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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

RockSalt Restaurant, Menai

Before Kids.

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.

Colouring in

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.

View Larger Map
Rocksalt on Urbanspoon

RockSalt Restaurant
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
17 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 5/27/2009 01:53:00 am


  • At 5/27/2009 2:13 am, Anonymous Byrd said…

    I am very impressed with how this restaurant deals with children. The plating on the noodle bake is wonderfully clever. It's easy to see that someone there gave some careful thought to how real children (and their parents) would like to be treated. The "Sir" is delightful. 8-)

  • At 5/27/2009 7:34 am, Anonymous Veruca Salt said…

    I seem to be a magnet for bad children (maybe that's because I am still one myself). This sort of place would keep them very busy and far, far away from me.

    I hate it when you don't tell us which dish you picked. I am torn between the shanks and the confit but I will guess that you had the confit. Am I right?

  • At 5/27/2009 8:43 am, Blogger Stephcookie said…

    Is it odd that I want the kids meals even more than the regular meals? I mean, broccoli ears? Who can say no to that?!

  • At 5/27/2009 9:34 am, Anonymous Howard said…

    Food looks great, the dessert looks quite impressive. Not many places cater for children that while without sacrificing the quality of food.

  • At 5/27/2009 9:36 am, Blogger Betty @ The Hungry Girl said…

    Aww, how cute that they accommodated the children so well :) Those desserts look fabulous!

  • At 5/27/2009 12:36 pm, Anonymous divemummy said…

    It's rare to find a kid-friendly restaurant that also serves decent food to adults and has more ambience than a bistro.

  • At 5/27/2009 2:30 pm, Anonymous Arwen from Hoglet K said…

    The pasta face is really cute, and it's very knowing to include tomato sauce in a kids meal. For me though it's the chocolate mousse sculpture that sounds attractive.

  • At 5/27/2009 7:11 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Oohh what a family friendly place serving such good food yumm! Hee hee you didn't order from the Koala mennuu XD?!

  • At 5/27/2009 10:14 pm, Anonymous chocolatesuze said…

    hee! i likes the pasta face! and lol at the dipping of finger into sauce first! my stomach is only able to handle kid sized portions so i always get food envy looking at the kid menus...

  • At 5/27/2009 11:08 pm, Anonymous Simon said…

    Some nice looking meals but the vege noogle cheese bake reminds me of why some kids grow up with a phobia for clowns *shudder*...

  • At 5/28/2009 1:43 am, Anonymous billy@atablefortwo said…

    a koala mat with kids menu at the back!? Genius! Good idea for next dinner party! :P I think the chef has more fun plating the kids dish than the children themselves.

  • At 5/28/2009 2:33 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Byrd - I loved the idea of the noodle bake plating too. Surely a novel way to get kids to geat their vegetables! It was a welcome sight to see kids catered for so well, and not just food-wise!

    Hi Veruca Salt - Ding ding! You win! I did have the confit, although I did try a bit of everything :)

    Hi Stephcookie - Ha, my thoughts exactly. I want to eat broccoli ears too!

    Hi Howard - It was great to see the little touches included for kids, whilst still allowing parents the chance to eat a decent meal.

    Hi Betty - Dessert is always my favourite part of the meal :)

    Hi divemummy - Agreed. I wonder if there's a market for more restaurants that are kid-friendly?

    Hi Arwen - Oh yes, doesn't tomato sauce fix everything? The chocolate mousse was my favourite too.

    Hi FFichiban - No I'm not a koala, not when there's things like duck confit and S&P squid on the menu, anyway!

    Hi chocolatesuze - You do have the world's smallest stomach, although methinks the macaron section has extra room.

    Hi Simon - Are you scared of clowns? I find it funny when little kids are scared of Santa too. Although a laughing fat man with an ill-fitting suit and a suspicious-looking beard? I don't blame them!

    Hi Billy - I'm expecting koala menus at your next dinner party :)

  • At 5/28/2009 9:21 am, Anonymous fooderati said…

    Wow...there's a blast from the past..growing up near there, I never wanted to go back because it was the backwater of Australian food...good to know things are changing!

  • At 5/28/2009 12:32 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Rocksalt is but 2 minutes walk from my house and a favourite with my 2 girls - they treat the kids so well as you experienced. A shame you did not try their soft shell crab, it is divine! A family favourite of ours! I am having dinner and drinks their for my birthday next month - lucky me!! Good to see you (of sorts) in the Shire Helen!


  • At 5/29/2009 1:24 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Fooderati - Ahh a Menai local in a past life? I had no idea! I think the food scene is developing across the board in Sydney - good news for everybody!

    Hi Noodlehead - Great to hear it's such a favourite haunt of yours. Can understand why those with kids would love it. I did think about the soft shell crab, but to be honest I think I'm starting to reach ssc saturation levels (mon dieu!). The s&p squid was pretty good though. And happy birthday to you! Am sure it will be a tasty one!

  • At 5/31/2009 2:19 pm, Blogger Implosion said…

    Can't believe how helpful this restaraunt is with kids!!!
    Great review too. The pics are amazing.

  • At 6/02/2009 1:53 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Implosion - With the current baby boom it's a wonder more restaurants don't recognise the value of being family-friendly. And thanks - the kids were particularly patient with the phtos :)


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