When you receive an exclusive blogger’s invitation to head down the south coast of New South Wales to partake in a fine dining seafood experience by the beach, it’s not exactly something you can turn down! This event was what kept me going through a particularly challenging and gruelling week at work
About 71 kilometres and just over an hour drive south of Sydney will take you to the pretty town of Thirroul. Situated on the idyllic beachside is Flanagan’s Dining Room – a relatively new establishment (the Dining Room opened in 2012) and is the creation of John Connolly with the assistance of a friend, Arman Uz (ex-chef of Efendy).
Myself and the other bloggers in attendance started off the luncheon with a drink – a blood orange gin and tonic which was lovely and refreshing after our morning trip.
Lunch began with a generous selection of sliced breads. I selected my favourite, sourdough, and we had olive oil and a beautiful house-made dukkah to dip the bread into.
It was great to meet a lot of the other Sydney food bloggers and match up food blog names with real names and appearances! We had many a raucous conversation regarding the most ridiculous foods we have ever eaten, food we would never touch, and restaurants on our go-to list. These conversations continued as a selection of the continuously-changing (depending on what’s in season) lunch menu was brought out for us to sample – and our conversation was abruptly halted at these intervals as we all stood up as one with our cameras clasped in our hands.
To start, we had Clyde River Oysters, dressed with pink shallot and white balsamic vinegar.
This was my first taste of raw oysters and I handled it slightly gingerly before putting the edge of the shell to my lips and tipping it back. Despite the acidic tang from the balsamic and slightly sweet sharpness from the pink shallot, there was no denying the incredibly fresh flavour from the oyster flesh itself before it went down the hatch. It was much more pleasant than I had been anticipating and I found myself craving another immediately afterwards.
Some Seared Scallops with Sambal Chilli Paste was the next to arrive – the flesh of the scallops was very sweet and well-cooked, but what was amazing was the home-made Sambal chilli paste which had us scraping our plates with our last morsels of scallop and salad to get every little smear. It had a delicious subtle heat.
We also had some fishcakes, which aren’t on the usual lunch menu. The fishcakes were made from white fish and quite garlicky in flavour, but accompanied with the fresh salad leaves, juicy pomegranate seeds and (what I thought may be) a hummus dip, it was a perfectly light starter.
The lunch then moved on to sample the four fish that Flanagan’s Dining Room has on the lunch menu for the Salt and Pepper Local Fish with Hand-cut Fries. These were Rock Cod, Snapper, John Dory, and Bream.
The perfectly crisp skin on the Rock Cod was my favourite, but it was the almost creamy flesh of the John Dory that stole the show for all of the bloggers seated at my table. All of the fish come with their bones and are minimally seasoned – all the better to truly appreciate and respect the natural flavour and essence of the seafood. Navigating your way around the bones did prove a little difficult, and these dishes probably aren’t too appropriate for young children to dissect themselves.
The hand-cut chips were seasoned well and deliciously moreish, however we restrained ourselves from eating too many as we still had our Slow Cooked Lamb Shoulder with Smoked Eggplant and Cavolo Nero.
Normally I’m not a fan of lamb, but the lamb shoulder had been braised for so long that the flesh simply fell apart when prodded gently with a fork. Incredibly tender and flavoursome, the very sweet jus that was accompanying it didn’t particularly match with it, but a sauce was definitely necessary to bring the dish together.
We were excited that a selection of the desserts would also be brought out, and we started with the Sun-dried Figs, stuffed with a walnut, served with maple syrup and clotted cream.
The classic Creme Brulee also made an appearance, beautifully delicate in its smaller size and topped with fresh raspberries. The topping was crunchy and crisp, giving way to a silky custard generously speckled with vanilla.
The all-round favourite dessert for the table was the Kadaifi Pastry with pistachio and golden syrup.
Similar to a baklava in so many ways, it had a lighter, crispier pastry than filo and was so full of classic Middle Eastern flavours. It looked almost like shredded wheat breakfast cereal or vermicelli!
A gorgeous seafood meal situated right on Thirroul Beach. Could anything be better on a warm spring day?
I think not
Flanagan’s Dining Room
The Esplanade, Thirroul
(02) 4268 1598