A very close friend of mine had one of those birthdays. One of those birthdays that you can see looming and you’re filled with dread and they don’t start with an ‘F’ (which is bad enough), because now you’ve progressed from ‘F’ to ‘S’.
But every birthday is worthy of a celebration (even if ‘S’ depresses you), so I drove along Sydney’s Northern Beaches, picked up my friend, Lou and headed for Palm Beach. It was a magnificent day with the bluest of blue skies and plenty of warm sunshine. We parked across the road from Barrenjoey House then headed for the restaurant. It’s a long while since I’ve been to Barrenjoey House and it’s always thrilling to be back in this gorgeous setting which feels as comfortable as walking into someone’s beachside home.
The staff are full of smiles and greet you almost as if you’re a long-lost friend. We were shown to a table that overlooked one of Sydney’s best (and most expensive) views.
We were offered flat, sparkling or tap water and ordered a large bottle of sparkling mineral water however as the occasion was a celebration I also ordered two glasses of Prosecco. These arrived promptly and I loved how the champagne glasses had also been chilled.
There was the usual menu then there was also a lovely Spring menu. I ordered my entree from the Spring menu and had the lightly battered zucchini flowers stuffed with goat’s cheese and pine nuts with a saffron aioli and green herb sauce. The batter was crispy and the zucchini crunchy and the goat’s cheese stuffing gave a lovely kick to the subtle zucchini flavours. There was a wonderful amount of aioli and herb sauce and I loved this very generous dish. However, I am used to zucchini flowers being served in a much lighter batter and felt the batter presented made them look rather heavy.
Lou had the salt and pepper calamari and zucchini with roast pepper and saffron aioli. Again, it was a very generous serve and she thought the zucchini complimented the calamari beautifully. The calamari was wonderfully light and tender.
For the main course I chose from the standard menu and ordered the sirloin steak sandwich with beetroot relish, rocket, horseradish and chips. And here’s the problem. If you’re going to charge $25.00 for a steak sandwich it had better be the best steak sandwich on record.
Unfortunately this steak sandwich was beyond disappointing. As it was presented to me I took one look and my heart just sank. I hoped it would taste better than it looked but alas – this dish had not one redeeming feature. The ‘sirloin steak’ was more ‘minute steak’ – so thin it resembled a sheet of paper. It was terribly over-cooked with that dreaded grey colour to it. The bread was a mystery. It was soft and coloured like brioche yet the underside had a look of Turkish bread to it. One side of the bread had been toasted to the point of being burnt. The beetroot relish had been thinly spread on one side and being such a meagre scraping I could barely taste it. There wasn’t enough horseradish to battle the dryness of the steak. There was no rocket but there was some watercress that I had seen being used to garnish a number of dishes. The chips were dry and under seasoned and I had to ask for a dish of sauce to help wash them down. I really don’t know what I got for $25.00.
Lou ordered from the Spring menu and had the pan fried red snapper fillet, roast baby fennel, steamed asparagus, zucchini flowers and sea salt roasted kipfler potatoes with a dill burre blanc. By sharp contrast this was an outstanding dish. The plate arrived on the table hot, there was a very generous serving of everything and plenty of burre blanc for both the potatoes and the fish.
We had a look at the dessert menu and I asked Lou if she would like to share a cheese platter but that main course had filled her to over-capacity.
I would have loved to have tried it. Something to come back for, for sure.
An absolute must after a meal at Barrenjoey House is a walk on the beach and when taking this walk any horror memories of steak sandwiches are quickly erased.
The fact is, Barrenjoey House is in one of the world’s best locations and the setting and the staff make you want to be there. However, while some of the food is superb, other dishes are highly questionable.
Verdict: In this setting on a beautiful day, even ‘so so’ food can be forgiven.
Barrenjoey House: 1108 Barrenjoey Road (opposite Barrenjoey Wharf), Palm Beach Ph: 61 (2) 9974 4001
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