What an absolute scorcher of a day! 36 degrees and the slightest hint of a breeze. It was a true Sydney summer at long last.
Today was Mum’s birthday, and while she had proclaimed she wanted to go to Cabramatta to try some ‘cultural food’, Sister & I pointed out to mum that she didn’t take very well to diverse food cultures, talking her through the many occasions that she had turned up her nose at one cuisine and another, and decided to make the decision for her. Flipping through our Entertainment Book, we noticed a place we had long wanted to go to but were yet to, and so made a booking for four to visit Sails on Lavender Bay on a muggy Friday afternoon.
We parked the car at the end of Blues Point Road (four hours free parking – woohoo!) before walking down Henry Lawson Avenue to the restaurant where the McMahons Point ferry stop was. From across the water, you could hear the distinct screams of terror (or joy?) coming from the people at Luna Park, but as soon as you enter the Sails restaurant (the building seemingly small, un-obtrusive and flat-looking on the outside), the sound is immediately muffled with soft music and and soundproof windows. We were delighted to receive a table beside the floor to ceiling glass window, which flaunted the Harbour Bridge in an almost obnoxious manner. Hey, after 23 years of living here, you do get used to it
I had already had a look at the menu online the night before, but the waiter talked us through the specials for the day. The manner of the staff was slightly aloof, but professional. I got the impression that this certainly wasn’t the place to turn up in scruffy jeans and definitely not thongs – even if you had the money to spend. The tablecloths were blindingly white in the best way and I kept my area meticulously neat, only to have my sister splatter a spot of jus in my area later on in the meal, to receive a glare from me!
Ultimately, we decided to share two entrees between the four of us and have a main each. We had fruit juices between us, $6 per glass – cranberry for Mum & Dad, Orange for the Sister and Cloudy Apple for myself. The bread that was served was a thick slice of warm, soft sourdough with a small slate of butter and dish of sea salt.
I tend to tear off the crust and just pinch off sections of the middle, but the Sister ate the crust and proclaimed it to be like Nutrigrain. I had a bite and laughed – the flavour of the crust did indeed remind me of Nutrigrain cereal!
To our delight, we received a complimentary amuse bouche – a little dish of four Asparagus & Parmesan Aranchini Balls.
They came out piping hot and deliciously crunchy. I was the only one at the table who had ever had aranchini, and the others were greatly amused (haha amuse bouche, get it?? Yeah, I’m sad like that…) at the concept of rolling risotto and frying balls of it.
While the outside and insides were nicely looked, they had been speckled with a tad too much salt and it could have done fine without.
Our two entrees then arrived shortly. We were seated against the window with the kitchen to my left on the other side of the ‘wine wall’, and I could hear a chef asking for entree plates for the sashimi and scallops. Both entrees came out beautifully presented.
Sister and I were both fans of the Seared scallops with carrot & ginger puree, cumin yoghurt and baby coriander ($29):
The scallops were tender and ever-so-beautifully crispy on the outside. The carrot and ginger puree was very delicate in flavour, as was the cumin yoghurt. I found it difficult to identify the black chunks, I assumed they were beetroot. I dodged the coriander leaves and instead nibbled happily on one of the long, elegant crisps adorning the plate.
The Parents both preferred the special entree: Yellowfin tuna with watermelon pieces, snow crab, cucumber & avocado puree, microherbs (I didn’t note the price from the bill as I wasn’t paying, but I would approximate it to be $27-29).
I enjoyed a couple of thin slivers of the tuna sashimi although I am much more of a salmon fan. I didn’t even mind the little chunks of cucumber and watermelon, despite the fact that neither are my friends. The snow crab meat had been delicately poached and picked, and the mousse quenelles were lovely and airy.
Generally I find that with many restaurants, if their entrees are presented beautifully, their heavier mains are usually a little lacking in presentation, resembling more of a bar bistro standard. I am pleased to say that this wasn’t the case in the slightest.
My much-awaited Roasted Grainge Eye Fillet with soft polenta, salsa verde, lyonnaise onions, veal jus ($43) arrived as I ordered it, medium, and lordy, for someone who has been steak-deprived for a long, long time, it was heavenly. Crusty and slightly charred on the outside, melt-in-your-mouth in the centre.
The polenta was incredible, as was the veal jus. The salsa verde looked a little lonely sitting by itself to the side, but when a small bit was smeared on a forkful of steak – it was the party-starter on your palate. The fried vermicelli noodles were an unusual addition but the texture was a nice difference.
Dad was happy with his Pan Fried Cone Bay Barramundi with cauliflower puree, spinach, pine nut, caper & currant salsa ($39), with him and Mum declaring it to be the best-cooked fillet of Barramundi they’ve ever tasted.
The skin was crispy and crunchy, and he hoovered up the trail of birdseed (haha) with great contentment. Mum was also pleased with how well-cooked her Poached Ora King Salmon with southern calamari, saffron potatoes, sugar snaps and smoked salmon broth ($38). We were told the chef normally prepares it medium-rare, but was happy to oblige with our request for medium.
Mum and Dad happily munched on the crispy salmon skin before peeling apart the tender piece of salmon. The salmon broth was extremely light, flavoured lightly with lemon and olive oil. The vegetables had all been just slightly blanched so they still maintained much of their ‘crunch’. I originally ate some of what I thought were noodles, then when my Dad told me it was in fact calamari I did a double take, as I have had calamari rings on previous occasions and not liked it one bit.
When I had looked at the menu and seen the duck dish, I was immediately in love, but it’s an unspoken rule that if ever a restaurant has a duck dish on the menu, The Sister will order it. Luckily she was nice enough to swap mains with me halfway through. This was the Roasted Grimaud Duck Breast with Pink Fir potatoes, caramelised apple, broccoli, black garlic aioli, hazelnut ($39).
The duck was tender with the fat well-rendered off, and the garlic aioli was simply exploding with flavour, although we were somewhat worried about it getting our teeth black. The potato underneath the duck had been smashed coarsely and we found it just a smidgeon dry. The caramelised apples were heavenly and the dots of hazelnuts were delicious!
We were straining slightly by this point but one must persevere! I had had my eye on the Caramelised Banana Parfait with chocolate and peanut butter crackle & butterscotch sauce ($18) since I perused the menu last night. It did not disappoint, and while I was delighted at the generous portion size of the parfait, it did get ever-so-slightly sickly sweet close to the end, so I was glad that us four had shared the two desserts. Banana, peanut butter & chocolate = match made in heaven! The parfait was a little hard to cut through with a thick layer of crackle at the base, but it was icy, smooth and delicious. I can safely say that it did not have one trace of that horrid artificial-banana taste that you get with some desserts – this was original banana in its natural form.
The other dessert we shared between us was the Strawberry & Passionfruit Pavlova with passionfruit sponge, white chocolate biscuit, strawberry salad and Creme Chantilly ($18).
Look at that perfect pavlova dome! We all exclaimed over the perfection of the little ‘whip’ on top before breaking into it with all the eagerness of children unwrapping presents on Christmas Day. In comparison to the Caramelised Banana Parfait, this was much more palate-cleansing with its slight sourness from the passionfruit and strawberries, with the strawberry mousse in the centre being light and fluffy yet firm enough to hold when it was brought to us.
With the Entertainment Book voucher of having a main free, the meal came to approximately $55 a head, and I have to say – it was exceptional! With the views that it had and the quality of the food, I’m surprised that it lost a chef’s hat in the Sydney Morning Herald’s Good Food Guide this year and I’ll definitely be back to visit in the upcoming year.
Sails on Lavender Bay
2 Henry Lawson Ave, McMahons Pt NSW 2060
(02) 9955 5998