Never before have lighting and shadows mattered so much when taking photos of food whilst dining out. Sure, there are plenty of restaurants with ‘romantic’ lighting about the place but this was Earth Hour 2010 we’re talking about when participants are encouraged to turn off their lights for one hour. Sydney is where it all started and Garfish were doing a dine-by-candlelight evening in honour of it.
I needn’t have worried about the lighting as we were fortuitously seated at a table directly in front of the open kitchen and bar which was not operating under candlelight, we assumed, due to workplace safety reasons. I first read about Garfish on tangerine eats (albeit the one at Kirribilli – there are three locations) before driving past the one at Crows Nest a month later after a particularly late evening at work. Coincidence would have it that I had a friend visiting from overseas last weekend, and we needed somewhere for dinner, when Garfish announced on Twitter that they would be conducting a candlelight evening as part of Earth Hour.
This concept appealed to our inner romantics and so dinner at Garfish it was. In a way it is quite fortunate that Garfish does not take table reservations for after 6:30pm, instead adopting a phone-ahead system for tables, as our dinner party suddenly expanded from four people to seven in the hour leading up to our intended dinner time. At least this meant I didn’t need to make an embarrassing phone call to the restaurant requesting to have a prior reservation changed to a table almost double the size.
The Crows Nest restaurant has open frontage with a few tables on the footpath. The décor is clean and simple, although admittedly I didn’t get a very good feel for the interior due to the reduced lighting. The menus are printed on large sheets of brown paper which, when folded up, double as napkin-holders resting on plates at each table setting.
We order some ‘Grilled Ciabatta’ to munch on while we consider the menu and go with a slightly larger serve than normal so that there’s enough for all seven of us at the table. The grilled ciabatta comes topped with either garlic butter or sun-dried tomato pesto and we opt for half-and-half for variety.
My friend who’s visiting particularly likes oysters so we order the ‘Oyster Plate’ containing a dozen oysters available either natural, crisp fried, as an oyster shot or the dozen can be a combination of any of the three styles. The oyster shot which the menu describes as being served in a spiced tomato juice and vodka doesn’t appeal to us so it’s six of the natural which come with a side of mignonette dressing and six of the crisp fried served with a soy, mirin and ginger dressing. The oysters are small but plump and sweet, and not overly creamy which pleases my palate. My preference is for the crisp fried oysters, but that’s only because I have a bias towards the natural variety being slimy.
When it comes to mains, four people at our table order the kingfish with three of them choosing the same accompaniment. Garfish’s daily blackboard menu is distributed to diners on little strips of paper outlining which types of fish are available, their suggested cooking methods, their prices and a selection of sides which can be mixed and matched amongst the fish varieties. Monsieur Poisson, along with two others, has the roasted kingfish with zucchini, spiced pearl barley and pine nuts. The generous serve of fish arrives moist and succulent with a crisp layer of skin on top. The zucchini ribbons are sweet and crunchy whilst the pearl barley is chewy and nutty with the spices evoking mild Moroccan flavours. The pine nuts taste freshly toasted and I surprisingly enjoy the combination of these flavours with the plump sultanas as I often dislike their squishy, bursting texture.
I go for the ‘Fish & Chips’ although I don’t know what fish is being used, but there are three fillets which come in an aged beer batter. I normally prefer crumbed fish (which is how the garfish on the menu is served) over battered but this is a light batter with minimal oiliness and a satisfying crunch when you cut into the fish. The chips are thick-cut and lightly salted with plenty of creamy tartare on the side.
After enjoying our meals while sharing a crisp bottle of sauvignon blanc from Marlborogh, New Zealand (unpictured), we move onto one of the reasons this restaurant was chosen for dinner apart from their reputation for fresh seafood – Belgian waffles! Garfish offers several Belgian waffle combinations separate to its dessert menu and, with dinner being devoid of the usual heaviness from meat and rich sauces, we are happy to consider options from both. Waffles are the hands-down winner for me so Monsieur Poisson and I decide to share one with hokey pokey ice-cream, caramel and almonds.
The waffle is small, perhaps 10cm in diameter, but this allows for a wonderfully high ice-cream to waffle ratio with its deep divots. And the ice-cream! The crunchy hokey-pokey ice-cream with caramel sauce and toasted almond flakes is just enough to satisfy without pushing you over that over-sugared ledge. Monsieur Poisson also orders a caffe latte as he often does with dessert.
A wonderful evening was had by all with the food being honest, simple and well-prepared. I was entertained by the clank, sizzle and aromas emanating from the open kitchen but mention must be given to our most attentive waitress that evening who kept coming round to check on us unobtrusively and who, without us ever having to request, kept our water glasses filled throughout the meal. Nothing like great service to enhance the experience of great food.
6/29 Holtermann St (near cnr Alexander St), Crows Nest NSW
Tel: (02) 9966 0445
Opening Hours: Mon-Sat 8am-11am (breakfast)
Sun 9am-11am (breakfast)