A few weeks ago Carl and I went to dinner in Dee Why, a beachside suburb on Sydney’s Northern Beaches.
I first found out about Dee Why beach when I was about 14 and sitting in art class opposite a boy whose father was a policeman in Dee Why. Mark used to tell us stories about how one of his father’s jobs was to walk up and down Dee Why beach asking all the topless sunbathers to put their tops back on and cover up. And my friend and I would think that was hilarious and get the giggles. And Mark would get annoyed and hotly say, ‘And you probably think dad loves this job, but he says it’s embarrassing’.
As a teenager growing up on the North Shore, Dee Why was the closest beach I could get to on public transport. Hoards of teenagers like me would walk to the station carrying our towels, surfboards and lime scented Reef Oil, catch the train and then a bus headed for Dee Why. The beach was always stunning; Dee Why would have to be one of the prettiest beaches in Sydney, but the strip along the esplanade was lined with grotty shops owned by migrants working in non-air-conditioned premises frying food like chicko rolls in over-used oil and selling coconut scented surf wax and Winfield Blue cigarettes marketed by Paul Hogan.
Deck Bar and Dining has recently changed ownership and with the new ownership has come a renovation with a bar downstairs where live music plays four nights a week and upstairs is a funky mix of hanging chairs, day beds, dining tables and billowing curtains.
Head chef, Nicholas Baldwin, has recently returned from an extensive tour of Asia where he fell in love with the culture of street food and has brought this casual, shared-plate, modestly-priced, ‘hands-on’ style of dining to the restaurant.
We were seated in the upstairs dining room at the front table overlooking the beach where your eye could follow the water right out to the Pacific Ocean. At 6.30pm the beach was still in full sun and there were many swimmers still enjoying the water and the incredibly warm evening. Casting our eyes towards the horizon gave the feeling of being seated in the middle of a patch of paradise.
Our waitress was your typical-looking bronzed Aussie with the fresh face, blond hair and tanned skin – except she’s a Kiwi! The waitresses are all dressed casually in short short with t-shirts which helps to give the restaurant the vibe of this being a great place relax.
We started the evening with a cocktail. I glanced down the menu but there was one that grabbed my attention because it reminded me of ‘that’ episode in Seinfeld where he says, ‘it rhymes with a female body part’. I just had to try the ‘Velvet Vulva’. I’m not too sure how I should describe this but it was pretty, fluffy, soft and very velvety. It was more sour than sweet and not too over-powered with alcohol which is how I prefer my cocktails. Carl had an ‘Illegal Mexican Sazerac’ that he loved because it was laced with tequila.
We ordered some shared plates and started with the guacamole that arrived in a mortar and pestle where you bashed it yourself and added additional ingredients to suit your own taste. This was a pleasantly surprising way to have have the guacamole served and it was greatly enjoyed with the chef’s house-made tostadas.
We shared the quesadillas filled with cheese and pulled pork that had been slow-roasted for about a day. Each mouthful of tender pork was given a little zing by the passionfruit and chervil salad that had all the flavours of summer.
On such a hot night it was lovely to have something cold and we enjoyed the Vietnamese Spring Rolls that were full of deliciously fresh and crunchy vegetables, mint and one of my most favourite herbs, Thai basil.
The Chinese Potstickers arrived next and they were crispy on the outside and melt-in-the-mouth on the inside. ‘Sensational’, said Carl, as he dipped his second one into the chilli dipping sauce.
We shared the Malaysian Satay Skewers and found this to be a very generous portion. The chargrilled chicken was full of flavour and very tender however I felt the peanuts in the satay sauce were a little too roasted. Carl thought they were perfect!
The next dish to arrive was the salt and pepper squid. Carl said it was the most tender calamari he had ever had. He hunted down the chef to ask him how he made it so tender. He said it was in the scoring and then you cook it only briefly. The tang and crunch from the green mango salad was a perfect accompaniment to the saltiness of the squid.
On such a hot night, why not have another drink! I ordered the Angel Cove Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand and Carl had a Mexican beer.
For dessert we really wanted to try the ‘adults only sorbets’ that come in a range of alcoholic flavours however, these were all sold out. Popular! We ordered the picarones that arrived on a board and these donuts were made with sweet potato and pumpkin and drenched in a fruit syrup. The donuts were beautifully spiced and the fresh berries helped to balance the sweetness of the fruit syrup. This was a very generously plated dish and was definitely enough for more than one.
But…we didn’t stop there and also ordered the Chocolate Soup with fresh berries, house made marshmallows and honeycomb. Unfortunately, due to the extreme heat, the chef had been unable to make the honeycomb – it doesn’t fair well in hot, humid conditions. I’ll have to come back in winter. But the chocolate soup was smooth and velvety with dark cocoa flavours that were beautifully balanced by the fresh fruit and marshmallows. This is another dish perfect for sharing.
You’d be winning the lotto if you found a park outside the restaurant or anywhere in the street so bring shoes you can walk in and park in the beach car park a few minutes away. If you are looking for a relaxed and casual dining experience with that ever-popular shared-plate experience, I can thoroughly recommend Deck Bar and Dining. They throw in an incredible view for free!
Hotly Spiced dined as a guest of Deck Bar and Dining.
Deck Bar and Dining:
Deck 2/23 The Strand
Dee Why NSW 2099
CALL: (02) 99710744