Archive for September, 2010

A weekend in Hobart

September 25, 2010

We’d spent some time before in Tasmania, doing some hiking around Cradle Mountain. It’s a beautiful part of the world. It demanded a return visit, this time to Hobart and surrounds.

It was an ideal weekend away with convenient flight times from Sydney. So we found ourselves in Fish Frenzy on the harbour ordering the seafood platter at 7.45pm on Friday night, forgoing the martini this once:

Not the typical seafood platter I’m used to with crab, lobster and plenty of small crustaceans. This dish was more dominated by freshly prepared mixes – such as squid with chilli, curried mussels, but there was still plenty of great fish/seafood to standout with excellent smoked salmon, sweet prawns & well fried flathead. With a decent bottle of Reisling it was good value for money and although not a classic, it made for a fine Friday night.

We followed this up with lunch at Mures Lower Deck the next day, which we preferred to Fish Frenzy. Simply served and excellent value, the oysters were great and out on the deck, with a carafe of wine, basking in the sun, it was a lovely place to be.

Continuing the gastronomic delights we decided to check out Marque IV which was till recently the place to dine in Hobart. Like the other places we visited it had a lovely harbour location. However ambience was a touch lacking with it only being two thirds full. The chefs in the open kitchen looked pretty relaxed.

Clearly we’d eaten a fair bit of food & fish already so we stuck to a light meal, of sorts. This meant steak tartare…

Wot no frites?! It was a nicely prepared tartare, with the individual ingredients well defined, but the seasoning was a little bland and too subtle for my liking. Maybe steak tartares belong in the brasserie with frites, salad and a bottle of tabasco…

My wife had the assiette of pork – loin & belly, which she really enjoyed, though like the tartare it was a little on the petite side for a main course.

We finished with a plate of cheese – a good broad selection and clearly well maintained.  So we didn’t really give Marque IV a fair go, but I didn’t get the impression that is what the sort of place to inspire & elevate the senses, so the jury is still out.

Before we left we decided to check out Bruny Island and stumbled across The Smokehouse there and grabbed a piece of smoked salmon, which we classily paired with some chips from Mure.

I picture it (and so lowering the tone of this post) because it was one of the finest pieces of smoked fish I’ve had. So if you’re in that neck of the woods, along with Mures, it’s something you have to seek out.

We will be back.


Pier Restaurant, Rose Bay

September 5, 2010

594 New South Head Rd, Rose Bay NSW

Pier Restaurant has been on my list to visit for a while. Famed for its preparation of fish, it represents a kind of pilgrimage in Sydney for all things piscine.

I was also keen to see what kind of restaurant it was after Greg Doyle (who was in the restaurant cooking) publicly handed back his chef hats a few months back.  It prompted a rather arsey article from the SMH, saying it wasn’t the owners right to hand them back etc. Rather amusing.

The restaurant itself is set in a large sweeping bay, a few miles east of Sydney. The building itself is not much to look at from the street, but from the inside it’s a thing of beauty. Encased in glass, it’s easy to feel as though you’re sat in the bay, being surrounded all sides by water and boats.

It’s a table for one and I’m sat overlooking the water. There is a weekend set menu, but since I’m intending to get a good view of what the restaurant can do I opt to create my own tasting menu.

I start with a house speciality of Cone of King Salmon. It’s the freshest of salmon served with roe and capers. It was spoiled a touch by a liberal touch of salt, but not unpalatably so.

The meal kicked into gear with kingfish carpaccio with micro herbs, tomato and lime water vinaigrette. It was a dish to let the quality of the fish sing with the lightest of touches. The vinaigrette was zingy without being overpowering. It was a sublime plate of food, one that makes everything seem right with the world. I didn’t think I was one to get so enthused about carpaccio….

Another winning dish was roast scallops with cauliflower tofu (disguised as the middle scallop) with caramelised veal sweatbreads. It was a few of my favourite things on one plate. This was a meaty preparation of the finely cooked scallops. The caramel gave depth and sweatness. The tofu was another interesting taste and sweetbreads make anything great. I wish I could have had more. But then the next dish arrived…

It was the standout dish on the day. I’d seen the spanner crab lasagne on the a la carte menu and just had to try it (at a full supplement cost). It was simply glorious. A mountain of sweet crab with zucchini & soft herbs. The lasagne was nice al-dente and a champagne sauce bought it all together. Nothing fiddly about this dish, just beautiful.

The fourth great dish in a row – steamed hapuka with peas, pearl onions and a mushroom consomme. The hapuka was steamed to a point that it was still gelatinous. The consomme was deep and woody in flavour. It was a dish to savour and appreciate the range of flavours.

The final main continued the excellent cooking, but not necessarily the brilliant flavours. It was roasted barramundi with baby beetroot, lentils, speck & cavalo nero. Again the fish was cooked to perfection, with the waiter asking that I eat it from the thin ends so that the middle could continue cooking. The flavours combined well, but it served to highlight how mundane the fish was. Barramundi is just not an interesting enough fish to spend good money on. I enjoyed almost every mouthful, but barramundi & I are now over…..

My meal came to the end with a single dessert, which I think served to reflect the focus of the restaurant – almost an after-thought. I was served a lemon souffle with passion fruit syrup poured into steaming pudding. I love a souffle with it’s fluffy airiness capturing the essence of its fruit, but this dish was pretty extreme. It was intensely lemon, not in a good way. It was impossible to eat without the cream to balance the huge essence of lemon. You certainly knew you’d eaten something, but I was unable to finish it.

And so my degustation at Pier came to a close. It certainly wasn’t  a cheap meal, but it was worth every penny. The quality of fish and the lightness of cooking was unparalleled. Not the most inventive of dishes, but doesn’t matter because it’s the skill of preparation which is on display here.

Four of the dishes I had here were truly memorable – really delicious plates of food. From my experience of Sydney, this is really is the place to go for seafood. It’s sadly not an everyday occasion, but despite what the impending SMH Food Guide might say, it’s too good to miss.