Birthday lunching at the Bathers’ Pavilion, Balmoral Beach

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.bathers pavilion balmoral beach

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.

bathers pavilion balmoral beach

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.

bathers pavilion balmoral beach

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.

bathers pavilion balmoral beach

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!

bathers pavilion balmoral beach

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.

bathers pavilion balmoral beach

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.

bathers pavilion balmoral beach bathers pavilion balmoral beach

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.

bathers pavilion balmoral beach

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.bathers pavilion balmoral beach bathers pavilion balmoral beach bathers pavilion balmoral beach

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.

Bathers' Pavilion on Urbanspoon

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Highland feasting

The Sunshine Coast hinterland is situated only an hour north of Brisbane, and it has some amazing views over the coastline. There are a few historic towns in the area, including Montville, which is popular with weekend tourists from the big smoke.

It’s a unique little township, with buildings that look like they have been plucked straight out of the Swiss Alps or Tudor England. For some strange reason, there are also quite a few places that specialise in cuckoo clocks.  You know, for all your timekeeping needs!

Situated just outside of Montville is The Long Apron restaurant, part of the Spicers Clovelly Estate retreat.  We drove up the long driveway to the majestic main building, which houses the two-hatted restaurant, and couldn’t help but gasp at the beauty of the surroundings.  Lush, green, rolling lawns, a grand jacaranda tree shading the terrace, a kitchen garden bursting with herbs, and a quaint bench to take in the lovely serenity of it all.

the long apron montville

the long apron montville

the long apron montville

We were seated in the dappled sunlight of the terrace, and enjoyed feeling the warm sun on our skin. It didn’t take much twisting of our arms before we chose the 5-course a la carte ($105), since it was just too difficult to eliminate any of the wonderful choices on the menu for a 2 or 3-course lunch ($75 and $85 respectively).

There were some complimentary starters that were a little fun and quirky, such as a watermelon sashimi, and an edible pot plant!

long apron montville menu

edible pot plant long apron montville

watermelon sashimi long apron montville

What struck me most about all the dishes was the celebration of textures, colours, and flavours. The presentation of each course was balanced, with lots of different interesting elements, most of which comprised of local produce and stuff straight out of their kitchen garden. My favourite dish was the “Garden Salad”, which sounded pedestrian on the menu but was a bit like garden foraging, on a plate!

the long apron montville

the long apron montville

the long apron montville

the long apron montville

the long apron montville

We chose to have our dessert on a table out on the grass to bask in the last of the afternoon sun. Already feel more than pleasantly full from the first four courses, we took a stroll around the gardens while we waited for our desserts. As we were determining which herbs were which in the kitchen garden, we heard the polite yell, “HELLO??”, to let us know that dessert was ready. More than ready, in fact, with the ice cream accompaniment for our desserts looking a bit melty.

the long apron montville

Sadly, our long, leisurely lunch came to an end, and we drove our full bellies back to Maroochydore airport to get our flight back to Sydney. The service here was impeccable, being attentive, friendly, and very knowledgeable. The dining experience at the Long Apron would be a top pick for a special occasion, or if you just want to spoil yourselves!

The Long Apron on Urbanspoon

A long lunch at Ormeggio

When I called up to book a table at Ormeggio at The Spit, the host asked me, “is this for a special occasion?”, to which I replied, “oh, just lunch!”

Winter in Sydney is nothing like the winters I experienced in London, and with the latest run of sunny weather, a lunch at Ormeggio overlooking the yachts moored at The Spit was the perfect way to spend a Sunday lunch.  A special occasion indeed!

The White Russian and I decided to treat ourselves to the 8-course emozioni degustation with matching wines ($105, or $189 with matching wines).  We had even made the journey to the restaurant by public transport so that we could indulge without guilt or danger to fellow motorists.  Before we launched into lunch, we were perusing the cocktail list for an aperitivo, and our host recommended a negroni, which is a cocktail comprising of gin, vermouth, and Campari.  The first taste was a hit of bitterness, but it had a nice, dry finish that sufficiently whetted the appetite.

negroni

ormeggio at the spit snacks

ormeggio at the spit sourdough breadLunch was a lovely slow and scenic journey through a range of flavours and cooking styles, with some leaning towards classic Italian and others more a fusion of Modern Australian.  There was octopus cooked sous vide at 85C for 4 hours, a Flinders Island wallaby buttata (or tartare), and tortelli filled with wonderfully smokey burnt eggplant.

ormeggio at the spit octopus

ormeggio at the spit wallaby

ormeggio at the spit tortelli

ormeggio at the spit risotto

ormeggio at the spit mulloway

ormeggio at the spit braised lamb

After admitting that the sourdough bread was our downfall (we just couldn’t stop after that first taste of warm, crusty bread slathered with freshly churned sour butter), we were full to the brim before the dessert courses arrived.  However, it was hard to resist them when they came out, with the carrot sponge with fennel seed ice cream being our preferred choice over the pomegranate jelly served with frozen yoghurt on a dry rye biscuit.ormeggio at the spit carrot sponge

ormeggio at the spit pomegranate yoghurt

ormeggio at the spit carrot spongeFour hours after we arrived, we rolled out of the restaurant toward the bus stop, satisfyingly full, content, and sobered up after the ratio of food to wine finally swung back in favour of the former.  The service was spot on attentive, knowledgeable, and always friendly, and made it a relaxed and enjoyable Sunday lunch.

Ormeggio at the Spit on Urbanspoon

Birthday lunch at Jonah’s, Whale Beach

I recently turned 33, spending my birthday camping in the northern beaches of Sydney.  Besides an incident with a tent pole flying out of the ground and hitting me in the forehead (massive lump ensued – thank god for beer eskies close at hand full of ice!), it was a memorable event with the White Russian taking me out for a birthday lunch at Jonah’s at Whale Beach.

We had their Sunday 3-course set menu, starting off with cocktails to celebrate the occasion, all overlooking the stunning Pacific Ocean coastline on a blue bird day.

Jonah's Whale Beach appetiser

Jonah's Whale Beach lychee and raspberry cocktail

Jonah's Whale Beach North Atlantic scallops

Jonah's Whale Beach Redgate Farm partridge

Jonah's birthday lunch

Jonah's Whale Beach Blue Eyed trevalla

Jonah's Whale Beach

Jonah's Whale Beach vanilla mille-feuille

Jonah's Whale Beach cheese platter

Jonah's Whale Beach happy birthday petit fours

My Redgate Farm partridge in particular was delicious, with deep and rich earthy flavours, and the light-as-air, flaky vanilla mille-feuille was a satisfying finish to the meal.

Jonah's on Urbanspoon