Review: Nick’s Seafood Restaurant, Darling Harbour

Recently, someone said to me – “I don’t know how you afford to go out for a meal as often as you do!” It’s true – neither K nor I are on big salaries as we’ve chosen to pursue passion over profit. Working for a charity, or as an industrial designer is never going to make us rich. By rights if we ever wanted to save money for the future, we’d be having baked beans on toast most nights.

Luckily, our passion for fine food has meant that our friends and family know how to treat us for special occasions. (It certainly also helps that I occasionally get invited out for a meal as a blogger!) When we got married, we got gift vouchers to amazing places like Catalina, Quay, Tetsuya’s and Sepia (review to come!). For K’s recent 30th birthday, his uncle gifted us a Red Balloon dining experience for an “Indulgent Seafood Dining Experience by the Harbour for 2”.

The meal was at Nick’s Seafood Restaurant in Cockle Bay Wharf, a restaurant that you’re usually more likely to find tourists in than locals. I wasn’t expecting anything spectacular as a result, but hoped for the best given that we had previously enjoyed a decent breakfast at Adria Rybar and Grill, their sister restaurant.

Grapefruit juice and pineapple juice
Grapefruit juice and pineapple juice

Included in our seafood banquet was a drink each. They had a good variety of house wines and beers on offer, but K and I both opted for a juice instead – grapefruit for me, and pineapple for him. We ended up switching halfway because I do tend to prefer a sweeter juice, so the pineapple was a better choice. Unfortunately, I think these juices were from a bottle – they certainly didn’t taste freshly squeezed.

Grilled Moreton Bay Bugs, Sydney Rock Oysters, Salt & Pepper Calamari and Tasmanian Smoked Salmon complimented with Avocado and Creme Fraiche
Grilled Moreton Bay Bugs, Sydney Rock Oysters, Salt & Pepper Calamari and Tasmanian Smoked Salmon complimented with Avocado and Creme Fraiche

The first course of our seafood banquet was really well thought out. Two extremely fresh oysters each, plus the perfect accompaniments for some savoury smoked salmon – fresh green avocadoes and light creme fraiche. The Moreton Bay bugs were probably the highlight of this dish though, as they were just grilled to perfection – slightly smoky and charred on one side, but juicy and plump inside. I could have eaten ten of these!

Catch of the Day, Fried King Prawns, Tempura Soft Shell Crab & Chargrilled Octopus with a Citrus Ginger Sauce
Catch of the Day, Fried King Prawns, Tempura Soft Shell Crab & Chargrilled Octopus with a Citrus Ginger Sauce

I was a bit hesitant about the next course as I know how terrible badly-cooked octopus can be – tough, chewy, stringy, and utterly unenjoyable. Surprisingly, the chargrilled octopus was actually the highlight of this course – delightfully marinated in a sauce that even I enjoyed (and I don’t normally like ginger!), smoked, grilled, and served while still so fresh it could almost slither off your plate. By contrast, the fried king prawns were overly battered and plain without any seasoning – they definitely could have been cooked better.

Chef's Choice of Whole Fish to Share
Chef’s Choice of Whole Fish to Share

The last course was a multi-part course. We actually could have had the option to skip this course, and replace it with dessert. As our waiter said to us, “This seafood banquet is a lot of food. I’ve never seen anyone finish it. You can replace the last course with dessert if you feel like you’re too full.”

I don’t know about you, but that sounded like a challenge to me, so I decided that we were going to try and tackle the whole banquet instead of copping out and opting for dessert! The first part of this last course was the chef’s choice of a whole fish to share, baby barramundi in this case. It was very simply grilled without much adornment, allowing the freshness of the fish itself to shine through.

Tasmanian Mussels in a Tomato Chilli Sauce
Tasmanian Mussels in a Tomato Chilli Sauce

The second part of the last course was the Tasmanian Mussels in a tomato and chilli sauce, served with some crusty bread on the side for dipping into the delicious fragrant sauce. I actually also really enjoyed spooning some of the sauce over the baby barramundi as well, so it proved to be a good base sauce for other dishes too. The mussels themselves were deliciously fat, plump and juicy – unlike other places I’ve eaten (Bungalow 8, I’m looking at you) where the mussels have been tiny and shriveled.

Greek Salad
Greek Salad

The last part of the meal was a side serve of Greek salad, and a side serve of hot chips. I’m not going to lie – we barely touched either of these dishes because we just got too full from the whole banquet. We did not complete the challenge. I’m embarrassed and disappointed in myself. At the same time, given that the salad was overdressed and the chips too mushy, it’s probably good that we didn’t try to force ourselves to eat it!

I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised by our experience at Nick’s Seafood. I went in being quite sceptical, but actually ended up enjoying at least 75% of the seafood as it was all quite fresh and kept simple, allowing the fresh flavours and textures of the seafood to shine on its own. The side dishes are questionable, but it’s definitely seafood that’s the star here.

While we probably won’t be back any time soon (there’s other cheaper places you can go for seafood as a local!), I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Nick’s Seafood to a tourist!

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1 thought on “Review: Nick’s Seafood Restaurant, Darling Harbour”

  1. Oh my gosh, I ordered the exact same Red Balloon experience! Haven’t booked the restaurant yet though.

    It had rave reviews on Red Balloon but I can see that there are definitely pros and cons of the experience. That’s good, gives me a more realistic expectation. That Greek salad looks a bit dodgy but at least the seafood is mostly good!

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