Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Bistro Avoca: Randwick gets a little fresh

While I was more familiar with the suburb of Randwick a decade ago, it’s nice to see it from fresh eyes today – though not a great deal seems to have changed. Good old Ritz is still there with all manner of restaurants lining The Spot crossroads, while the balls still roll at the ten pin bowling alley on the main road.

Bistro Avoca, Avoca Street, Randwick
Bistro Avoca is a relatively new addition to the strip of small restaurants on Avoca Street just past Randwick Junction. Moving into the suburban location in June this year, husband and wife team Barry Baker and Erin Fitzgerald are bringing fresh, modern Australian cuisine to the strip dominated by cheerful ethnic eats.

Inside Bistro Avoca
The cosy, intimate dining room oozes understated class; the wood on white look matches well with the seemingly posh, mature locals – families, groups and ladies who look like they socialise a lot.

It's more sophisticated than your average suburban restaurant, which is an intriguing niche that Randwick appears to have been dying for (I’m told Friday and Saturday nights get completely booked out).

The clever food menu begins with starters to share followed by entrées and mains, but it’s the wine menu that astonishes me. Wines by the glass are all under $8 while no bottle of wine exceeds $40 – prices quite unheard of. Plus the restaurant allows BYO wine from Tuesdays through to Thursdays.

Thai oyster shots with, fresh herbs and ginger, garlic, chilli, lemongrass & lime nam jim
Impressed with drinks – I have a flute of Barossa Valley Carrington Vintage Brut ($6.50) – we move straight on to oyster shots to start. In a shot glass with a tomato liquid, the plump oysters are topped with mint, coriander, fried shallots and the tops of celery sticks.

It wasn't a one throwback shooter, but the melee of flavours in the mildly spiced, Thai inspired shot reached a peak with the release of briney juices from the oyster. It wasn’t easy stopping at just one, especially those deliciously fresh oysters.

Salt & pepper squid with spring onions, chilli and lime
The salt and pepper squid is a crowd pleaser and could easily be shared among five as a starter. Gorgeously tender squid strips are coated in a golden, subtly spiced batter with fresh mild chilli and lime adding pizazz.

A heavier hand in seasoning could have made this the best S&P squid ever, but it still stands as the best value squid dish I’ve seen in a while ($8.50).

Blinis served warm with sliced smoked salmon, pickled Spanish onion and dill sour cream
I started to get more of an inkling of the very generous portions at Bistro Avoca when the first entrée of smoked salmon blinis arrived.

The long, rectangular plate was virtually covered in the bright orange smoked salmon, twisted over pikelet-sized blinis with cucumber slices, pickled Spanish onion in a fine dice and dill-spiked sour cream splodges.

Crisp fried pork belly, sweet chilli glaze, shoestring potatoes, watercress salad
And the size trend continued with the deep fried pork belly dish with perky watercress piled high over golden chunks of meat. The pork belly was crazy crunchy but also deliciously flavoured beneath the texture.

The raw vegetables alleviated some of the guilt in such a decadent entrée; though not so much the deep fried potato straws.

Twice cooked crisp duck leg with apple, radish and celery salad, candied walnuts
The duck entrée easily could have passed as a well-sized main meal. The golden brown whole leg had a delectable layer of crisp skin; presumably from a deep fry after an initial cooking.

The rich, moist flesh matched insanely well with the salad nest of Waldorf-esque sweet and tart green apple, radish, thinly cut celery and candied walnuts. Just all round lovely washed down with a most affordable glass of 2008 Vasse Felix Shiraz Cabernet ($7.50).

Seared sea scallops, cauliflower puree, bacon crumble and pesto oil
With the scallop entrée, it wasn’t so much a gigantic serving but monster-sized scallops with smears of cauliflower puree dabbed with bright green pesto oil.

The bacon crumble was a great textural addition atop each huge, bouncy mollusc and added flavour to the scallops which, while impressive in size, seemed to lack their usual natural sea-sweetness.

Medallions of beef, roast potato, sweet pumpkin puree, asparagus and
cracked pepper hollandaise
My main meal featured two rounds of beef sitting atop two same sized rounds of roast potato, further topped with rather breakfast-y asparagus and hollandaise sauce, ringed with jus and nubbins of asparagus stalks.

The pumpkin puree added sweetness to the overall dish while the tenderness of the beef was a real highlight, even though the stomach seemed to be reaching a capacity of sorts after just one of the medallions.

Lamb rump with colcannon, deep fried zucchini flowers and sugar snap peas
The lamb main almost looked like an entrée and main together on one plate, with a side too. The three stuffed and battered zucchini flowers could well have been an entrée at many other establishments, but here they garnished three thick slices of medium rare lamb.

And beneath, colcannon – mashed potato with bacon, cabbage and other bits – added more sustenance for the man-sized meal. I’m glad we decided to forgo orders of sides but we had to make room for dessert.

Dessert special: Lemon meringue with ice cream
The 'crazy prices' wine list returned to bring two ridiculously reasonably priced dessert wine options by the glass. It was getting way too easy to eat too much and drink too much, but with a dessert special of classic lemon meringue pie looking so good, it didn’t feel quite as bad.

Bistro Avoca tasting plate: coconut pannacotta, raspberry jelly and
dark chocolate mousse
Dessert tasting plates are generally good for hedging bets as there’s usually enough variety among the choices to please anyone. So I was a little surprised at the almost traffic light set of glasses that was the dessert tasting plate.

The chocolate mousse was by far the best: a big chocolate hit, airy as a cloud texture and a bit of crunch with the praline crumbs on top. The raspberry jelly was pleasant with the mousse, with real bits of raspberry heightening the experience.

(Clockwise from left) Coconut panna cotta, dessert wine and raspberry jelly
The coconut panna cotta, whichI had considered ordering singularly, was most decent except for the eye-wateringly sour layer of lime jelly across the top while the coconut biscotti was also a little confusing.

Vanilla and raspberry Bombe Alaska with rhubarb confit and praline
The winner of the dessert round had to be the Bombe Alaska. Glistening with torched peaks of shiny meringue similar to the lemon meringue, inside there was a thin base of cake and a duo of ice cream, including a pink raspberry one that tasted like happiness and jam.

The cooked rhubarb and praline bits added colour and interest to the overall plating, but ultimately were unneccessary. Just more of that raspberry ice cream would have kept me happy for days.

The restaurant was surprisingly not empty at a fairly late weeknight hour, with plenty of happy faces still dining on the, let's admit it, large servings of modern Australian food. And with such good value and interesting dishes to be had, Bistro Avoca is a welcome breath of freshness for Randwick.

Food, booze and shoes dined as a guest of Bistro Avoca with thanks to Charlotte Foot Public Relations.

Bistro Avoca on Urbanspoon


Anonymous said...

The dishes have a definite 80s look to them, but they do sound very appetising, especially the seafood ones.

joey@FoodiePop said...

I love man-sized entrees! The crispy pork belly with shoestring potatoes looks delish, as does the lamb rump main (but who could finish such a large serving??). I wonder what the prices are like?

Dumpling Girl said...

The bombe alaska looks sensational with that incredible torching. I think the chopping boards on the wall are a nice quaint touch.

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

Sounds like everything is excellent value there and it's not too far from where I live too!

hannah said...

Oh all of that looks delicious if a little retro. Yum, yum!

Spencer said...

Loving those pics, especially the ones of all the yummy desserts! Exactly what my sweet tooth wants.

Sara - Belly Rumbles said...

Very generous servings. The scallops look quite nice.

Richard Elliot said...

The prices and serving sizes at Avoca make it great value. The portions are huge!

Interesting to see you mention the seasoning:
A heavier hand in seasoning could have made this the best S&P squid ever
I thought two of my courses could have been so much better if they were correctly seasoned.

Anonymous said...

Mmmm yum this sounds like my kinda restaurant. Love the look of blinis and oyster shots!

Tina said...

Hi lateraleating - Really? I thought it was more a classic hotel restaurant look - a safe take on modern.

Hi joey - Reasonable prices; all mains less than $30, entrees less than $18.

Hi Dumpling Girl - The Bombe Alaska was actually better than it looked!

Hi Lorraine - It's quite the suburban find!

Hi Hannah - The plating of the desserts might be a lil retro (and the doily), but I think everything else looks fine...!

Hi Spencer - Definitely some classic desserts to be had here ;)

Hi Sara - Some plates were simply massive, especially some of the entree sized ones!

Hi Richard - There was probably S&P on the table, but I'm not used to using them at dinner...

Hi minibites - Can't complain with gorgeous, fresh oysters :)

Simon Leong said...

i think i'll have to try the Crisp fried pork belly, sweet chilli glaze, shoestring potatoes, watercress salad next time

Rita (mademoiselle délicieuse) said...

Woah, massive serves of food there! And I like how the oyster shooters look like shots of bloody Mary.

Tina said...

Hi Simon - Definitely; not sure what their baby options are though ;)

Hi Rita - Mmm, would love those oyster shots right about now...


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