Dear Rick Stein, I so wanted to love your restaurant in Mollymook, but alas it was not to be.
Recently my partner E and I took the three-hour drive south, to lovely Mollymook with the express purpose of dining at Rick Stein’s restaurant for our anniversary.
The south coast of NSW is an outstandingly beautiful part of Australia and taking the turn from Milton off the Pacific Hway and head towards the tiny town of Mollymook was akin to driving in the hinterland around Byron Bay. Everything was so lush and green after all the rain we have had and it was picture postcard beautiful.
We easily found Bannisters and unfortunately (or fortunately as fate would have it) they only had one suite available for $460 per night. We opted to stay instead, a 5 min drive away in a one bedroom apartment right on the beach front (near the Golf Course) for $150.
Feeling like we had already saved $300, we made our way back to Bannisters that night for dinner. When we had arrived in the afternoon, we were really impressed with the ambience of the restaurant which was perched high on headland overlooking the spectacular coastline. However, at night when we came back for dinner, the stunning view had disappeared into the blackness of the night sky.
So … all started well. Our waitress was friendly and welcoming but was back to take our order after what seemed like only three minutes! Could we please have a few more minutes I asked ? We requested a bottle of sparkling mineral water to start us off while we perused the menu.
Now the menu did require quite a bit of consultation and consideration because we have been wanting to come here for a long time and were keen to make sure we were ordering the best dishes on the menu.
By the time we had decided we were ready to order, our waitress was kinda busy serving meals on other tables. We had to flag down a drink waiter and he took our wine order but he couldn’t answer anything about the food.
We eventually flagged down another waitress who said she would ask ‘our’ waitress to come and take our order, another 5 minutes passed and she eventually did come back and we finally locked in our order. Phew ! Once our wine arrives we can settle in and enjoy the place.
Looking around the restaurant was quite busy actually for a Wednesday night and it looked like most people (couples) were staying in the hotel. But it was hard to say as the carpark was full and I wondered if the locals were loyal patrons or if the majority of people were out-of-towners. Mollymook isn’t exactly heaving with dining establishments.
Anyway to the food. We decided to share an entrée – we had stopped off at Huskisson at Jervis Bay and had fabulous fish and chips sitting on the pier with the seagulls earlier in the day for lunch and thought if we had three course it might be too much food.
At $28 our Lobster Raviolo shared entrée arrived, along with an additional plate so we could portion it in half. Nice. One giant size piece of ravioli sat perched in the middle of the plate. Filled with lobster meat and spinach, it was topped with a delicious lemon butter sauce. My three mouthfuls were delicious and I wished I was having the whole thing to myself ! Maybe sharing wasn’t such a good idea…..
In good timing, the mains arrived. I had a Provencal fish stew called a Bourride, which has an aoli base instead of tomato base like Bouillabaisse. It taste nice on first mouthful, but the problem was the inclusion of salt cod into the mix. I’m sure this is a traditional recipe, however the salt cod flavoured the soup so intensely that by the end I felt I was eating salted water instead of soup. More water please waitress…I’ve consumed half the Pacific Ocean. So disappointing.
Now to be fair, the seafood was very fresh but I just can’t see how $58 is justified. I’d happily pay this kind of money if I was dining at Quay as I’d be certain to be having a gastronomic experience…but really Rick, this was salty seawater…blown away I was not.
My partner had the Indonesian Curry – again at $58. I was particularly interested in trying this as I have made this same curry paste to make Rick’s Balinese roast duck which I’ve blogged about so was keen to taste to see if I’d got mine right.
The curry was silky with coconut milk and the seafood again, very fresh. I thought it tasted lovely on tasting, but at the end of it when E told me that he would rather eat my cooking and that it wasn’t much better than our local Thai takeaway at 5th of the price, I figured that he was not blown away ! Disappointing.
We noticed plates of fish and chips coming out. At the ubiquitous $58 price tag, they didn’t look any better than the ones we had for $8 at Husky Fish & Chips at lunch, albeit the 9 chips were neatly arranged into a little stack that looked like building blocks !
To dessert…I had pavlova with strawberries. E had a chocolate hazelnut mousse cake. Both were nice but nothing outstanding. The strawberries were macerated in Vino Cotto (sweet/sour vinegar) which wasn’t entirely successful partnered with a pav..but maybe that is just me as I’ve seen this paired in lots of recipes recently. Personally, I don’t get it.
All in all, we knew it was going to be expensive and were prepared for the financial outlay. What I wasn’t prepared for was being underwhelmed.
I truly expected greatness from this man who has made his life travelling the world as one of greatest celebrity chefs on the planet. I have your cookbooks Rick, I watch your shows…is this the best you can do ?
At least drop the price… but for $58 for a main meal, I expect to be wowed. I wanted to walk away talking about it for ages (for the right reasons) and recommending it to my friends.
I wanted to love this place, I really really did.