I had a horrific mother’s day. Not that I for any reason deserve a nice mother’s day – I’m not a mother, not even a pet owner. But I had a horrible Sunday May 12, which also happened to be mother’s day. Work blew up out of nowhere so it wiped out my entire weekend, including mother’s day dinner. In the words of Mrs Choi, I “ruined mother’s day”. Thanks mum.
We had originally planned a hot pot dinner, but had to can it. Mum ended up eating Nando’s and I ended up eating a Jimmy’s Kebab. It was sad times.
To make up for it, I thought I’d treat mum (… and myself) to a belated mother’s day lunch at the Public Dining Room. I have a big soft spot for Balmoral – being the closest beach to anywhere I’ve ever lived, I grew up having family picnics there. It’s a favourite date spot – lots of memories sharing mussels and pizza at Bather’s Pavilion (cafe) and almost making the walk of shame out of Bather’s Pavilion (restaurant) after we sat down and realised the menu was a lot more expensive than we expected. Matt and I even took our wedding photos on the esplanade.
The Bather’s Pavilion view is hard to beat, but Public Dining Room makes up for it with its beautiful interior. It’s the kind of interior that makes you feel like a wealthy lady of leisure brunching in the Hamptons. Everything is Scandinavian white from the marble bar, to the Eames dining chairs and the massive white orchids on display. The waitstaff are better dressed than the patrons – in crisp sky coloured shirts and spotless waist aprons.
The view’s pretty decent too.
We started with a shared entree of scallops, cauliflower puree, crispy pancetta, brown butter and sage ($26)
The idea of scallops is always better than the reality. You see it on the menu and think “elegant and subtle seafood dish – perfect entree”. You see it on the plate and think “Okay, that’s 5 scallops, which means $5+ per scallop. That’s ridiculous. Should have gone for the pork belly.”
The last time I was here, I ordered the Brodetto (seafood stew – $39) and LOVED IT. I’m actually not a huge fan of seafood itself, but I love the intense flavour that seafood gives to stews and broths – spicy Korean crab stew is one of my favourites. Brodetto, the rustic Italian cousin of Bouillabaisse, a tomato based soup with whatever herbs and seafood you have available.
It’s not the prettiest dish but tastes bloody good and once you’re finished with the generous assortment of seafood, you can mop up the soup with your complimentary table bread.
I ordered the market fish ($38) which was snapper fillet . Disappointingly, it came out with nothing more than a few leaves. The reddish flakes on the plate are “Rooscuitto”, or Kangaroo prosciutto which I would have liked to taste a little bit more of. But the fish was perfectly cooked so the lack of accompaniments didn’t bother me too much.
My brother went for the strozzapreti with eastern king prawns, NZ clams, chilli, zucchini, sardinian bottarga (cured fish roe) ($36).
“Strozzapreti” literally means “Priest choker”, which is probably No.2 in the list of most inappropriate pasta names after Spaghetti Puttanesca (or Spaghetti of the whore). There are a few different theories that explain the name, but my favourite is that the priests, overwhelmed by gluttonous desire, ate the pasta too quickly and choked themselves. And who can blame them – the pasta is long and curled up like paper scrolls as though it was deliberately designed for optimum sauce:pasta ratio in each bite.
(Side note: While researching the etymology of Strozzapreti, I came across this list of unfortunate food names which you may enjoy for your daily LOL)
Service here is a little bit uppity. We’re in Mosman so I get it. But I did get a bit annoyed when the waiter made a strange, unnecessary comment when coming to our table to collect our dessert order about how I clearly knew exactly what I wanted. Um, if I didn’t know what I wanted to order why would I bother getting his attention? Was he implying that I was being demanding or impatient? Am I being oversensitive? Probably. But it just irked me because ever since reading this article about waiters’ pet peeves I’ve made a deliberate effort only to use my eyes when trying to get a waiter’s attention. Okay, there may be a distinction between making friendly eye contact and staring a waiter into submission, but I’m not waving my hands anymore which is a big improvement! Ugh, if restaurants would just adopt the wonderful Korean table buzzer, this wouldn’t even be an issue.
Moving on – for dessert, we chose the “1950’s bathing cap Bombe” – strawberry & chocolate ice cream, toasted Italian meringue, frilly bits
It looks a little bit more like a hedgehog than a bathing cap, but the mix of chocolate and strawberry was a sweet and refreshing end to a lovely meal. Mum felt both loved and spoilt so it was mission accomplished.
Public Dining Room
2a The Esplanade