The best thing about celebrating a partner’s birthday is that it’s the perfect excuse to take them out for a special dining experience, since you get to benefit too! (Actually, it was the second best thing. The best thing was seeing his face when he saw his birthday present, a Tap King draught beer dispenser, in action. If only Lionel Richie was really in your fridge…)
The White Russian had his birthday last weekend, so I took him to the Bathers’ Pavilion at Balmoral Beach for lunch. It was a gorgeous spring day; warm with blue skies, and a notable smile on the faces of everyone strolling along the promenade. We weren’t lucky enough to score a table right next to the window, but were close enough to admire the beautiful views across the harbour towards Manly and North Head.
We opted for the 8-course degustation ($135, or $195 with matching wines), since it was too difficult to choose between all the dishes on the menu. Plus, it was a special occasion after all, so definitely an excuse to splash out. We started out with warm crusty bread, served with discs of salted and unsalted butter, and a terrine amuse bouche.
The cured salmon with radish and pickled melon squid ink crumble was a lovely mix of textures. The crumble didn’t taste overly squiddy, but leant a nice crunch to each mouthful of salmon, whose smooth oiliness was offset by the sweetness of the rockmelon and watermelon.
The bay leaf-smoked chicken was very subtle in flavour, verging on bland, but was a good carrier for the sweet date puree, yoghurt, and heirloom carrots.
A Japanese-inspired kingfish dish was a hit, with the meaty fish being paired with wasabi butter, grilled mini rolls of savoy cabbage, dehydrated green apple, and ricotta. There was only the merest hint of wasabi though, and I would have liked a bit more punch, but not everyone loves the bite of wasabi as much as I do!
Normally, the ravioli is filled with sea urchin, but on this occasion, we were served lobster ravioli. It was finished with a mushroom consommé, which was deep, earthy, and meaty, but still a good complement to the lobster, not overpowering it. There were also a couple of slices of chewy abalone, the first time I’d seen abalone on the menu of a non-Chinese restaurant.
The meatier dishes on the degustation menu were a silky, tender squab (I did not know that a squab was a young, domestic pigeon!), and a sweet, moist grilled lamb loin with baby fennel and pencil leek and sweetbreads. The WR commented that the crispy lumps of sweetbreads were like eating fried balls of fat, which was not a bad description of these creamy balls of deliciousness.
Our cheese course consisted of a rich and creamy serve of Tarwin blue served with muscat jelly and crisp parsnip chips. My weakness for cheese was thoroughly indulged with this course, and the sweetness of the muscat jelly cut through the richness of the cheese.
We finished off our meal with a chocolate croquant, an indulgent hit of chocolate creaminess on a croquant base. There was a buffet of complementing flavours, which made dessert a fun taste test of chocolate with raspberry sorbet, roast pepper sauce, orange foam, mint jelly, chilli powder, and passionfruit curd. The WR received birthday wishes from me and the restaurant staff. I think he was mightily chuffed.
A wonderfully relaxing lunch by the beach, with friendly service, and the birthday boy feeling suitably special. The food is enjoyable, even if it’s not spectacularly memorable, but the dining experience with the gorgeous view still makes it a worthwhile visit.