Being one that's so critical with food, a dangerous question which is often asked is "what is your favourite restaurant?". I like the way Not Quite Nigella worded her response for a magazine: "that's like a parent choosing a favourite child". I somewhat agree, however, I have learnt that parents always have a favourite (sorry middle-child-syndrome coming through here). So when someone asks me this question, my response is Angelo's On The Bay, which is why I asked Jasmyne for this to be my first restaurant post.
I was first introduced to this restaurant by my sister's partner, who is related to the executive chef. At the time, Jasmyne was out of town for the weekend so I went with just my family and it was great. I raved on about this place to Jasmyne for sometime, until I took her there for our anniversary last year in October and luckily she agreed that this is an excellent restaurant.
Yesterday, Jasmyne and I invited two of our closest friends, James and Hitesha, for dinner at Angelo's as a celebration, since they had just recently married overseas. A Saturday night and it was packed, they had two pretty large functions going on that night and the verandah was booked out. We were given a table on the edge of the verandah with a beautiful view of the Parramatta river and a distant view of the city.
We started our night about half an hour late due to the delayed arrival of James and Hitesha thanks to a traffic jam. Meanwhile, as Jasmyne and I waited, the waiting staff provided drinks almost as soon as we sat down, followed by some menus soon after. Once our friends had arrived, we started our night with some entrees and starters.
Jasmyne had the caramelised pumpkin and brie cheese tart. It was an absolutely great start to the meal. The pastry was light and thin, with a sweet pumpkin and rich, creamy cheese filling. It was served with what I believe was a watercress, hazelnut and red onion salad. And needless to say, Jasmyne really enjoyed it.
As for the rest of us, we choose to start with assorted rolls served with 'Little General' olive oil and dukkah. I had this the first time round and it was just as great. Five fresh assorted rolls, including sundried tomato, black olive and plain rolls, gently heated, served with balsamic and olive oil to dip, pistachio dukkah and some soft butter - James just could not get enough of that dukkah.
Assorted Rolls with 'Little General' Olive Oil and Dukkah - $8.00
As for the mains, James and I had planned some time prior to half the 'On the Bay' seafood platter for two, a dish which I have been told Angelo's is quite famous for, and you can definitely see why. A top layer of cold seafood, including king prawns, salmon, a whole lobster, atlantic salmon tartare in an avocado (plus tartar and cocktail sauces), and a bottom layer of all the cooked produce, including fish cooked two ways: a pan fried barramundi with herbs and a beer battered fillet (I believe was snapper), squid and octopus in a tempura batter, scallops (I tasted tarragon and lime butter with these), and garlic prawns. And in the middle of the bottom layer, potato chips. Also the choice of oysters, either or both natural and/or kilpatrick.
'On The Bay' Seafood Platter For Two - $130
In short, James and I demolished the dish. Everything was just so fresh. The lobster was described by Hitesha as "being as juicy as fresh vegetables" when she had a try of James' half. Unfortunately, the king prawns were left behind, simply because we were just too full. As for the bottom layer, the pan fried barramundi was excellent, perfectly cooked and literally melted in my mouth (my only wish is that there was more of it). The cooked prawns were great also, I've only just started eating prawns so I don't have too much to compare it too. The scallops were my favourite, the most simplest on the plate but I loved them. Sweet, soft and cooked to perfection, the flavour of the butter and tarragon go so well (my first visit here was in fact my first experience with properly cooked scallops, since then I scour menus looking for them, just to compare to my experiences here). The beer battered fish was great too, crisp and crunchy exterior with the flesh of the fish still soft and succulent. But the most surprising to me was the octopus and calamari, not only was the meat soft and thankfully nothing like chewing on an elastic band, but Jasmyne really liked it, and for her to actually enjoy seafood it really makes my day. We ordered the oysters Kilpatrick, and I'll be honest I can not handle oysters regardless of how they are cooked. There were six of them and James devoured them all, indicating to me that he did really enjoy them. Finally the chips, perched royally in the middle of the cooked produce (and wow, best chips I have had at a restaurant) - I believe they are prepared with a three staged cooking process, resulting in the most crisp and crunchy exterior and fluffy and soft potato filling. I seriously think Jasmyne and Hitesha had eaten more of them than James and I! I think the end result was indicative of how James and I felt about this dish:
James had also washed down the platter with his favourite beer, James Squire Amber Ale ($7.00). Apparently this is pretty difficult to come by, and James described it as having the perfect balance between sweet and hoppy, with a nutty finish.
Both Jasmyne and Hitesha had ordered the same dish: oven roasted three bone lamb rack, with confit potatoes, eggplant caviar, truss cherry tomatoes and rosemary jus.
Oven Roasted Three Bone Lamb Rack - $33.00
I had limited exposure to this dish (too busy with my own). Based on our discussions however, it was cooked medium-well, which to Jasmyne's preference was a tad ovecooked, however had suited Hitesha and James' liking well. I did get a mouthful and the taste was there, the lamb was still juicy and the flavours worked well together. All-in-all a great dish, I would just ask for the lamb to be cooked to my own preference if I was to order it in the future.
And now, my favourite course of any dinner: Dessert. Do you ever find yourself looking at a dessert menu and not knowing what to get? Angelo's like many places have solved that problem. The dessert platter, in which you get the choice of three desserts from the menu and the house decides on the fourth.
Working my way from left to right, we had a vanilla bean pannacotta with a raspberry jelly and campari dust (fairy floss). This aspect of the platter was rated by everyone as the best of it. The pannacotta had a strong but pleasant presence of the vanilla bean and had the right consistency. Thankfully the jelly was not like rubber bullets, so the gelatin concentration was perfect and went well with the pannacotta. The addition of fairly floss was weird but excellent, it really sparked the child inside and brought the dish alive. Next was the orange blossom creme brulee with a lemon curd and biscotti, I'll admit foolishly I had a spoonful of the curd before the rest and it was a punch to the taste buds. However, paired with the creme brulee it went well. As for the brulee, it had an interesting taste. I had never had orange blossom before, but it was delicious, very floral with a hint of citrus, rating number two on the platter. Second from the left was the house addition to the platter, a cherry ice-cream with poached cherries around it and chocolate quills. Unfortunately, this was the least liked dish of the platter, the taste of cherry was nice and strong, but there was just something about the texture. It did not come off as ice-cream - it appeared to have formed ice crystals throughout, giving it a strange texture for ice-cream, but the taste of it was nice. Lastly (most left portion) was a honey-spiced semi freddo with poached rhubarb and cinnamon and pear syrup. I would really like to know how they made this dish, to me this ranked an equal second. The flavour of it was just superb, the honey combined with cinnamon it was just great.
The menu has been recently changed, so I intend on coming back to Angelo's relatively soon to give the rest of the menu a go. What can be said though, is that the service had not changed at all over the past three times I had been here. The similar faces indicate to me that the staff are happy, passionate and content with their positions, providing an extraordinarily quick service considering that they were housing two large functions at the time. The ambiance has always been great and welcoming, also the area does not get too loud like a lot of restaurants I have been to, which causes difficulty in conversing with each other. The only major downside to our visit this time was the bugs outside, we were positioned below some exterior lights which drew in the bugs and insects from the river, looking around no one else was effected though, and luckily we didn't crunch down on anything unpleasantly crisp in our meats (they had actually seemed to go away when we had food around, strange). I would highly recommend Angelo's on the Bay to anyone, the meals also fall within a reasonable price range and are of a decent size.
The building is absolutely beautiful, as we walked away Jasmyne took a last photo (though it doesn't do it any favours being night so have a look at their website).