The best thing about a restaurant no-bookings policy is that impromptu plans can be easily made, even though it's late on a Friday afternoon.
The Bathers' Pavilion Cafe is the casual but more budget-friendly side to Bathers' Pavilion. Patrons enter the same glass door at the front, a view of the sand and crystal blue waters of Balmoral Beach beckoning on the other side. On the left is the blue-and-white schemed crisp linen restaurant, on the right is the haphazard collection of chairs and tables that make up the cafe.
A wicker basket of cutlery and napkins is delivered to our table. It's almost like having a picnic indoors, and the multicolour striped napkins bring an immediate sense of cheer and a smile to my face.
Whole wheat fougasse $24.50
with taleggio cheese, asparagus and pancetta
Eight of the Stomachs Eleven crowd have gathered tonight, and we start with a pizza to share. The whole wheat fougasse is thin and crispy, topped with spears of asparagus, strips of pancetta and melted pocked of taleggio cheese.
Steamed black mussels with cream and garlic, chips and leaf salad $30.50
We also shared the steamed black mussels that arrive piled high in a deep white bowl. The mussels are just cooked, and we dunk them generously into the bowl filled with a garlicky cream sauce. The chips are fat and crunchy wedges, and an accompanying salad surely helps offset any calorific indulgence.
Steamed black mussels
We don't have to wait too long for our mains and a procession of food photos follows, everyone obligingly passing their plates over to the best-lit spot on the table. The last-minute dinner plans mean I'm using L's camera tonight, a Canon which this Nikon-user is befuddled by. However eating-wise, I'm consoled by finding my plate piled high with samples from everyone for "research purposes" (thanks guys!).
Peppered beef fillet mignons $33.50
with French style peas and potato gratin
Peppered beef fillet mignons are delicately thin, mouthwateringly tender and served with a tower of potato gratin on a splay of peas.
Duck confit and roast onion pizza $25.50
with baby beetroots, spinach and ricotta
Duck confit and roast onion pizza doesn't have a lot of duck, but it's a winning combination of flavours with chunks of sweet beetroot, dollops of ricota and velvety leaves of baby spinach.
Chicken involtini $32.50
with white bean puree, baby zucchini with tomato sugo
I don't usually order chicken at restaurants, but Pig Flyin's chicken involtini makes me wish I'd reconsidered. The stuffed chicken breast is surpisingly succulent, plated on a smooth puree of white beans and a tumbled of roasted zucchini and tomatoes.
Seared fillet of market fish $31.50
on parsley risotto with lemon and virgin olive oil
Seared fillet of market fish flakes with the touch of a fork, seared on the outside to a pleasing crust. The parsley risotto wins me over, the small grains plump and toothsome, with a welcomed grassy flavour flavour from the parsley.
Seared veal cutlet $33.50
with kipfler potatoes, garlic spinach and salsa verde
Everyone's dish so far has been cooked to perfection, so I'm disappointed that my seared veal cutlet is cooked to a well-done state of dry. A pot of salsa verde is served on the side, but I end up relishing the cream from the mussels instead. Discs of kipfler potatoes have a melding softness, and a mound of wilted spinach leaves are sweet and cool.
Linguini with cuttlefish and prawns $28.50
fried breadcrumbs, lemon and squid ink
There linguini with cuttlefish and prawns comes in an appealing shade of blackish grey but it doesn't have as strong a flavour of squid ink I'd hoped for. Cuttlefish and prawns are fresh tasting and tender, a sprinkle of fried breadcrumbs providing textural contrast.
Fish croquettes $24.50
with prawn and calamari, eggplant and fennel salad
Fish croquettes are significantly delayed for some reason, arriving some ten minutes after everyone else's. They're like a fancy gourmet version of fish fingers, the minced fish shaped into croquettes and deep-fried until golden. The tartare sauce is piquant but I love the eggplant and fennel even more, especially the crunchy slivers of anise-flavoured fennel.
Real hot chocolate
Dessert? Of course we did. Pig Flyin notes my eyeing of the real hot chocolate on the menu and orders one before I can protest (weakly). It's not overly bitter or rich, but more of a smooth concoction that is creamy and mildly sweet.
Peach crepes, caramelised roast peaches and vanilla ice cream $15.50
We share three desserts between us. The peach crepes are soft, but I'm left wanting more of a sticky sauce for them, even though they're filled with poached peaches.
Lime creme brulee with citrus sable biscuit $15.50
Lime creme brulee arrives in a large oval ramekin covered with only a thin veneer of toffee. The custard has the zing of lime but I'm a little confused by the accompanying sable biscuits which only seem to add more buttery richness to an already decadent dessert.
Chocolate brownie, peanut butter parfait and chocolate ganache $15.50
On the other hand, the chocolate brownie, peanut butter parfait and chocolate ganache is all kinds of sublime. We'd all been expecting a brownie slice, but the brownie comes as a base to a layer of fluffy peanut butter parfait that is light on the tongue but nuttily sweet. Fresh figs add extra sexines to the dish, but really the peanut butter parfait is enough to get anyone into a dreamy state of bliss.
We finish with a walk along the promenade and even get a chance to gaze at the stars which twinkle even more brightly over the water. The gentle lapping of waves in the distance have a soothing effect and there's a faint tingle of salt in the air. Sometimes last-minute plans are the best kind of all.
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The Bathers' Pavilion Cafe
4 The Esplanade, Balmoral Beach, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9969 5050
Breakfast: Monday to Sunday 7am-12pm
Lunch and dinner menu: Monday to Sunday 12pm til late
Afternoon tea: Monday to Friday (exl public holidays) 3pm-5pm
Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Bathers' Pavilion Restaurant (Jan17)
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2/17/2010 06:00:00 am