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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Bathers Pavilion Cafe, Balmoral Beach

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.

Sea salt

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.

View Larger Map

The Bathers' Pavilion Cafe
4 The Esplanade, Balmoral Beach, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9969 5050

Opening hours:
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)
19 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 2/17/2010 06:00:00 am


  • At 2/17/2010 7:21 am, Anonymous Hannah said…

    Oh, the first thing I wanted to comment on was how cheery the napkins are - how lovely that you thought so too!

    But more importantly... PEANUT BUTTER! PEANUT BUTTER AND CHOCOLATE!! Why has Australia seemed to cotton onto the deliciousness of this combination only once I've (momentarily) departed its shores?! (And figs? They're my craving at the moment. This post is hurting me. :P)

  • At 2/17/2010 8:10 am, Blogger Stephcookie said…

    Haha I love & hate no-bookings places, you're right it's perfect for last minute dinner plans, but such a pain if you love going there but are never sure if you will get a table if you plan ahead! Mmm that parsley risotto caught my eye, it's got such a great colour!

  • At 2/17/2010 8:37 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I only have been to bathers pavilion for breakfast and brunch. Love the location. It's dining at the Sydney best. Love to see you are venturing into the North (my side of the bridge) and looking forward to see you discover more gems for us :)

  • At 2/17/2010 9:38 am, Blogger joey@forkingaroundsydney said…

    Duck confit and roast onion pizza? Sounds like a reason to drive north!

  • At 2/17/2010 10:38 am, Anonymous The Extra said…

    The last time I went to this place for breakfast(which, granted, was a long time ago)I was appalled at how expensive it was and how little there was on the plate.

    I think the owners are resting on their laurels - and charging for the view. But the chocolate plate does look nice!

    BTW - Canon rules!

  • At 2/17/2010 12:06 pm, Blogger arista said…

    I love those napkins too!

    Looks nice but a bit pricey for the likes of me...the location is good though.

  • At 2/17/2010 4:52 pm, Blogger Simon Leong said…

    i thought it was more a breakfast/brunch places but the dinner dishes are nicely presented. must be frustrating not having your own camera available. was expecting to see you at the March Into Merivale Launch? you obviously had a better offer :-)

  • At 2/17/2010 5:52 pm, Blogger Kate said…

    One of my favourite places! Im so glad you have finally visited. Balmoral is heavenly. My younger brother (18) took his girlfriend there for a Valentines dinner. Such a romantic! My Favourites have always been the caesar salad, 4 cheese pizza and the mussels.

  • At 2/17/2010 8:23 pm, Anonymous Mike@S+P said…

    Great post, great pictures too despite the camera! :P

    Seems like a nice cafe and I will pay it a visit sometime but the prices do seem like you're paying for the view.

    Linguini looks especially delicious!

  • At 2/17/2010 8:39 pm, Blogger Gummi Baby said…

    I hate no-booking places as well, specially when there are very few other choices around but I guess it ensures that they don't lose passing trade to a held table which doesn't show! The food looks great though considering it's not the restaurant side! It's been a long time since I was last at Bathers and I can't remember whether the cafe was there then.

  • At 2/17/2010 9:11 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hee hee I concur with Steph, love/hate relationships with no-booking places. I had wanted to try this cafe but the wait was at 40mins or so and we were too hungry to wait so we left haha but now I must come bak! (earlier)!

  • At 2/17/2010 11:38 pm, Blogger A cupcake or two said…

    The liguini looks great. I like eating anything with squid ink. Oh the taste of the sea. Yum yum.

  • At 2/18/2010 5:08 am, Blogger Rambling Tart said…

    This is one of my favorite posts of yours - simply because of the napkins, I think. :-)

  • At 2/18/2010 10:22 pm, Blogger Yuki said…

    Love ur blog!!! been reading for quite some time but never really left comments >.<"
    wow...a lot of food!!! hehehee
    would love to try the squid ink pasta and the duck pizza!! looks yummy :D
    Good work~

  • At 2/19/2010 5:13 am, Blogger Call me K said…

    I love reading your blog. I live in LA but visited Sydney in October and was amazed by the city and the food. Check out my blog if you get a chance:

    By the way, that parsley risotto looks absolutely amazing!!!

  • At 2/20/2010 10:46 am, Blogger Sarah said…

    That looks delicious, especially the peanut butter chocolate parfait dessert!!!

    Although I think the prices are quite, well, pricey for a casual cafe. Is that standard in Sydney though? I'm coming up next weekend for a holiday, better re-think the budget! Lol

    xox Sarah

  • At 2/21/2010 1:12 am, Anonymous ladyironchef said…

    pity the squid ink linguine isn't good, but the veal cutlet looks awesome!

  • At 2/21/2010 7:34 pm, Blogger WX said…

    I love the look of that beef fillet mignon, and I love the inkiness of the linguine. Must go up there and give it a try now!

  • At 3/03/2010 2:56 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Hannah - lol. Napkin happiness. It's amazing how the little things make such a difference, don't they?

    And yes, peanut butter and chocolate. I agree - we need more of it!

    Hi Stephcookie - The parsley risotto was a very cool shade of green. No-bookings restaurants are a strange beast - they require ultra organisation or an ability to remain carefree and casual!

    Hi Ellie - Ha yes, I don't often venture north of the Bridge but it's happenning more and more often these days! The view is amazing.

    Hi Joey - lol. Food is usually my reason to head north too :)

    Hi The Extra - I haven't tried the breakfast here but I guess when you offer views like these, patrons become a bit of a captive audience?

    And ha, the Canon vs Nikon debate will always rage on.

    Hi Arista - It's a little pricey but I guess the surroundings do come into it too. I'm not usually one to splurge but the cafe offers quite a good value alternative to the restaurant side anyway.

    Hi Simon Food Favourites - Heading out for dinner without a camera? Palpitations indeed! I was out of the country during the March Into Merivale launch, otherwise you know I would've marched right in alongside every other Sydneysider. lol.

    Hi Kate - I've been to Bathers Pavilion restarant before, but yes, it's been a while between visits. Your brother obviously has good taste and an excellent palate :) Lucky gf!

    Hi Mike - I think every restaurant factors the view into the pricing which is why hole-in-the-wall spots are always so cheap. And ha, thanks, I was all fingers and thumbs with the foreign equipment. All faults are mine. lol

    Hi Gummi Baby - I can't imagine the pain of having a no-show so I don't begrudge restaurants that pursue this policy. If the food is good enough, punters will queue regardless.

    Hi FFichiban - Ah the trick is to get there earlier, or send some scouts to save you a table. lol. Otherwise there's always a walk on the beach beforehand to get the appetite going!

    Hi A Cupcake or Two - I love squid ink too. I have a sachet of the stuff in my fridge which I keep meaning to use in pasta. The flavour is so luscious!

    Hi Rambling Tart - lol. It's all about the simple pleasures!

    Hi Yuki - Thank you and so glad you finally left a comment (that wasn't so hard, see?).

    The squid ink pasta and the duck pizza were both great, but personally I'm still dreaming about that peanut butter parfait!

    Hi Call me K - So glad you enjoyed your visit to Sydney. We are blessed with a bounty of fresh produce and such a diversity of cuisines. Your blog looks great too. A trip to Paris? Lucky you!

    Hi Sarah - Hope you enjoyed your trip to Sydney - sorry I didn't get a chance to respond beforehand. Serge Dansereau has quite a reputation so I'd guess you call this a more affordable off-shoot of his one-hat restaurant.

    Hi ladyironchef - The veal cutlet was a little overcooked for my liking but oh the peanut butter parfait made up for everything!

    Hi WX - Hope you get there soon. It's funny how we all get stuck in our suburban ruts sometimes!


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