14) and goes on record as the single most expensive main course I have ever consumed!

For dessert, we elected to share a chocolate fondant with ice cream, which was lovely and gooey, and surprisingly light, I could easily have demolished an entire dish on my own. Overall the menu was pretty similar to the Seafood restaurant in Padstow.

Staff were friendly, and helpful, very accommodating to our requests to sit at the other end of the terrace and even offered to move our table, when our table ended up in the shade as the sun moved west. Occasionally,  the staff were not always there when you needed them.

Overall this was a beautiful spot to spend a Sunday afternoon.  Good fresh, tasty food, the produce is not highly worked. At $500 (£323.64) for two, though you might expect a little more technique for your money. If we were in the area, then I would definitely return, however, this is not a destination restaurant in it’s own right.

Marks out of 10

Food  7.5

Service 7.6

Ambience  8.2

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Quay – mana from heaven and 8 textures of chocolate WOW!

A post from No Experts Australian Correspondent

Quay is considered one of the best restaurants in Sydney, certainly at number 26 in the S.Pellegrino World’s Best Restaurants list, it is the highest placed Australian restaurant. It is also one of only 3 restaurants in Sydney to be deemed worthy of 3 hats in the Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide this year. When we arrived, on a wet Sunday night, with a group of friends, our expectations were very high, and we had been saving this visit for a special occasion, my birthday.

Now I have to confess that my experience of the service at Quay may have been extra special, as we had an ace up our sleeves.  One of the guests at our table is a wine distributor for some amazing boutique wineries, and we were fortunate that Quay are one of his clients. As a result,  we were treated to one of the best tables in the house, with views of both the Opera House and Bridge, fabulous service, and a delicious complimentary bottle of Clover Hill Sparkling from Tasmania, courtesy of Daniel the sommelier.  Service all night was exceptional.

The food at Quay was delicious, although we opted for the four course menu, over what the Aussies call the “dego” (short for degustation – how that makes me cringe), primarily because Peter Gilmore’s signature dish, the Guava and Custard apple snow egg, did not feature on the taster menu.

My starter of sea pearls was divine, a selection of beautifully crafted seafood dishes presented beautifully on a platter.  Mud Crab, Yuzu and Tapioca with silver leaf, Smoked eel, Dashi and Abalone and Sashimi of Tuna were all delicious and left us with the dilemma did one pop a pearl whole into one’s mouth, or did one use a knife and fork to examine the insides and savour it slowly. Needless to say each of us took a different line of attack!  In retrospect I believe that we were missing a 5th pearl, the Sea Scallop Sea Pearl. Check out this Peter Gilmore’s video and you’ll see what I mean!

The second fish course of southern squid & rock lobster, lettuce hearts, golden tapioca, lobster velvet, button squash, pea flowers, was a little unmemorable, but the Mr T’s Slow braised pig’s cheek with abalone, palm hearts and an amazing mushroom consommé was mouthwateringly delicious. For my main, I opted for the wagyu beef poached in an oxtail and morel reduction, molé puree, farro & ezekiel crumbs, which was accompanied perfectly by a 2004 Muga Rioja Reserva. Now in case you’re curious, Ezekiel bread is made without flour and is made from sprouted whole grains. It’s the original super food, and what the bible refers to as manna, i.e., mana from heaven. A pretty good description of this dish. Mr T chose the Confit of Suffolk lamb loin, smoked white carrot cream, fennel infused milk curd. This dish featured fennel pollen, although I have to confess I couldn’t really taste the pollen.

Lastly,  the  famous snow egg…..well never has something that’s so difficult to make, 3 hours and 8 different processes, been polished off so quickly. It was delicious with amazing layers of flavour.  I also had a very generous portion of Mr T’s 8 textures of chocolate, which arrived with a hot chocolate sauce in a separate copper handled pot, which when poured on top, melted into the pudding, like a glorious chocolate volcano.  Accompanied by a PX,  it was sublime. I know I’ll be choosing this dish if I return to Quay.

Overall, fabulous service, great views and divine food, although in the food stakes, this didn’t quite knock Tetsuya off it’s number one spot for me.

Marks out of 10

Food  8.9

Service  9

Ambience  9.2

Quay on Urbanspoon


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Tetsuya’s – It’s a knockout!

A post from No Experts Australian Correspondent

I have to confess Tetsuya’s has been very high on my list of restaurants to visit since our move down under. Despite losing a “hat” recently, it remains the most notoriously difficult restaurant in Sydney to bag a table at. Think Fat Duck, at the height of it’s fame and you’ll be  getting close! Waiting lists currently exceed 3 months.

The restaurant itself is tucked away on Kent St,  behind an extremely industrial looking grey wall and electronic gates. On entry, however one is greeted by a beautiful Japanese Garden and Villa. The steps up to the entrance are pretty intimidating, and one could be forgiven for thinking one was braving the domain of a noble Samurai Lord. Entrance to this exclusive domain is the privilege of few.

Our entry, on this occasion, was to attend The New South Wales Wine Awards Dinner, part of the Sydney International Food Festival, hosted by “Tets” himself (why do the Aussies have to shorten everything?) and  Huon Hooke, the Sydney Morning Herald’s wine critic. We were certainly in for a treat.  Hosted in the Private Dining Room, we were a little disappointed that we would miss the views of the garden that diners downstairs enjoy, however we were not to be disappointed in the food! We were greeted with a Glass of Centennial Sparkling and settled in to meet and chat to our fellow diners.

Our 13 course dinner was absolutely incredible,  and I am at a complete loss as to where to start.  Chilled Cucumber soup with sheep’s curd ice cream was deliciously refreshing, somewhat overwhelming the poor Pokolbin Estate Riesling that really didn’t have a chance. Sashimi of Kingfish with Black Bean and orange, was an exquisite dish, the citrus from the orange beautifully counter balancing the black bean.  Our surprise dish of “Just like Oysters”, turned out to be a shaving of scallop, with seaweed and foie gras, which with the metallic zinc seaweed tasted “just like oysters” but finished with an amazing rich finish from the foie gras! Delicious!

The NSW wine of the year, Tempus  Two’s Copper Zenith Semillon From 2003  turned out to be a revelation. It had a kerosene like nose typical of Semillon, but with layers and layers of complexity. It went surprisingly well with Marinated Scampi, Avocado, and caviar. Having been to this winery on a visit to the Hunter Valley, I was extremely unimpressed with their wines, and the poor knowledge of the staff at the Cellar door. The winery is located in one of the most stunning winery buildings I have ever seen, but all style and no substance does not  impress me! Earlier in the evening I had been fairly vocal about my disbelief that Tempus Two could actually produce a decent wine, only to discover that Scott Comyns the wine maker was at the table next to us! Oops! My embarrassing moment didn’t last long, and Scott proved to be a nice guy, who was delighted to have proved that his winery can produce a decent drop!

Tetsuya’s signature dish of Confit Ocean Trout followed. The accompaniments  to this dish are varied by season, and while the apple complemented the fish superbly, I found the flavours of the celery a little bitter.  Every dish was brilliant, and it is almost impossible to pick fault. The nuttiness of the grilled artichoke with the barramundi matched well with our wooded Chardonnay. Braised oxtail  just melted in the mouth,  the sea cucumber that accompanied this dish was an interesting experience for someone who had never before tasted this delicacy.  I found it rather bland, although the texture contrasted nicely with the softness of the Braised oxtail, making this one of my favourite dishes of the night.

I could wax lyrical for hours on how wonderfully exquisite and beautifully delicate each dish was. However I am conscious that a blow by blow account of 13 courses will  probably have your eye’s glazing over! The food at Tetsuya’s is simply world class. So how indeed did they lose a GFG Hat?  I was absolutely perplexed as to how this amazing restaurant could possibly be deemed unworthy of 3 GFG Hats?  The answer lay  half way through this meal,  when I was elbowed in the temple by a waitress. No apologies at all from this young lady!  In response to my discomfort, she retorted with a sarcastic “would you like an ice pack for that madam?” An hour later, with my head still ringing from the blow I’d received, I was beginning to wish I’d accepted that offer!  Quite shocking in a restaurant where other than this one incident,  the service was superbly courteous and friendly.

In summary then, the food at Tetsuya’s is an absolute knock out, that is providing the staff don’t knock you out first. Despite my bad experience with one waitress, I would not hesitate to return. Simply, despite the blow to the head, this probably is the top dining experience of my life.  If there’s one restaurant that’s worth flying across the world for, then Tetsuya’s is it.

Marks out of 10

Food  9.2

Service  6.9 (Should rate a high 8 really)

Ambience  9.0

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Bilson’s – homage to Nouvelle Cuisine

A post from No Experts Australian Correspondent

I would suggest to any foodies planning to visit Sydney, that they should try if at all possible, to visit in October. Not only is it the beginning of Spring, but it is also the Sydney International Food Festival, a month long festival, where Sydney celebrates everything good and great about food and wine. From Picnic’s on the Harbour Bridge to 100 Mile meals,  Lunch on Fort Dennison to Market Tours with Celebrity Chefs.  From Shoot the Chef (a photography competition) to Night noodle Markets and Hats Off Diners, this year the festival had over 600 events in one short month!

This year Bilson’s chose as it’s theme for it’s weekly Hats off dinner, a homage to Nouvelle Cuisine. A menu designed to showcase the iconic dishes from Chef’s such as Paul Bocuse, and demonstrate how Nouvelle Cuisine has influenced contemporary cooking. The menu comes with a complimentary glass of champagne, and we decided to go for the option of matching wines, which were without exception sourced from France.

Our first dish, with the deceptively simple name of “Eggs and Caviar”, inspired by Michel Guérard the Godfather of Nouvelle Cuisine, was a complex layering of smoked eel, smoked eel mouse, coddled eggs, creme fresh, asparagus foam topped with chives and caviar, and accompanied with asparagus and Brioche soldiers. Beautifully light, the dish disappeared in a couple of mouthfuls, leaving me wishing for more.

Our second course of Mussels in Saffron Sauce (Roger Vérge) was tasty, a light saffron foam with very fresh mussels. I would question the necessity for the julienne of carrot and leeks underneath. I know it adds some texture to the dish, but I will never understand why is it that Australians have to serve carrot with everything?

The fish course was Salmon a l’Oiselle  inspired Jean and Pierre Troisgros. The Salmon was beautifully pan fried, and slightly pink in the middle, which is just how I like it, however I have to say that the Sorrel sauce was bitter, and while Jean Troisgros has a reputation as the Master Saucier, I would rather this part of the dish had been omitted.  The accompanying green beans were deliciously tossed in butter!

The Main course, would have to be my dish of the evening. Partridge accompanied by peas, lettuce, and salami, lending a  twist on this classic french combination. The partridge was deliciously rich and beautifully tender.  The dish was inspired by Paul Bocuse, and somehow manages to remain light while retaining the original rich earthy flavours from which this game dish is inspired.

I love cheese, and even better than cheese, I love a good cheese souffle.  Our cheese course, Petit Fromage Affiné, inspired by the eponymous Michel Roux Senior, for me was a slice of heaven! In fact if I could die and go to a heaven padded with this fluffy cheese Souffle instead of Clouds, I would be a very happy bunny indeed!

Our last course of Mille-feuille  with Red Fruits accompanied by a Chantilly Cream and raspberry coulis rounded off the perfect meal.  Coffee and Petite Four made a nice finish, and I couldn’t resist a 1959 Armagnac from Darroze.

Service was good, and it appears that all of the front of house staff are either English or Scottish. Initially they seemed a little aloof, but seemed to warm to us eventually. I would also question having just one restaurant manager who is also the Sommelier. Andrew Cullen is a nice guy, however he did seem to be running around, and was very rushed, which is not ideal, especially when you consider that we were dining early and the restaurant was quite empty to start with.

The  dining room is nicely decorated, but at the end of the day, it’s just a hotel dining room. One has to question whether a restaurant of this calibre really needs gimmicks such as a Clock where the hands are made of knives and forks, and re-hydrating wet towels. However they make for a little light entertainment, in what could otherwise be quite a stuffy dining room. Great food, although sadly, as I visited in the same week as dinner at Tetsuya’s, perhaps I didn’t really appreciate the quality of this restaurant as much as I should.  A good excuse to go back and try their normal menu!

Marks out of 10

Food 8.2

Service 7.5

Ambience 7.0

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Bécasse Cellar Night

A post from No Experts Australian Correspondent

I joined the Sydney Wine group several months ago, but seemed to keep missing the monthly events, because of previous engagements. An off “piste” Cellar night at Bécasse was a fabulous opportunity to meet some of the members for the first time. I love the concept that you can take your own wines to a restaurant to match a pre-published taster menu. With 10 in our group, this allowed a very generous couple of bottles per course. We kicked off with a couple of fabulous  champagnes, including a 2002 vintage Veuve Cliquot. The Canapé tarts were accompanied by lovely soft, warm artisan breads.

Three courses stood out for me,  Our first course of a delicately flavoured Civet of Cloudy bay clams, prawn and scallop. This French Broth was delightful, if a little cold, due to the wait for our whites to be opened.  The 2nd course of Cobia which is a meaty fish, and accompanied by lightly battered Oyster Beignets that just simply melted in the mouth. Both were accompanied by a beautiful German Riesling and the lovely Mount Pleasant Lovedale Semillon that, had layers and layers of complexity.

Lastly our cheese course of Holy Goat La Luna with preserved rhubarb and toasted kugelhopf, a fruit cake/bread that is believed to be of either Austrian or Alsatian origin. Legend has it that the kugelhopf recipe was brought to France by Marie Antoinette who was born in Austria.  Regardless of it’s origin, the toasted kugelhopf made a lovely accompaniment to our slightly warmed goats cheese.  The caramelised apple tart deserves a mention too, however I felt that the veal dish was a little dry, although the sweetbreads and roast garlic accompaniments were delicious. The Wagyu beef rib, was a little tough.   This may have been because my dish was sitting under lights to keep it warm, while I had popped to the loo, or simply because the accompanying wines were so magnificent that the courses accompanying them, simply paled into insignificance. Our host had very generously provide a bottle of Penfold’s Grange 91, which was still showing a fair amount of American oak! A description offered by one of my fellow diners of “pop corn” proved very apt!

Our increasingly rowdy group, didn’t seem to bother the other diners too much, although normally you cannot here a pin drop in this hushed establishment. Staff were friendly and jumped through hoops in order to double decant our wines, and assist with crumbling corks! They were extremely helpful and accommodating, although some might argue that with a 15% service charge, they should be! Adding a service charge is not common practise in Australia, although I always leave some sort of tip if the service is good.. Overall a superb evening, and I will certainly return for another cellar night!

The Menu

Bécasse artisan bread
Veuve Cliquot 2002 and Champagne Grand Cru Marie-Noelle Ledru 2006
Civet of Cloudy Bay clams, scallop and prawn
Seared fillet of cobia with horseradish and baby gem butter, oyster beignets
Fricassee of 12 hour cooked veal shank, tendon and sweetbreads with beetroot and roast garlic gnocchi, beetroot shoots
Roast rib of Gundooee organic wagyu beef with parsnips en papillote, Tuscan onion rings
Holy Goat La Luna with preserved rhubarb and toasted kugelhopf
Caramelised apple tart fine, chewy apple sorbet and brown butter veloute

Marks out of 10

Food 7.6

Service 8.2

Ambience  8.0

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Update June 2012 – The group of restaurants run by Justin North which includes Becasse, have gone into administration.  See Smartcompany artical.

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Manta & Blue @ Woolloomooloo!

A post from No Experts Australian Correspondent

I have been meaning to visit Woolloomooloo for quite some time, and finally got the opportunity when a friend invited me to a Bordeaux tasting at the amazingly chic  Blue Hotel. The name Woolloomooloo,  had always held out a fascination for me.  Needless to say 21st century Woolloomooloo bears no resemblance to the outpost I had imagined, instead, this former docklands area has now been re-developed, in a very sympathetic manner.

Manta is one of several top restaurants that line the length of Finger Wharf, housed in the former dockside warehouses, that typified this area. We decided to take advantage of their lunch offer of 2 courses and a glass of wine for $49. As the sun decided to honour us, despite being winter, we elected for an outside table, which offered water views as well as sunshine!

The food was very tasty, with 2 of our party going for the Goats cheese, chive and hazelnut stuffed cannelloni which was deep fried, and delicious. The alternate starter of Prawn cocktail, enlivened with an avocado dip, was superbly fresh! The Sirloin was beautifully done, rare, and accompanied by a divine side order of “Angle Fries” which were topped with shaved parmesan and truffle oil! At $15.50 this one of the most expensive bowls of fries I have ever had, however the amazing taste probably justified the cost. We polished the bowl off, quick smart!

Time did not allow for desert, and we regretfully headed off to an amazing Bordeaux tasting, where the highlight was a 1909 Domaine Sainte Croix Rivesaltes, a partially fortified wine from the South of France. We ended the day laughing, as the gentlemen drawing the prize, bowed to one of our party and offered her the opportunity to pull out a name from the box. She pulled out a name with a flourish,  only for her to draw out her husband’s name from the box! Brilliant! The prize a magnum of 2001 Domaine de Chevalier, Classed Growth Pessac Leognan, which was taken home to be laid down! Great day!

Marks out of 10

Food 6.5

Service 5.8

Ambience 6.9

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Racine @ La Colline

A post from No Experts Australian Correspondent

Racine is beautifully located at La Colline winery, on the lower slopes of Mount Canobolas, in Orange NSW, the restaurant has beautiful views across the vineyards to Orange. Named after the restaurant of the same name in London’s Brompton Road, Racine specialises in local produce, from an area that has become known as “ The Food Basket” of NSW, with the majority of the dishes having over 75% of their ingredients sources locally.

Our initial amuse bouche of Duck and Orange Bullion was beautifully spiced with lemongrass and ginger amongst other spices. It just left us wanting more, which I guess is exactly what a good amuse bouche should do. It was simply delicious!

I started with the Quail Breast and Leg pumpkin purée, garden peas & eschalot accompanied by a 2010 Angullong Sauvignon Blanc. Having tasted a 2010 Sauvignon Blanc earlier in the day, I was not totally shocked by the fact that the wine was so young. The Quail was wonderfully offset by the sweet pea and pumpkin puree.  My partner  started with The Perigord Ham & Pea Consommé which  was delicately spiced, with plenty of ham hock , and crisp fresh peas. This was matched with a lovely ripe Chardonnay, which somewhat over powered the Consommé, but was delicious in it’s own right.

For mains courses we decided to tuck into slow roasted venison loin accompanied by parsnip and white chocolate purée with minted broad beans, which was a very strange combination indeed. The parsnip and white chocolate puree seemed to be completely lacking in any sort of flavour whatsoever. Minted broad beans did seem to complement the venison although this is not a traditional combination. My main course of Slow Cooked pork Belly with pumpkin cream, Brussels sprout leaves, currents and almonds was superbly cooked, with the lovely crackling on top, and wonderfully tender meat. The almonds appeared to have been substituted with hazelnuts at the last minute, which added an extra very likeable dimension to the dish, however I was not totally over awed by the pumpkin cream’s resemblance to diced carrot!

Our finale of Textures of Chocolate, was the star of the evening. A lovely dish, we had chosen to go with 2 spoons, leaving me to wish that I’d ordered one all to my self! Delicious! The textures were well defined, and this dish exceeded in expectations my last experience of this dish at Sidart in New Zealand.

Over all a good night, although the restaurant could certainly have benefited from better supervision of staff, who appeared to spend more time chatting at the bar than serving customers.  I could certainly have managed a couple more glasses of wine had the staff been more attentive. It is a shame that so many country restaurants with superb kitchens, are let down by a poor front of house, never the less, should your travels take you to Orange, I do recommend Racine.

Marks out of 10

Food 6.9

Service 4.9

Ambience 5.9

Racine on Urbanspoon

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Highland Heritage – Highland Lodge Meets Swiss Chalet?

A post from No Experts Australian Correspondent

We turned up at Highland Heritage at 1:20pm, amazed to be greeted by a sign that said the restaurant was closed! Quite a shock at 1:20pm on a Sunday afternoon. On popping onto the Railway carriage which Highland Heritage uses as  a Cellar Door, we were advised to go in and ask, because some other customers had just gone inside! We decided to have a try, and were rewarded with a window table with lovely views of the vineyard.

The restaurant itself had the interior design that was somewhat of a cross between a Highland Lodge and Alpine Chalet! The venue specialises in Weddings and other functions, however the food was fairly decent. Our starters of Crab Ravioli with Prawns had good flavour and the prawns were well cooked but the crab stuffing in ravioli was slightly dry.  Scallops and Chorizo were well balanced, however the Chorizo had been chopped so thickly, that it made it quite difficult to chew. Main courses were much better, with a lovely piece of Angus Sirloin and soft well cooked duck.

We skipped desert, as the road to Sydney beckoned.  A  nice enough place, but I don’t think we’d go out of our way to go back, especially in light of the number of fine dining restaurants in the Orange region.

Marks out of 10

Food 4.6

Service 4.2

Ambience 5

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Public Dining Room @ Balmoral beach – what no sauce?

A post from No Experts Australian Correspondent

It was with great anticipation that we headed down to The Public Dining Room at Balmoral beach.  The dining room is beautifully located, with views of the Ocean and Balmoral Pier. It’s modern glass fronted look, maximises the ocean views.

To add to our anticipation, the occasion that took us there was a food and wine tasting diner organised by Henshke Wines to promote their  Lenswood range of wines. It’s no secret that Henschke are one of my favourite Vineyards, and to this day, I find it extremely difficult to find fault with any wine that they produce.


Soup of turnips, champagne, avruga caviar – 2009 Henschke Julius Eden Valley Rielsing

Tortellini of scallop mousse, seared scallop, broad beans and tomatoes, verjuice emulsion – 2009 Henschke Lenswood Littlehampton Innes Pinot Gris

Slow braised, deboned chicken thigh, confit egg yolk, brioche crumbs, chervil – 2007 Henschke Lenswood Croft Chardonnay

Poached hapuka fillet, lentil ragout, parsnip, red wine jus – 2008 Henschke Lenswood Giles Pinot Noir

Golden plains pork belly, parsley puree, roast chestnuts, peas, spiced salt – 2007 Henschke Tappa Pass Shiraz

Twelve hour braised veal cheek, creamed polenta blanco, brussel sprout leaves, pine nuts, lemon – 2007 Henschke Lenswood Abbotts Prayer Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon

Strawberry lamington, coconut sorbet, strawberry salad and soup, basil – Henschke Muscat of Tappa Pas

We arrived a little early, and after checking in at the main desk, we were pointed at a table, and told to take any seat. Once seated, we had a great deal of trouble getting a waiters attention for some aperitifs, which was disappointing! Somehow we expected something much better from this restaurant.

The amuse bouche, a warm soup of Turnips with champagne and topped with Caviar was mouth watering leading us to expect big things to come! Sadly the course that followed seemed to set the precedent for the rest of the evening.  The tortellini of scallop was dry, and the four components of the dish appeared to be randomly plonked on the plate. I couldn’t work out what chopped tomatoes, and boiled beans were doing on this plate at all!  The verjuice emulsion that should have brought the components of this dish together, seemed sadly evident as only a smudge on the plate. Very disappointing.

The courses that followed, were similarly either dry, or lacking in a sauce or even missing components completely.  Lovely moist chicken, accompanied by an over cooked egg, again very dry and lacking a sauce to bring it together.  The following courses were notable for over cooked fish, lovely soft pork belly again missing a sauce, and missing the parsley puree completely, even the veal cheek was missing the pine nuts.

Our saving grace was the delicious wines, and good company. The wine did appear to be well matched with the food, but every one I spoke to on the night seemed to concur that the food was generally dry and lacking something. Inconsistent plates, and missing components makes me think that the Public Dining room are attempting to take on too much, and that organising a food and wine matching for 85 people is well beyond the restaurant’s capabilities to cope.

It maybe unfair to judge the restaurant on this evening, however I  have no desire to return, a feeling shared by many of my fellow diners.

Marks out of 10

Food 3.9

Service 4.1

Ambience 7.5

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Catalina – Unique and Distinctive

A post from No Experts Australian Correspondent

Unique and distinctive, is a frequently used description for the Catalina flying boat, that was so successfully used in the defence of Australia in WWII. In my view, it is also an apt description for this restaurant in Sydney’s Rose Bay. Located next to the Sydney Seaplane’s base, and the site of Sydney’s first international airport,  the Catalina Restaurant is named after the famous flying boats that once operated here.  There are numerous other fabulous waterside restaurants that can boast amazing water views, but what makes this restaurant truly unique in Sydney, is not it’s location, but the fact that it opens all day!  In my search to find a suitable restaurant to take my husband for his 40th birthday lunch, I was to discover that  fine dining restaurant’s that open for lunch on Saturday are as rare as hen’s teeth in Sydney!  Catalina is not only open for lunch, but boasts a kitchen which “remains open from midday to late”. Hurrah!

Despite being nearly 30 minutes late and looking incredibly dishevelled from the boat trip, staff greeted us with a friendly warm welcome. We enjoyed a glass of champagne while deciding what to order.  My husband elected for the Blue Swimmer Crab linguine to start, which was delicious, accompanied by a Rose from Crawford River. I selected the Scallops with Zucchini and goats cheese croquettes, which was perfectly cooked, but a little overwhelmed by huge quantities of tomato puree. The scallops were well matched to a Gruner Veltliner. Judge for yourself, but in my view the portions were huge!
Fortunately the main courses were a little more modest! The beef tenderloin was perfectly cooked, and well balanced with fondant potatoes. The lamb rack a little on the fatty side, but enjoyable none the less. Main courses were accompanied by a very delectable 1998 Mount Langi Ghiran Shiraz, recommended by the very patient Sommelier. The wine list at Catalina is wide ranging, and features a substantial number of aged wines, at an equally substantial price. A 1962 Penfolds Bin 60A for five thousand dollars, anyone? Undoubtedly the highlight of the meal was the desserts! The Passion fruit soufflé was a delight to eat, melting in the mouth, and well worth the wait! Raspberry and apple crumble with raspberry sorbet, had just the right balance of tartness and sweet. Not wanting to stir from such a lovely spot, we dragged out lunch until sunset, with a few glasses of Port, and my current favourite, Pedro Ximénez.

Overall a delightful place to spend a relaxed afternoon, watching the sea planes land, and taking in the views. Food was good, but not exceptional. The wine list awe inspiring, but possibly more suited to the wallets of the pop stars that are said to frequent the restaurant. Service was the most formal that we have experienced in Sydney, but at the same time relaxed and incredibly un-pressured. Catalina has certainly perfected the art of the lazy lunch!

Marks out of 10

Food  5.9

Service  7.9

Ambience   8.0

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Bastille Day Menu at Balzac

A post from No Experts Australian Correspondent

Until recently, Randwick has been most famous for it’s racecourse, but no longer! In 2010, this up and coming area, is best known to gastronomes for Matthew Kemp’s Restaurant Balzac. Located in an historical sandstone villa known as “Verona”, the premises has previously done service as a private villa, a pub, a girl’s school, a butcher shop, and even a Pizza Hut. The interior has recently been beautifully and sympathetically restored, and provides a wonderful setting to dine in.

The restaurant is justifiably famous for taking humbler cuts of meat and elevating them to superb dishes, that are both wonderfully flavoured, and a joy to eat. This was highlighted superbly in our Bastille Day degustation menu. Three courses stood out for us as worthy of mention. The first being the Fish Soup with Chervil Chantilly and Poached Snapper Cheek, which was wonderfully aromatic. The second, a humble beef daube that melted in the mouth and was simply divine. Lastly a humble Rice Pudding with Apple crumble that was elevated to the perfect winter desert. Being a “Bastille day menu”, our food  matched with French Wines, despite being a little on the young side, the pairings were superb.
Service was good, a little more laid back than your average French restaurant, but then again this is Australia, and staff were welcoming without being intrusive. Overall a superb evening, excellent modern French food from this young English chef!

Marks out of 10

Food 8

Service 7

Ambience 7.5

Restaurant Balzac on Urbanspoon

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Berowra Waters Inn

This is the first post from our “Australian correspondent”. A foodie friend who has emigrated to warmer climes. The subject is Berowra Waters Inn an amazing venue reachable by seaplane.

Berowra Waters Inn – High Flyer or Car Crash?
Berowra Waters Inn is uniquely located in the the stunning Hawkesbury River, and is only accessible by “seaplane, boat or the restaurant’s own private ferry”. Originally opened by  Tony and Gay Bilson,  and recently re-opened by Dietmar Sawyer,  the restaurant is frequented by both epicures, and those celebrating special occasions. It was just such a special occasion, my birthday,  that took us to Berowra. We chose to arrive in style by seaplane from Rose Bay, a high flying start to the day! Our original delight at the restaurant’s location, and our wonderful window seat, grew to dismay at the simply shocking service.  Menus were slow to arrive, as was the taking of our orders. Having placed our order for 6 courses, one couldn’t help but begin to wonder when we might see the first one! An hour and a half after sitting down, we only had one course, by which point we were simply starving! After sharp words, and a call to our pilot to delay our return, our next 3 courses arrived in rapid succession! And what amazing courses they were!
The food at Berowra is simply exquisite, world class. I was blown away by the Langoustine Pastilla and Wagyu Beef dishes. Food quality was on par with some of my favourite London Michelin Starred restaurants, such as Tom Aikens and Foliage. In light of this, we think we might forgive Berowra Waters it’s awful service, and will certainly be back for another visit!

Marks out of 10

Food 8.4

Service 3.9

Ambience 8.5

Berowra Waters Inn on Urbanspoon

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