And After Kids.
These are the milestones by which many of my friends now define their social lives.
I remember the days I could buzz people and within an hour we'd be doing the car pool and on our way to an impromptu dinner. These days it's a minefield of nap-times, bed-times, fevers and sniffles to negotiate.
And it's not until you have kids, or hang out with kids, that you notice the kiddy details at restaurants. How a trip to the fishtank can become an exciting hunt for Nemo that will temporarily halt a flood of tears. How a water feature or atrium turns into a welcome adventure for twitching legs that dangle. How a baby change table in the bathroom makes all the difference.
I'd remembered feeling that little knot of dread as we'd first stepped into Rock Salt with two toddlers in tow. I spotted crisp white tablecloths and candles and polished wine glasses on every table. This did not look family friendly.
We're seated by our friendly waiter, and whilst I'm nervously keeping an eye on the glassware (and the candle) there's a polite clearing of the throat.
"Good evening sir, we have a special placemat for you", the waiter says as he carefully places a koala cutout in front of Master Four. "And one for you as well," he tells Miss Three, who is now staring at him slack-jawed.
"Wait one second and I'll be back with some colouring-in", he apologises. Master Four turns to me with wide shining eyes, still in awe at being called "sir".
And suddenly we have two stencils of Dora along with a plastic cup filled with colour pencils. Two kids suddenly sit up straight with excitement. Two parents suddenly slump with relief.
It's almost enough special treatment to make me want to ask for a sheet to colour in (ha!)
Koala kids menu
The koala cts as a placemat, menu AND a mask. It has the usual list of deep-fried choices like nuggets and chips, but it's heartening to see that other options include penne napolitana, beef stea, noodle bake, battered flathead and chicken satay.
I admit to also being somewhat endeared by the two course menu pricing at "one thousand and fifty cents".
Once we settle in we note the warm decor, open bookshelf and island bar is somewhat compromised by the huge plasma screen on one wall showing the latest rugby match. It seems a pity given the otherwise cosy ambience.
Scallops in half shell $20
with lime, coriander and pawpaw dressing
The adults start with entrees whilst the kids colour in. Scallops served on a half shell are quite impressive - plump discs of fresh scallop that are just-cooked, perfumed with the smell of the sea and splashed with a gentle dressing of lime, coriander and pawpaw.
Salt and pepper squid $20
dressed with chilli, lemon juice and garlic
The salt and pepper squid is also good. Curled scrolls of lattice-scored squid are tender, dotted liberally with fine slices of green onions, mild chilli and the spicy crunch of deep-fried shallots.
Lamb shanks $30
Braised in garlic and rosemary jus with mashed potato
Lamb shanks are a hearty main of comfort food heaven: a bed of mash, a pool of gravy and tender succulent meat that falls off the bone.
Duck confit $30
on chat potatoes with Chinese broccoli and green peppercorn sauce
The duck confit is a tower of indulgence. Roasted chat potatoes, squashed into a waxy carb-olicious splodge hold forth two tiers of aromatic duck, the skin crisped to a golden sheen.
Grilled lobster tail $38 (for the month of May only - Caribbean theme)
on steamed rice and broccolini with lemon and garlic buter
Grilled lobster tail is part of the special monthly menu for May which has a Caribbean theme. The lobster is succulent and sweet and thankfully not too heavily doused with lemon and garlic butter.
Chicken nuggets and chips $10.50 including dessert
The kids' meals arrive at different times, the veggie and noodle cheese bake arriving as our mains arrive, and the nuggets and chips a distinct ten minutes later. It's the only minor quibble with service, although thankfully it's no major drama tonight with Master Four.
The nuggets and chips arrive as you'd expect--five crumbed and deep-fried nuggets on a plate of chips--but we're all very impressed by the plating of the veggie and noodle cheese bake.
Veggie and noodle cheese bake $10.50 including dessert
Broccoli ears! Tomato sauce hair! Peas for eyes and a carrot nose! Miss Three can't resist dipping her finger into the tomato sauce bow tie.
Sticky date pudding $12
with a butterscotch sauce and vanilla ice cream
The sticky date pudding isn't quite the Masterchef challenge spectacle, but we do like the shard of honeycomb perched on top. The sticky date pudding itself has a pleasingly malty sweetness, swaddled between a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a pool of rich butterscotch sauce.
Baileys Creme Brulee $12
with marshmallow and filo crunch
Will Baileys creme brulee ever be downright unfashionable? It's a tad firm but lifted by the ethereal lightness of fresh marshmallow on a plank of crisp buttery filo.
Chocolate mousse terrine $12
with hazelnut meringue, redcurrant coulis
and fresh blueberries
The chocolate mousse terrine is quite the sculpture, dollops of chocolate mousse languishing like lazy apostrophe marks within a sandwich of crisp hazelnut meringue. Its sweetness is tempered by the red splash of redcurrant coulis and tumble of fresh blueberries although I'm a little taken aback that each blueberry has been carefully sliced in half.
Vanilla ice cream with choice of syrup
The kids love their vanilla ice cream too.
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Menai Metro Centre
1/72-80 Allison Crescent, Menai, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9532 0699
Open for lunch on Fridays only 12pm – 3pm
Open for dinner Tuesday to Sunday 6pm – 10pm
Plenty of parking available within Menai Metro Centre
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5/27/2009 01:53:00 a.m.