Strutting down the boardwalk of Woolloomooloo Wharf, what strikes me first is, it seems no one eatery has a frontage advantage over another. Being a heritage listed building, tenants are unable to alter the exteriors of their restaurants. Fair fight I would think however I have heard Manta has a weapon tucked in their proverbial sock, a big piece of beef with marrow.
Seated outside by the waterfront, I paused momentarily as my waiter attempted to hand me a menu bound in stingray skin with bovine skin separating seafood from meat options. My distraction was a young woman in a bikini adorning the bow of a huge snow white power boat as it prowled past the wharf with assumed boyfriend at the helm wearing a turned up collar Ralph Lauren. Frozen in time, we stared at each other both asking the same question, who has got the life? Her, cruising on the boat or me, land locked sitting down to a gorgeous meal?
I come in search of a Mediterranean experience, and chef David Hughes’ seafood selection are heading me in the right direction. Yes, I called him chef, I will give him the benefit of the doubt for now. First items to slide across the table are oysters on a half shell, caviar, ceviche, carpaccio and tartare, all prepared and presented with minimal fuss and fare to preserve their natural flavours.
And then? Bring me the heads of your finest king prawns! With their bodies attached I shouted (more of a whisper actually) My bread basket arrives with pink Murray River salt and olive oil served in a Dinosaur Design dish for dipping. A serious combination. Flanked by ever patient, accomodating and knowledgeable staff, pairing my meal with wine is an effortless affair. I was informed, not lectured, well done.
Do I feel like beef? Why yes I do, David Blackmore’s air dried wagyu beef bresaola to be exact. Here it is on the menu, 5 different cuts with breed detail, marble score , feed regiment and area. What? No favorite past time listed? Outrageous! A dozen cruising luxury boats and 50 passing gawking tourists later, my noble beast arrives, charred, well rested and warm. Before I can say the word decadence, a serving of hand cut chips fried on truffle oil appears topped with fresh shavings of truffle and parmesan atop. The slight crunch of the outer edge of the meat against the tender inner fibers is a wonderful contrast. The sprinkling of the truffle on the fries is heavy handed unfortunately, such a pity to waste a fine product and even more of a pity that I am paying for it.
To round out the meal I’m considering one of the various delights offered up by pastry chef, John Ralley. I instead opt for a board of Australia’s finest cheeses accompanied by a glass of Amaro Montenegro disgestif.
Overall I found it difficult to find fault in the food. The service was, hhmmm how can I put it, they took my order, brought my food then fetched me the bill. I must say though, I am quite hard to please on service. I want the help to leave me alone yet be able to sense telepathically that I require their attendance. I don’t enjoy twisting my neck, waving my arm for service as though I am trying to flag down the 380 bus to Bondi.
And what of the girl on the passing boat in question we both asked? Who does have the life? The answer is clear. It’s one who gets paid to deliver this food to me and watch the girl on the boat while he does it.
Angela is a service standards advocate with an airline background proudly endorsing Peranakan food and culture. Find her Tweets @servicefeedback