Review: Seafood Buffet at The Grace Hotel, Sydney

I’ve done a bit of work with The Grace Hotel Sydney in the past, so when they invited me to attend a celebration of the opening of their new seafood buffet last week, it was a real no-brainer. I did worry for them though – my ability to consume copious amounts of fresh seafood is absolutely legendary. They whisper my names in the halls of fishmongers the world over, a living legend.

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From previous experience, I know that the Grace Hotel is really good at delivering tasty cold dishes. True to form, there’s an extensive range of pre-made salads to choose from, as well as a ‘make your own salad’ bar where you can customise your ingredients and dressings. I personally recommend the cabbage salad as one that gives a satisfying crunch, as well as delivering a punch of flavour.

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The prawns and the steamed barramundi above were probably my two favourite seafood dishes of the night, along with the marinated baby octopus with roast vegetables. All three dishes had a simplicity based on fresh produce and clean and crisp flavours. Other seafood dishes included raw salmon, a mixed seafood in a type of mornay sauce and clam soup. Unfortunately there wasn’t any of my all-time seafood love (fresh oysters!) at the buffet the night that I went, which was a bit disappointing.

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For those amongst us who aren’t seafood lovers (what an abomination!), there are some standard seafood-less dishes on offer that will satisfy even the pickiest of eaters. Roasts, vegetables, pastas – there’s plenty of other dishes to choose from. I tried to stay away from the pasta on the night in a vain attempt to avoid carb overload(fad diets, am I right?), but I was told by other diners that the pasta was a good choice.

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There’s a large range of mini-desserts on offer at the buffet as well – my dining partner and I counted about fourteen different desserts. We had the best intention of sampling them all, but only managed to split seven individual treats between us. I can recommend the chocolate mousse dessert with the gingernut biscuit base – in my view, it was the pick of the crop.

You should also try the orange poppyseed cake – a fellow diner spent a good amount of time raving about how perfectly light and fluffy the cake was, and the perfect savoury-sweet finish to the buffet dinner.

The service at the Grace Hotel is always prompt and efficient – our waiters on the night were very attentive and made sure that our wine glasses were always topped up! Kitchen staff also kept a keen eye on the dishes on the buffet – replenishing regularly and ensuring that supplies were always plentiful.

I always enjoy sampling the new offerings at The Grace hotel, and this time was no different. My night was enhanced by my dining companions – there were a few of us representing various media outlets, and it was really interesting having the opportunity to dine with representatives from Sydney Social and people like Enzo of Casa e Cucina.

The seafood buffet dinner is available Tuesday to Saturday nights throughout the year at The Grace Hotel. The special introductory price of $45 per person is only valid until the 31st of July 2013. For reservations, contact restaurant.reservations@gracehotel.com.au or 02 9272 6670.

Note: I dined at The Grace Hotel as a guest of Niche Marketing for review purposes. My experience was free of charge, however all words and opinions are my own.

Recipes: A Seafood Feast

Stories of travel-related food adventures coming up soon, but in the meantime…

K’s grandfather turned 90 late last year, and we spent a while trying to think of a present to get him. But what do you get someone who’s been wearing the same clothes for the past thirty years, likes going to the same half a dozen restaurants and has already been everywhere and done everything?

I finally came up with the idea of going over on a weekend and simply cooking him a meal of his favourite things – shellfish!

For lunch, we ended up having:

  • Raw oysters with a soy, coriander and ginger dipping sauce
  • Mussels in an Italian-style tomato-based white wine sauce
  • Prawns in the same Italian tomato sauce
  • Crusty bread to soak up the sauce
  • Mixed salad with cherry tomatoes, cucumber, sweet corn kernels and grilled haloumi

The sauce for the mussels and prawns is super simple to make. We made a huge pot of it to cook four kilos worth of mussels and a kilos worth of prawns, but you can easily halve or quarter this recipe for pasta or something similar.

Ingredients: Half a bottle of white wine, eight cans of crushed tomatoes, a bunch of basil, one onion, one clove of garlic.

  1. Chop up the onion and garlic and brown in a big pot with a generous drizzle of olive oil.
  2. Add the cans of crushed tomatoes until it comes to the boil.
  3. Add the white wine and cook it on high for a few minutes to burn off the alcohol.
  4. Reduce to a gentle simmer, then add chopped basil and stir.

You can then add seafood if you want it to be a seafood sauce, or just have it with pasta (or anything else!). Super simple, but the wine really makes it tasty, especially if you soak up the sauce at the bottom of your bowl with some fresh crusty bread.

Review: Pilu at Freshwater, Freshwater

K and I had dinner at Pilu at Freshwater a month ago to celebrate our one-year anniversary. We originally booked months in advance for Berowra Waters Inn, which has since gone into administration, but had to rebook for Pilu after Berowra Waters Inn closed down.

Pilu is a multiple award winner – consistently earning two chef hats in the Sydney Morning Herald’s Good Food Guide, two stars in the Gourmet Traveller Restaurant Guide, and other prestigious awards of excellence in the category of Italian cuisine. It is by far the fanciest restaurant I’ve been to in Sydney – perhaps evidenced by the fact that I had about a dozen pieces of cutlery to contend with over the course of the night?

Upon arrival, we were shown to a semi-private table in a corner of the terrace dining room, with views overlooking the water. While it was a dark night so we were unable to enjoy the ocean views to their full extent, the lights glimmering off the black waves still made for a very picturesque scene. The decor of the restaurant also lends itself to the nautical atmosphere, with a strong emphasis on clean white linen and exposed wooden ceilings in what was formerly a seaside residence.

Having examined the menu online prior to reaching the restaurant, I had a strong idea about what I wanted. For this special occasion, I went all out and had the degustation menu with the matching wines. K had the degustation menu as well, but without the matching wines as one of us had to drive home!

Pesce spada affumicato, cachi, filu e ferru, e condimento al balsamico bianco (Smoked swordfish, with persimmon, grappa and white balsamic)
2011 Mesa ‘Primo Rosato’ – Isola dei Nuraghi IGT (75ml)

 Tender and an amazing blend of flavours. The persimmon was particularly nice, if strong-flavoured.

Fagiano in brodo, fregola fatta in casa, pecorino stagionato (Glenloth pheasant in a pheasant consommé, hand rolled fregola and one year aged Pecorino)
2000 Contini – Vernaccia di Oristano DOC (60ml)

I’ve never had fregola before, and found it quite interesting. The smaller size meant that the flavour really seeped into the fregola. The consommé was amazing – particularly clear and tasty without being overpowering. It was a good segue into the next dish, which had more flavour.

Malloreddus, polpa di granchio, guanciale croccante e pane carasau (Malloreddus with Queensland Spanner Crab, guanciale and crispy Sardinian bread)
2010 Santadi ‘Pedraia’ – Nuragus di Cagliari DOC (75ml)

Mmmm, crab. This didn’t fall into the trap that many other crab dishes stumble upon, with the other ingredients being subsumed by the crab. Instead, the flavours of the various ingredients blended really well.

The most interesting part about this dish was actually the wine. The Santadi Pedraia was very aromatic, and smelt like a strong sherry. While full-bodied on the first sip, it didn’t leave a cloying stickiness in my mouth, which a sherry can do.

Granita alle arance rosse e panna acida al timo (Blood orange granita and thyme crème fraiche)

A nice crisp palette cleanser in-between courses. I have a bit of a love affair with blood oranges at the moment, so really fell in love with this. I could have quite easily given up the cream for more granita.

Filetto di salmone alla Vernaccia di Oristano e olive verdi (Salmon fillet with Vernaccia and green olives)
2011 Contini ‘Karmis’ – Bianco Tharros IGT (75ml)

This was K’s favourite dish of the night. The salmon was done perfectly, with a crispy skin and soft flesh that melted in your mouth. Paired with a simple butter-based sauce and olives for a flavour contrast, the salmon was clean, simple, and delicious.

Porcetto arrosto (Free range roasted suckling pig, served on the bone with condiments)
2010 Santadi ‘Antigua’ – Monica di Sardegna DOC (75ml)

Suckling pig. Seriously one of my favourite dishes ever – suckling pig can do no wrong in my eyes. Served with sides of mustard, apple, and salsa verde, the pig was done perfectly though the crackling was not as crispy as I have had elsewhere. The accompanying roast potatoes were well done.

This was the second Santadi wine of the night, and when compared to the previous heavy sherry-like wine, was very much clean, crisp and unpretentious.

Seadas ripiena di ricotta con miele di corbezzolo (Sardinian fried pastry filled with fresh ricotta and sultanas, served with warm corbezzolo honey)
2009 Dolianova – Moscato di Cagliari DOC (60ml)

The dessert was quite plain and simple – something I actually found quite surprising. While the warm honey was a revelation as it was more bitter than sweet, and the filling was well done, the pastry itself was nothing in particular to write about. It was quite underwhelming.

Overall

The food and wines were really perfectly matched, and the sommelier really knew what he was talking about. We spoke with him for a few minutes about the wine menu, and he gave us some good tips for purchasing these Italian wines in the future.

On the whole, the food was quite remarkable. There were parts that were less impressive than others (particularly the pastry and crackling), but I really couldn’t fault the meal.

I rate Pilu at Freshwater a 9.5 out of 10.

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