Monday, October 22, 2012

Sunshine, sparkling and oysters at Sydney Cove Oyster Bar

We're apparently due for a warmer summer this year in Sydney, which would make outdoor dining all the more appealing.

A seafood and oyster restaurant doesn't get much more appealing than the outdoor Sydney Cove Oyster Bar at Circular Quay, with the Sydney Harbour Bridge as a backdrop and the Sydney Opera House in the yonder distance.

Stefano Lubuana Brut at Sydney Cove Oyster Bar, Circular Quay
Sydney Cove Oyster Bar has been in its waterside location since the late 1980s, which is commendable in itself. And with warmer weather due, their refreshed menu has all the hallmarks of a fantastic long lunch in the summer time.

Even on a grey day, one can't complain about sparkling wine on the harbour, and what better accompaniments than freshly shucked oysters and a ray or two of sunshine through the clouds.

Oyster shots: margarita (left) and sake (right)
I'm not sure who decided oyster shots were a good idea for a starter, but I suppose we also didn't expect them to be proper alcoholic shots.

The salt-rimmed tequila-strong margarita went down tough while the sake shot also had seasoned wakame seaweed and soy sauce for a savoury finish with chew. The oyster gets a little lost amid the flavours and strong alcohol while the lemon wedges are apparently for sucking on post shot.

Assorted Sydney rock and Pacific oysters
With the oyster selection, I asked for a completely mixed dozen of oysters - in variety and toppings - which I don't think the restaurant normally offers.

Oysters with granita
We started with the colourful granita-topped oysters, two each of Sydney rocks from Port Stephens and Pacifics from the Hawkesbury River.

The bright citrus flavours of the granita ranged from quite sweet to aptly sour, forming interesting flavour combinations with the oysters. I think best pairing was the lemon ice on a Pacific oyster.

Oysters with cucumber and white balsamic
I've not come across cucumber and white balsamic vineagar topped oysters before, and what a combination it is.

The juliennes of cucumber offer a clean platform for the oyster while the white balsamic gives the minerally mouthful both a sweet and tart hit that's so very appetising.

Oysters and sparkling wine
Lastly, but by no means least, the natural oysters show off the true flavours of the molluscs. A fresh Sydney rock with a couple drops of lemon juice, followed by sparkling wine is pure and utter bliss.

Aside from the must-do oyster and shellfish part of the menu, the entrees and mains are all incredibly enticing.

Zucchini flowers filled with ricotta, pinenuts and parsley served with lemon aioli
Zucchini flowers seem to be one of those dishes that few can attest to not liking - I reckon the deep frying and cheese might have something to do with it.

This seafood-free version has an impressively crisp batter and is filled with ricotta cheese, pine nuts and parsley, and are just lovely with a bit of lemon and sunshine.

Farmed Per Sé Spanish sturgeon caviar
We couldn't resist a sampling of the caviar on offer, which we're told varies with what's available seasonally.

The 2.5 gram serving comes on a minute mother of pearl caviar spoon with a bit of toast and crème fraiche, as is a traditional serving manner we're told.

Per Sé caviar with crème fraîche on toast
A delicate spread of crème fraiche on the crunchy toast, followed by a few black fish eggs per bite - so this is what luxury tastes like.

The caviar is not as salty as I expected, and quite briney although the creaminess and carbohydrates negate that to a point. I could definitely learn to like caviar.

Sydney Cove fish pie with blue eye trevalla, smoked trout, roasted leek and fennel
We decided to share mains as there were two in particular that appealed to us both. First, the restaurant's signature fish pie, presented with a puffy dome of pastry.

Sydney Cove fish pie innards
Inside we discovered a wealth of fish chunks; mostly the trevalla with some trout which gave great flavour to the lightly creamy sauce. The leek and fennel were just the perfect vegetable additions to the fish pie with fresh dill. It's also quite the generous serve.

Bouillabaisse with saffron-infused tomato broth, blue claw yabbies, scampi,
king prawns, mussels and fish fillets 
There was probably more excitement about the bouillabaisse, and rightly so as it was a stunning plate that arrived to the table.

Piled up with seafood, the scampi and yabbies most prominently, the deep red sauce just beckoned diners to dive in with fingers or the sourdough bread served alongside.

The saffron-infused broth was quite heavenly, in no way taking the shine away from the well cooked shellfish. The blue claw yabbies topped the list, while the king prawns and just-cooked mussels weren't far behind.

I think I also remember a couple of varieties of fish in the bouillabaisse, while the only thing missing was some rouille on the bread, although that's just nitpicking a great and also generous dish.

Wild mushrooms, tarragon and truffle oil
We'd opted for the mushroom dish on the side which thankfully had more tarragon flavour than truffle oil. I quite adore mushrooms so the assortment of oyster, enoki and shiitake mushrooms was both a tasty and healthy side dish.

After a fair whack of food, especially seafood, and a couple of glasses of sparkling, dessert was fairly far from my mind.

Petit fours plate
I could be, and was convinced into a petit fours offering, which in this case was a plate of chocolates - quite gorgeous handmade ones at that.

There was an appropriate amount of swooning at the chocolate covered marshmallow, decorated with nuts and freeze dried berries, while the paper-wrapped fudge made its way into my bag for home.

A good couple of hours later, I'm sure I could have lingered even longer had the sun been out completely. It was everything you could want from the perfect weekend seafood lunch: a bit of sunshine, a bit more sparkling and oysters on the harbour - and it would seem Sydney Cove Oyster Bar is just the place for it.

Food, booze and shoes dined as a guest of Sydney Cove Oyster Bar.

Sydney Cove Oyster Bar on Urbanspoon


Tina @ bitemeshowme said...

what a feast! that bouillabaisse looks amazing - the colours are incredible. I sure do hope we are in for a proper summer. Hate celebrating my birthday in the rain when I'm born in december lol

chocolatesuze said...

oh boy i have the biggest oyster craving right now!

Vivian - vxdollface said...

been on their website and had a look at their menu - there are certainly many things i want to try! though i'm going to wait until the weather is oozing summer rays :) mm love caviar on toast, quite a luxury indeed!

ChopinandMysaucepan said...

Dear Tina,

I would love to try the pacific oyster with lemon granita and the fish pie looks pretty awesome with that pastry!

Not Quite Nigella said...

Wow that is an extensive sampling of the menu there! :o The oysters, caviar and the fish pie look good.

cquek said...

Wow..this title was a mouthful! Love this recipe! Can’t wait to try it

gaby @ lateraleating said...

Oystervaganza! Love the idea of the oyster shots and the various toppings. Granita-topped oysters sound delicious.

Tina said...

Hi Tina - It was definitely one of the most impressive I've seen - so much shellfish!

Hi suze - Me too, almost every time I see beautiful natural ones...

Hi Vivian - Yeah, made it quite difficult to choose from the menu cos it all looks good!

Hi ChopinandMysaucepan - Aw, had a look recently and I'm not sure if they're still doing the granita ones...

Hi Lorraine - So many more tempting dishes I'll have to try :)

Hi cquek - Ha, sure was - but exactly what you need for a gorgeous lunch ;)

Hi gaby - lol, not sure I like the sounds of "Oystervaganza" :D


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