The South Coast of New South Wales 3 1/2 hours from Sydney is an idylic strip of coastal playground dotted with holiday houses. It’s still relaxed and remains a very quiet and family friendly place to rent a house. We stayed in a place called Manyana for the weekend with full intentions of cooking, walking on the beach and watching movies until someone suggested lunch at Rick Stein at Bannisters Restaurant in Mollymook only 1/2 an hours drive away. It was surprising how quickly we all agreed, considering the amount of food in our fridge. We were just so close it seemed a shame not to go.
Saturday lunch is a lovely time to go. It isn’t very busy and that means we didn’t feel rushed . This fitted in with our weekend ideal of taking our time, something that is very easy to do on the south coast of NSW. Pushing the mantra even further we included a stroll down to Jones Point, the small rocky beach below the lodge, before we ordered dessert. The big windows in the dining room allow the sun to stream in, making us feel summer was round the corner. Bannisters is a very simple South Coast Motel that has been given a facelift. The infinity pool stretches out towards the ocean and comforatble lounges and a casual dining area have been added along with a pool cafe and bar area for guests, making it even more impossible to leave the sun and the view. Let’s face it, if you are staying here for the weekend, where would you want to go besides the dining room upstairs?. We are not staying here, so lingering by the pool any longer would have just been creepy.
The restaurant is quite large with two separate areas plus a new outside terrace bar, lit beautifully and overlooking the pool out to the ocean. The lounge just beyond the bar and reception for pre-dinner drinks or a bit of a relax after dinner, looks comfortable and warmly decorated with patchwork motives and shelves displaying Rick’s books. The main restaurant floor has a beachside almost Nordic feel with blonde furniture and hand woven light fittings.
Rick moved into Bannisters in 2009 and Rick Stein does not, of course work here full time . The head chef Paul Goodenough worked with Rick in Padstow and has been here for 2 1/2 years . There seems to be a few travellers working at the restaurant. This must be both an idyllic place to live and a strange one for these young English travellers.
We sit in a bright corner of the restaurant and start with a selection of olives and house made bread with Nori butter. Oysters head up the menu and they are all from the south coast region at $4 each. The entrees this weekend, range from Prawns on ice with Mayonnaise ( $27) to a traditional Shellfish Soup with Rouille accompanied by Parmesan croutons ($19) and Grilled Harvey Bay Scallops on the shell with Hazelnut and coriander butter ( 28). My Lobster salad with Avocado, Green Beans and Foie Gras is an appealing combination of textures, crunchy green beans make an unusual base to carry the buttery pan seared Foie Gras and sweet slices of Lobster . The smudge of avocado and acidic aged balsamic add the other needed elements to balance.( $32) Deliciously rich chestnut mushroom risotto with persillade (parsley, garlic, oil, seasonings), arrives with a tangle of of mushrooms and a slice of Parmesan balancing on top ($18). There are many Asian elements on the menu following Ricks South East Asian cook book and our Australian love of these flavours. A big bowl of steamed mussels is a case in point , with Yellow Koreung Coconut milk and Kaffir Lime leaves. The muscles are black and they are freshly plump and just cooked in a perfectly balanced coconut and spiced broth that is mopped up with bread. ($24)
There is one non- seafood main course, a Duck Leg Confit with Red Cabbage and Roast Potatoes ($39) but we all agree we are here for the seafood. I choose the Bannisters fish pie. It is a smallish ceramic dish holding a couple of prawns, pieces of salmon and baramundi, scallops and mushrooms . The creamy veloute sauce is lightly touched with truffle and the crispy gratinated top coat of crumbs is seductively good and I am unwilling to share ($44) . A crispy skin line caught Baramundi with Spring Onion Mash and Soy Butter Reduction is a comforting combination. The fish is firm and the skin crisp as promised. The soy butter provides depth and it’s freshened with diced tomato ( $44 ) . Battered Ling with door stop hand cut chips, tartare sauce and mushy peas has a golden and incredibly crispy batter that has been cooked in dripping ($35). There are two curries on the menu. We try the Madras Fish Curry of Blue Eye Trevalla, Tomato and Tamarind that is a hot and sour southern Indian curry. Its a bright, forthright sour spicy treat ($46). A side of thin hand cut chips with rosemary and thyme has us fighting ($7) while the melage of beans and zucchini shows that there is always a place for greens in my life ( $7).
We take a stroll down to the rocky point called Jones Beach below The Lodge, before dessert . It’s such a lovely location it seems a shame to waste the opportunity to walk off the chips and stretch out the stomach between courses. This is definately not something you get to do in the hurry and bustle of a city restaurant
It is decided that some of us just are not cut out for dessert and skip it in favour of watching. There is a trio of icecreams for our gluten intolerant member while we share a Pavlova Roll and a chocolate fondant ($ 14 and up).
Hungry for a better view of Bannisters ?. Jon from he Needs Food has some beautiful pictures and a review too
Bannisters by the Sea – Mollymook
191 Mitchell Parade Mollymook, NSW