Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Dear Diary: Today I went to The Rum Diaries

I used to keep a written diary filled with inane schoolgirl ramblings: homework, friends, boys, social outings, family. It turned philosophical at a point in my late teens but was rarely more than rambling. Good thing there wasn’t rum in my life in those days.

And good thing there is rum in my life these days. It’s taken me a while to appreciate dark rum (though not as long as it will take for whisky) and a place like The Rum Diaries in Bondi is perfect learning (and drinking) grounds.

Heating a Hot Buttered Rum at The Rum Diaries, Bondi Road, Bondi
The small bar revolution has well and truly taken off in Bondi which is lucky for the locals who don’t have to contend with parking and random breath tests. In this block on Bondi Road alone there’s The Flying Squirrel and The Stuffed Beaver, in addition to The Rum Diaries.

One of the earlier small bars in Bondi, the aptly named rum-focused bar has a 1920s mansion feel to its interiors and looks like the kind of place that murder mysteries take place.

The Rum Diaries introduced a new, more serious dining menu earlier this year by head chef Gerald Touchard (ex Astral). So now, to go with your rum cocktails is a concise menu of shared nibbles, entrées and main meals that, Touchard tells us, has reduced restaurant food wastage from their earlier share platter days – win-win, I think.

Knickerbocker cocktail
The substantially-sized, leather-bound drinks menu, named ‘The Cocktail Diaries’, is something to behold. Rum-based cocktails are listed chronologically, starting from the 1500s with the pirate drink of Bumbo.

A little story and history lesson accompanies each drink in the cocktail menu, such as my sweet pink Knickerbocker of 1852 – featuring Appleton V/X rum, Cointreau, house raspberry syrup and lemon juice – which is touted as an early Tiki style drink of the mid-19th century.

All the rum cocktails you’d expect are on the list: from the Rum Old Fashioned of the 1800s to the Rum Blazer of the 1850s, the Daiquiri of 1905, the Mojito of 1931, the Mai Tai of 1944 and the Pina Colada of 1954.

Hot Buttered Rum
On a chilly Sunday night, nothing warms quite like a Hot Buttered Rum (circa 1700s; likely developed from a Hot Toddy; appropriate for “relaxing in the evening, before retiring or as a restorative after-exposure to cold”).

Featuring Angostura 1919 rum, spiced butter, cloudy apple juice and topped with fresh grated nutmeg, the warmed fruit and spice aromas bring Christmas cake to mind, but in a much less cloying fashion.

It’s a great cocktail to introduce the flavours of rum to the palate and is the perfect hot cocktail for the cooler weather.

Tempura zucchini flower stuffed with haloumi, pine nuts & pomegranate vinaigrette
Of the food menu, which arrives rolled up like a scroll, the recommendation is to choose a dish from each of the shared categories between two – not an easy task given the many mouthwatering descriptions.

Deep fried zucchini flowers are an easy crowd pleaser, arriving to reveal soft haloumi cheese innards. The sweetness of the pomegranate vinaigrette was a pleasing match with the savoury cheese.

Kingfish ceviche with grapefruit mojito gel, crispy white radish
The untraditional presentation of the kingfish ceviche was rather refreshing, as were the raw bits of uber fresh kingfish. However, the pretty pink grapefruit mojito jelly strip contributed more bitterness than anything else.

Piling the ceviche onto sourdough crisps made for a fabulous mouthful of crunch and silky, soft fish and though I like more zing in my ceviche, there was no faulting the overall result.

Chicken liver parfait with Pedro Ximenez jelly, orange puree and crisp bread
The night’s special was an entrée of chicken liver parfait: three smooth, fleshy pink quenelles topped with strips of a punchy Pedro Ximenez sherry jelly, thin fruit bread crisps and orange puree blobs on a slate board.

I must be upping my liver tolerance because I actually really enjoyed this particularly creamy parfait which was so rich and smooth I almost forgot it was liver. The sweet accompaniments hit all the right notes, particularly the fruit bread of which an additional order was sorted with ease.

Seared scallops with yuzu lemon puree, edamame bean and nashi pear salad
I’m not sure why it’s been so long since I had a fantastic scallop dish, but it made The Rum Diaries’ rendition all the more enjoyable. Six plump, perfectly seared scallops sat on little, bright yellow puddles of yuzu and lemon gel, singing the sweet, juicy notes typical of my favourite mollusc.

The salad of nashi pear sticks, peeled edamame beans and crunchy black-hued crackers, possibly of nori seaweed, was unique but sensibly let the spotlight remain on the gorgeous scallops.

Tenderly cooked duck with sauté wild mushrooms, autumn vegetables and mandarin jus
The very generous shared main dish of duck was quite the autumnal affair, with a thick puree of chestnuts, and buttery sautéed enoki and chestnut mushrooms amid a mound of spinach, pumpkin and shredded duck salad.

The slow roasted duck breast, finished in the pan for a still-pink middle, was a textbook example of juicy, tender duck as it should be. As much as I love chestnuts, the puree didn’t quite do it for me but I was swooning over the freeze dried mandarin segments, which gave the dish a clever duck a l’orange makeover.

We also had a side of truffle mash potato which was topped with finely grated black truffle. The thick, buttery mash was already amazing and the truffle just tipped it over the edge to ‘best side dish ever’ status. A glass of pinot noir capped off the perfect winter main.

Banana cream with smoked salt caramel, spiced pineapple tapioca and ginger beer jelly
Lately, banana appears to be the dessert poster child so I was more than happy to try the banana cream dessert. The airy blobs of cream were almost more banana in flavour than actual banana, and were tropical heaven eaten with the gooey salt caramel and the freeze-dried pineapple segments.

As a sago lover, the spiced cubes of pineapple with creamy sago/tapioca could have been a delectable dessert on their own, but was even better with the mild ginger beer jelly and banana cream for quite a mind-blowing dessert.

I’m embarrassed to say that I completely pigged out and got into the regional and imported cheese board that followed, and was scraping the last of the oozy Gippsland camembert off the wooden board before I remembered – I’d forgotten to take a photo.

It wasn’t even the buttery, smooth Plantation Rum, recommended served neat, affecting me; cheese does these sorts of things to me. So imagine a very generous board of three cheeses, fig and port chutney, thinly sliced Granny Smith apple and dates sliced lengthways, accompanied by warm thins of crunchy walnut bread.

The Swiss hard cheese, gruyere perhaps, was particularly nutty but combined with the sweet, jammy dates, took on a chocolatey-coffee characteristic that was addictive. It was difficult, however, to not call the Old Telegraph Road blue cheese my favourite, with the fig and port chutney for offsetting sweetness.

Some of the rum selection at The Rum Diaries
It’s impressive what the little kitchen at The Rum Diaries can pump out. Not only are the rum cocktails designed to knock your socks off, the food and presentation match the experience as well. So too the interiors, and if you get a chance to visit the back private room, there’s a surprise in there so great I don’t want to spoil it.

I might have to put that particular secret in the diary but as for The Rum Diaries, well, the secret’s out.

Food, booze and shoes dined as a guest of The Rum Diaries, with thanks to Re:Love Group.

The Rum Diaries on Urbanspoon


gaby @ lateraleating said...

Interesting stuff, food looks great. Would you say it paired well with rum or would you still stick to wine (or something else)?

Blondi said...

Great review! So glad this amazing little restaurant is finally getting the recognition it deserves - the food is absolutely incredible!

chocolatesuze said...

oooh the chicken liver parfait looks so smooth and mmm i totally wouldnt share that banana dessert!

SarahKate (Mi Casa-Su Casa) said...

Love it! I live not far from The Rum Diaries and it's been on my list to check out for a while. I'll have to give it a go while it's still cold enough to enjoy that hot buttered rum.

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

Hehe I remember the days of diary keeping. Always thwarted by curious younger sisters if I remember correctly! And those days weren't quite rum filled :P

Tina @ bitemeshowme said...

Sadly I still don't know how to appreciate rum.. or any alcohol for that matter. Those tempura zucchini flowers look absolutely amazing. sounds even better because its filled with halloumi!

Vivian - vxdollface said...

Oh I could do with a hot buttered rum right now! Would be perfect sinking into a leather armchair by the fireplace and a cigar to complete the look lol

Anonymous said...

a great place to dine

Tina said...

Hi gaby - It's hard to go past a glass of red with a winery dinner ;)

Hi Blondi - Thanks. They're definitely doing something unique :)

Hi suze - Between two, it was polished off with serious speed...

Hi SarahKate - Highly recommend the Hot Buttered Rum to warm up :)

Hi Lorraine - Can only imagine the rambling... It was pretty bad as it was...

Hi Tina - Yeah, haloumi in flowers was a new one for me!

Hi Vivian - I'll go without the cigar but sounds good!


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