Wild and woolly weather had set in across Sydney late in the afternoon and was hitting its windiest as we made our way to Manly. Monsieur Poisson was navigating peak hour traffic as I tried desperately not to succumb to the early evening snoozies only enhanced by the stop-start motion of the car. When we arrived at the famous beachside suburb, palm trees were bowing this way and that as we circled several blocks in search of parking, but we were lucky enough to secure one just around the corner from where we needed to be. Shielding ourselves with an umbrella which we hoped dearly would not flip in the wind, we walked into Garfish at Manly thankful to be dry.
A group of Sydney food bloggers have been invited to Garfish Manly, the youngest of the Garfish family, for a tasting of dishes of which some are to be new additions to their permanent menu. Monsieur Poisson and I were quite excited about this after having dined at both Garfish Crows Nest and Kirribilli (post about that to come soon, hopefully) which meant that this would complete the trio for us. Pre-dinner champagne was enjoyed from Veuve Cliquot and soon after we are ushered into their private dining room to enjoy some canapés.
We start with some plump Pacific Oysters from Pipeclay Lagoon, Tasmania, which are served with a mignonette dressing in similar fashion to that at Crows Nest. The ‘Kingfish & Salmon Tartare’ are neat little mounds topped with tobiko and micro leaves served in ceramic spoons. The fish is firm with a bouncy texture and has a nice balance of saltiness whilst being very subtle in fishiness. However the surprising favourite for me is the ‘Calarmari with rocket, date, parmesan & prosciutto wrap’. Prosciutto and rocket are a winning combination but the revelation is in the dates, of which I’m not usually a fan, which are finely sliced and not cloyingly sweet, with the sliced calamari offering textural contrast. My only complaint? I had a tussle with a strip of prosciutto rind which was left hanging out of my mouth looking like a rubber band – oh, how very attractive!
We have a short break and enjoy an informative talk by David James, CEO of Brasserie Bread who supply Garfish, about the makings of real sourdough. Brasserie Bread use unsulfured grapes in their sourdough starter (Ms Sourdough affectionately refers to her starter as ‘baby’) of which there are 17 approximately 1 metre deep vats – half of this starter is used and the remainder is left to grow over the following two-week period. He also spoke of sourdough bread being left to cool down for 10-12 hours after baking for maximum flavour. If only Ms Sourdough was in attendance with me, I’m sure this talk is something she would have thoroughly enjoyed.
We tuck into some Brasserie Bread sourdough with za’atar and extra virgin olive oil and enjoy a glass of Crittenden Estate 2008 pinot grigio. The first course of ‘Blue swimmer crab soup with Avruga caviar & horseradish crostini’ appears with the aromas of shellfish and is smooth with an occasional pop from the caviar. The horseradish crostini is light in flavour although I wouldn’t have minded a little more pungency from the horseradish.
Kristen Gillespie, Operations Manager at Garfish, tells us that the fish used is brought in fresh daily which results in creativity for the kitchen and the specials menu changing often. Tonight we are treated to a ‘Moroccan fish tagine with chermoula, preserved lemon and cous cous,’ which is a departure from the grilled and deep-fried cooking methods I’ve seen on the menu at their other two restaurants. The fish used here is a mirror dory which has been cooked to a soft flakiness in amongst a jumble of whole almonds, baby beetroot, Dutch baby carrots and large green olives. There are also bowls of green salad served alongside as well as 2008 pinot noir also from Crittenden Estate.
The baby vegetables are wonderfully sweet (I fell in love with the beetroot) and the preserved lemon along with the thin yoghurt drizzled bring a lightness to the fragrant spices which have been used. The sauce is a great accompaniment mixed into the soft couscous, although I regrettably have to leave half of this dish behind to ration stomach space for impending dessert.
The dessert which was billed simply as ‘Garfish dessert platter’ on our menu for the evening arrives with three components on long plates. There is, of course, a mini-waffle (Belgian waffles feature on all Garfish menus) with fresh strawberries, strawberry sauce and a mascarpone cream, a wedge of dark chocolate tart with manuka honey, hazelnuts and chilli (and the surprise of popping candy!) and a banana Paris-Brest.
Monsieur Poisson, being the banana-fiend that he is, unbiasedly declared the banana component his favourite whilst mine had to be the strawberry waffle. We finish off the meal with some relaxed conversation and cups of coffee and tea before heading home, thankfully in weather which has eased considerably.
Monsieur Poisson and Mademoiselle Délicieuse dined as guests of Garfish Manly.
1/39 East Esplanade (cnr Wentworth St), Manly NSW
Tel: (02) 9977 0707
Opening Hours: Mon-Sat 12pm-3pm (lunch)
Sun 12pm-3pm (lunch)