Tuesday, December 23, 2008

To feast or to gorge - that is the question

It's a terrible excuse, but it's just getting to that time of the year where indulging and, more often than not, overindulging becomes the norm. The reasoning is that it's the holidays and you should celebrate and let loose. Let loose indeed, the top button of my jeans perhaps. And the timing excuse just really doesn't cut it when I'm heading to Hawaii in a few days, in no way bikini ready.

But, on the other chocolate sauce covered hand, it's Christmas and we all want to celebrate and spend time with family and friends. I've found that when I do spend time with these groups of loved ones, we do gravitate towards food and drink and plenty of conversation, from the serious to delirious.

But back onto the food. A pre-Christmas feast with the family (yeah, that makes sense... feast away before... another few days of feasting. Well, infinitely more fun than a pre-Chrissy workout with the family) at Nick's Bondi Beach Pavilion. Now I'm not sure who the sillier party is - the one that offers unlimited plates of food or the one that takes up the offer of unlimited plates of food. This is the offer at Nick's on Sunday and Monday nights, aptly called the Bondi BBQ and Seafood Feast, and the restaurant is pretty much packed inside and outside this particular Monday night.

For $25 a head there's the unlimited offer of a four option menu; sides, drinks and desserts being add ons. Admittedly, value for money seems very good and I'd imagine a hungry footy team would do rather well here. My issues with overindulgence and overeating aside, this makes for a fun meal - almost a buffet with table service and limited menu. As the summer sun takes its sweet time in setting, those facing the... (directionally-impaired pause) south may be advised to take sunglasses with, as some of the staff are well prepared for - they do this at Opera Bar too.

We start with a dish of each of the menu items, a garden salad and drinks, and straightaway the waitress brings a metal tiered stand to the table. Looks like fun already, although I think there may be problems seeing my diagonally opposite table diner when the food gets to the table. And when it does arrive, it's like an onslaught of food, food and more food. Three plates are placed on the tiered stand, looking like some sort of high tea on steroids, and the fourth placed nearby. And there's only one thing to do - dig in.

Mussels in tomato-based sauce served with chunk of bread
(there was also a white wine and cream sauce version)

The mussels are plentiful and fresh, though they don't seem to have taken on the flavour of the sauce. The tomato sauce is rich and smooth, perfect to be mopped up with the bread, chips or anything else that finds its way into my greedy little fingers. The white sauce version of the mussels is a little too heavy on the cream and salt for my tastes, but they get gobbled up by the hollow legs that sit beside me. Most of the mussels are open and we even find a baby mussel the size of my little fingernail - meat intact.

Char grill plate with chips

The next is a rather imposing plate of meat and chips. Really. On top of the handful of golden fried chips and next to the ramekin of standard BBQ sauce sits a mound of grilled meat. Where does one start? There's a fillet of chicken thigh, grilled with Cajun spices topped with capsicum bits. There's a mini rack of pork ribs smothered in more BBQ sauce. There's a piece of steak in a capsicum salsa type sauce. There's half a kransky. There's a lamb kebab skewer. There's another bit of steak and a cheese and capsicum sauce. What's with all the capsicum? I don't know but this is no sight for a vegetarian. This is barbequed meat overload; char grilled but not grilled to a char. Goodness, where are the greens?

The garden salad is a bowl full of some of the more interesting varieties of mixed leaves (think snow pea sprouts and curly endive), a couple of tomato wedges and cucumber slices and a dose of mayonnaise. At least I think it was mayonnaise - either way, not your expected dressing for a garden salad, but a welcome distraction from deep fried and barbequed things. Speaking of deep fried...

Golden seafood plate

Golden in that it's fried plus fried plus fried plus fried. More chips and seafood of questionable quality and freshness (we take a punt that all these items once knew a freezer intimately) tops our metal tower of food. There's two medium sized pieces of boneless fish fillets with skin - the flesh firm tending rubbery in an abundance of crunchy batter. Prawn cutlets are your standard frozen variety - you know the type, your first bite into it has you questioning "where's the prawn?". And calamari rings in their crumbed golden halos - all with a squeeze of lemon and a supposedly homemade tartare sauce which is super creamy and ideal for chips too.

BBQ pork rib racks

Sitting on its lonesome, ostracised by the inhabitants of the tower, sit three racks (not full sized) of pork ribs, covered in sticky barbeque sauce. We seem to have landed odds and ends of the rack as there's one huge end piece rack with a few smaller sized pieces, many with an unappetising layer of yellowed fat. Once said layer is removed with a grimace, the meat is pink and tender, but lacking depth of flavour aside from the external brushing of sauce.

We (almost) triumphantly finish the bulk of all these dishes; a few chips left here and there, mussel shells strewn in empty plates and bowls, and a rather sickly looking rack of ribs remain, but on the whole we've done round one. Bring on round two.

And thus the concept of unlimited feasting. A deep fried, barbequed gorge fest. There's undoubtedly the question of quantity over quality, but judging by the amount of diners hacking into their feasts, quantity is also quite popular. The staff manage to hide any potential disgust of said gorge fest and are rather happy to see you stuff yourself silly. Let me say now that none of us needed to be wheeled or rolled out of the restaurant, so there is some degree of self restraint, thank you. More golden seafood, more barbequed meat, many more mussels later most of us are reaching point of stuffed, although hollow legs make room for a final plate of mussels.

Other menu items look quite appealing too. There are very reasonably priced seafood platters for sharing, with bright red lobsters ruling these towers of food. The rest of the mains menu is mostly priced below $30 from memory. Desserts also look tempting, but on this occasion the feasting has been done, pushing out any thoughts of sweets. Thoughts turn back to Hawaii and bikini bodies, and unlimited feasting just doesn't seem to fit in. Thank goodness for the baby doll dress.

Nick's Bondi Beach Pavilion on Urbanspoon

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