Fresh flavours and understated elegance on the NSW coast.
My partner is crazy about seafood – he loves mussels like I love lasagne, and unlike me, he doesn’t cringe at the idea of seafood pie. (I may be starting to enjoy seafood but I do have my limits.)
So a few months back I decided to make Luke’s seafood dreams come true and take him to Rick Stein’s restaurant at Bannisters in Mollymook. As the town is south of Sydney it worked perfectly into our road trip down to Melbourne – after a couple hours of driving we arrived in the small coastal town and after taking in one of the beautiful stretches of beach that characterise Mollymook, we settled in for a delicious seafood feast.
Bannisters sits right on the water and on the day we visited the weather was perfect, with blue skies and a fresh coastal breeze. We were lucky enough to get a table outside on the wrap around deck so we could enjoy Rick Stein’s seafood the way it was intended – by the sea, with a glass of crisp white wine in hand. The vibe throughout the restaurant is simple, fresh and classic, adorned with hints of the ocean world.
Our attentive and polite waiter handed us our menus as we sat down, and considering seafood is not high on my list of favourites, I was surprised to be tempted by almost everything available. Just by a read through it was obvious that the chefs behind Rick Stein’s believe not much needs to be done to the fruits of the ocean to make them sing. As the man himself says, “nothing is so exhilarating as fresh fish, simply cooked”.
To start, I ordered Hervey Bay scallops grilled in the shell with toasted hazelnut and coriander butter, while Luke had the stir-fried mussels with black beans, garlic, ginger and coriander.
Never did I expect to enjoy seafood like this. My scallops were incredible – delicious little morsels of soft fleshy ocean meat topped with an unexpectedly perfect duo of fresh coriander and toasted hazelnuts. I could talk about them for at least another paragraph.
Mussels have not proven to be my thing so far, so I can’t pass judgment on Luke’s dish, but the look on his face was enough to say he felt the same way about his mussels as I did about my scallops.
For mains, I ordered chicken – yes, I ordered chicken from Rick Stein’s restaurant, the seafood king. I figured that everything on the menu would be cooked well, not just the seafood, so I went with the free range chicken poached with ginger, spring onions, coriander and shitake mushrooms. The flavours were very delicate, and the chicken was beautifully poached.
Although the chicken was lovely I just can not go past how good my entrée was. Maybe next time I’ll just order the scallops for my entrée and main. Mmmm.
Of course for his main, Luke ordered the Bannisters fish pie – a medley of salmon, snapper, blue eye trevalla, scallops, prawns and mushrooms, in a creamy velouté sauce flavoured with truffle oil, and topped with breadcrumbs and parmesan. He was in heaven. All of the different seafoods married together perfectly, and the sauce, although creamy, did not detract from the ingredients but rather brought it all together in a perfect pie parcel.
For dessert we ordered the hot chocolate fondant with salted caramel ice cream. This fondant took my love for filled desserts a little further – it was like having the most decadent hot chocolate I could imagine, as I spooned up the thick molten chocolate sauce. The salted caramel ice cream – I can never go past it – was amazing. It was probably the saltiest version I’ve had, but it was perfectly balanced by the sweetness of the caramel. Ice cream perfection.
It was a good way to end our perfect afternoon at Bannisters, a place that not only showcases Australian seafood but also the natural beauty of the NSW coast. There is so much to love about this place. So if you enjoy seafood and dining somewhere relaxing where you can just sit back and take it all in, I would highly recommend Bannisters. I’ll certainly be back!
Rick Stein at Bannisters is open Wednesdays and weekends for lunch, Monday to Saturday for dinner. For reservations phone 02 4455 3044 or visit www.bannisters.com.au.
Gabriela Palestra-Depasse is a Melbourne and Sydney-based food writer who loves to discover all the foodie treasures these cities have to offer. Read more about her culinary adventures at her blog, whenwhereyum.tumblr.com.