After a relaxing week escaping to the South Coast, we braved the 6.5 hour drive back home from Merimbula. However, stopping along the way we decided to have lunch at Rick Stein’s seafood restaurant at Bannisters; which worked out to be a very expensive lunch but Ant wanted to check it out (mainly for the seafood platter that was featured on Masterchef Season 2) and it was along the way (it’s not like we’re purposely driving 3 hours from Sydney just to eat here). It was a very nice drive to Bannisters, we had water views ahead and to the side of us.
As we walked into the restaurant I couldn’t help but feel as if we’ve just walked into someone’s beach holiday house. There was a nice lounge area where I’d assume customers can sit as they wait for their tables, a book display with some of Rick Stein’s books featured amongst it, straw-fabric drapes hung from the ceiling to provide a summery feel whilst big glass windows overlooking the patio and the lovey blue waters invites us to feel relaxed as we enjoy our food, wine and company.
Our intention was to just have the seafood platter yet we were advised to order an entree each as it might not be enough food for the two of us. There were many tasty seafood options (which is good and what you’d expect from a seafood restaurant) but in the end we ended up choosing the tuna starter and more oysters.
The seared tuna with guacamole and lemongrass dressing ($24) dish featured perfectly seared pieces of tuna fanned out on the plate with it’s deep ruby flesh glistening and scattered around it is a slightly tangy dressing with lemongrass brunoise. Tuna pieces cut effortlessly like butter and one bite simply melted in the mouth. I really didn’t want to share this dish with Ant. I could easily have and wanted more of it.
Not having had enough oysters in Merimbula (when is it ever enough) we decided to order the oysters Charentaise ($24); an unusual combination of natural oysters served with hot spicy sausage. We were instructed to have an oyster (with or without the eschalot red wine vinegar), take a bite of the sausage and then take a good gulp of cold white wine (if you have a glass of it).
The first thing we noticed was that the flesh wasn’t detached from the shell which meant we had to do it ourselves at the table (which we thought was odd because we attended an oyster tour earlier in the week and was told that this process was necessary to check for the quality of the oyster and for neat presentation). The sausage was quite mild and the oysters were good, some had a decent amount of water in them still. I’m still not quite sure what was trying to be achieved with this combination but it was nice (minus the vinegar).
Finally the moment has arrived. Brought to our table was the fruit de mer ($145); seafood platter served French-style, which apparently means that the seafood is left in the shell, served on ice with mayonnaise and eschalot vinegar.
On this platter we had half a lobster, half a crab, muscles, clams, pipis, octopi, prawns, scallops, oysters and periwinkles. What are periwinkles you may ask? As shown in the above picture, they are another form of mollusks which are very similar in appearance (but tiny) and taste to escargots. There were no sea urchins or that crab dish insight.. Bummer! The seafood was fresh and cooked perfectly retaining some of the sweetness, and having it with the mayonnaise was absolutely fabulous; it was lusciously thick and creamy. So good! I don’t think the eschalot vinegar works with seafood as it red wine based; perhaps a lighter lemon vinaigrette would be the better option or skip on the additional sauce and provide more of that mayonnaise!
We made our way through all the shell items before we moved onto the crab and lobster. I still prefer crab to lobster although it is a pain to get the crab meat out; for us, we were both exhausted towards the end because of all the effort required for the crab. I honestly think that this platter was enough for one person if no entree was ordered as we were left still hungry after it.
Our pact was to go and just have the seafood platter but obviously that was ruined by having entrees but because we weren’t feeling that full we decided to order desserts before we set forth on a 3 hour drive. During our demolition of the seafood platter, I overheard the words hazelnut and chocolate from a lady at the table next to ours and a few moments later, I caught a glimpse of her dessert and declared that I wanted it as well!
The chocolate and hazelnut mousse cake ($16) comes with white chocolate ice cream, fresh raspberry and a raspberry coulis. Alternate layers of chocolate mousse and chocolate and hazelnut cake are stacked up and topped with a tuile. It may look a little heavy but I can tell you it was light and I loved the additional crunch I got from the tuile. The white chocolate ice cream wasn’t too sweet and the coulis wasn’t too tangy; both components complimented the cake without overpowering it.
Ant tends to get the chocolate desserts all the time whenever we eat out, but because I placed dibs on the chocolate mousse cake he had to go for the chocolate fondant ($16) (luckily there was a second chocolate dessert available). It was served with an intense coffee ice cream which worked very well with the fondant which oozed nicely.
Overall, it was a very nice restaurant with delicious seafood, the staff were very friendly and although it was pretty expensive, you are paying for the fantastic view.