Every bored and financially-straitened housewife-and-mother combo needs a restaurant buddy, I have decided. I am now in the enviable position of having one myself. A good friend who likes to feed me seriously good meals and talk about books and intelleckshooal stuff, not related at all to kids or household budgets or school. Awesome.
SO yesterday I was entirely and lavishly spoiled by a totally brilliant meal at a most fabulous restaurant.
It started with a lovely drive through the beautiful scenery of Ku-Ring-Gai national park to the Hawkesbury – Cottage Point Inn to be precise.
I had a little bit of trouble at first, working out exactly where down this hill I was heading, but soon found the restaurant and felt definite glee. It is right on the water and there is a superb view of the hills, the river, cormorants, snakebirds, sea-planes, boats…
We were at possibly the best table there, which is always gratifying.
I had looked at the menu online (and winced at the prices – however – that’s just me, straitened circumstances and all that- and resolutely turned my eyes away from them…) but the menu was a little different on the spot so I had to read it a bit more closely.
(I reckon online menus do need to consistent with on-the-spot ones, apart from specials of course – it’s awkward for picky people like me who need to look at menus in advance to make sure that there is something at least that I can eat.)
The waiter (maitre d’?) approached to see if we wanted to order – and was a bit of a surprise as he looked and sounded like a slightly louche grizzled beachcomber or castaway, with grey stubble and wild ringlets – and this extremely gruff, staccato delivery. However he really knew his stuff, and I had a strange mental image of my brother (the apprentice chef and wine enthusiast) doing exactly the same type of job in later years.
After we ordered, a waiter brought us an amuse-bouche which amused the hell out of me, because it was colcannon soup. I found this particularly amusing, because of the idea of coming to an expensive restaurant to eat a pureed version of a tiresomely regular poor-folk’s meal that I ate endlessly as a child and teenager. Delicious, yes. But. Not precisely what I think of when I think ‘Fine Dining’.
(Colcannon is generally boiled potatoes sauteed together with bacon and shredded green cabbage, with lots of pepper).
It did actually work extremely well as a soup!
Then they brought out some home made rolls or sourdough, and some extremely good olive oil and salt flakes. The olive oil was green gold and fruity and peppery, just as it should be, and the bread, dipped in it was tangy and chewy and moist. *sigh*
I started with pan fried potato and cavalo nero gnocchi, with roast pumpkin puree and green olive paste and burnt sage butter.
I am not a fan of gnocchi in general, because it seems bland and slightly creepily moist and bouncy.
However – it was one of the few entrees that didn’t have either eggs, oysters, caviar, goat’s cheese or innards in it, and I am picky as hell.
Also I AM a fan of – fried things, cavalo nero, green olives, and sage. And pumpkin.
My friend had some sort of hideous terrine with sweetbreads (GLANDS to the uninitiated) and foie gras and so on, and cornichons, and pear and ginger pickley, syrupy thing. (Despite my slightly shuddering disbelief he enjoyed every bite, which proves he is a better man than I.)
One thing I have not before experienced, and intend to become extremely rich one day so I can experience it more often, is being able to say, ‘We won’t bother with the wine list, just bring us what you think would suit what we have ordered.”
…And knowing that one is in good winey hands.
Ooooooh yeah baby. Luxury.
So my starter was accompanied by a rich, full, sweetish and tangy pinot grigio, from…er…somewhere in Australia, and he had a Charlotte Sound sauvignon semillion blanc, both of which were superb.
I took a bite of the crisp, tender, buttery fried gnocchi and nearly passed out with a swoon. Oh Em Eff Gee.
That was just….SO….good. Anyway next bite I scooped a little of the garlicky green olive paste and pureed roast pumpkin onto it, and when I put it in my mouth I died a little. It was explosive. It sounds so simple and almost ordinary, but it was intense. Seriously, seriously good flavour combining. Zingy. And you know, combined with the wine….it was…just…Oh goodness, I’m tearing up a little.
Anyway. My friend tried the gnocchi, and agreed with my rather incoherent assessment, but I most certainly did not try the scary pink thing full of innards, no matter how allegedly delicious it was.
(I did try his wine though, which is why I know it was superb. I am fairly keen on expanding my palate and knowledge of such things. Hah. Like I said earlier about intending to become rich. *eyeroll*)
I then had a nice break to look at the view and chat before our mains came out.
I had duck leg confit, sous vide fennel, swede puree (who knew that swedes could taste…not like swedes?!) and blood-orange agar. It also had toasted walnuts, this intensely sticky jus, and some sort of a roasted plum type thing.
I was nervous about approaching the agar, as I have an aversion to jelly-like textures, which I am happily leaping in to overcome, especially now!
This was served with a very nice earthy, smoky, berry-fruit-y pinot. From….I can’t remember.
It was so freakin’ superb. The duck was moist and falling off the bone, the fennel tender and sweet, the swede puree earthy and full, the agar tangy and melt-in-the-mouth…just playing with all the different possible combinations on my plate made me soooo very happy.
My friend had grilled mirror-dory with rhubarb puree and roasted beetroot, which you know, is not a combination that would ever have recommended itself to me, but, hell. Swoonworthy.
The dory was light and firm but flaky, with a delicious smoky grill flavour, and it just worked so well with the sweet tangy creamy rhubarb and the earthiness of the beetroot.
While we were waiting for our mains, one waiter asked us what wine we were having, and when she heard that we were going with their recommendations, she brought us the pinot for me, and the pinot gris that I had had earlier, for my friend.
When the grizzled beachcomber came back and asked what we were drinking, he actually took the pinot gris (that had already been sipped) away and brought back an amazingly good organic chardonnay from Mudgee, which he said would suit the dory better, which it did.
Now THAT is service.
(Oh that was good chardonnay – beautiful apricot fruit and incredibly buttery finish…Hey! I almost sound like I have a clue what I am talking about! – anyway it made me realise that indeed (good) chardonnay is not over-rated.)
Anyway so I drooped and swooned throughout that course as well, occasionally craning my neck around to look at a bird, or indeed a plane.
Then we thought, what the hell, dessert.
So we both ordered the warm baked golden delicious tart with vanilla icecream, rosemary syrup and apple caviar.
They recommended a botrytis affected semillion ( I think?) from Rutherglen.
to go with. Oooh and it did.
I have a small bone to pick with how restaurants serve desserts – partly because I am an icecream fiend – but I always think they need LESS of the cakey, puddingy stuff, and more of the icecream. That might just be me though. I just never quite think that the balance is right.
However. The apple tart was utterly succulent. Beautiful toffee-like sweet warm unctuously mouth-filling, soft but slightly firm apples, on a crisp, short pastry biscuit-type base, with the spicy rosemary syrup and smooth luscious home made icecream.
The apple caviar were little slippery chewy tender pearls of appliness. I don’t know how they made them but I suspect they made a very firm jelly with apple stock or juice or concentrate or some such thing, and dripped it into iced water to set into little irregular spheres. Anyway. They were delightful, and have further dented my anti-jelly stance.
The sticky wine was sweet and rich and golden and superb. Have no other words. (I don’t have a wine taster’s vocabulary, but you know, one day maybe!)
Om nom nom nom nom.
After all that I needed a coffee which was strong but expertly made – a proper flat flat white, with very rich, dark roasted coffee, and perfect crema floated to the top…really delicious, and served with a melty dark chocolate toffee ganache truffle.
And then we had another bottle of water between us. (During lunch we drank about 750 mls each of water, as well as ALL that wine. And yes, I am an exceedingly cheap drunk, although I should add that I prefer to be a cheap drunk on a couple of glasses of really good wine instead of on a lot of mediocre or actively-bad wine. Just in case, you know, anyone feels like buying me wine. Just sayin’.)
So after all of that I did not feel excessively full, but perfectly balanced and with something of a glazed look about me and perhaps an unsteady gait.
If anyone feels like having a totally, completely, superbly sybaritic luxurious gastropornographic, foodgasming experience I can totally recommend the Cottage Point Inn.