I am an avid seafood lover. Fish, molluscs, crustaceans – I love them all! I never quite understood people who don’t like seafood because I find that well-prepared seafood is such a delight to eat. It can be fresh and briny with the flavours of the sea, or delicate with a subtle sweetness. A restaurant that specialises in seafood is bound to excel at preparing and cooking seafood well, and Garfish definitely didn’t disappoint.
We were seated in the private dining room in the Manly restaurant, which had lovely glass walls which would provide an excellent view of the ocean during the day. Tonight the table was set with multiple wine glasses and a menu that included lots of seafood, so I knew we were in for a treat. John Reid from Reidistribute was guest speaker for the night, and is one of Garfish’s food suppliers. Each course on the menu tonight was paired with a cheese supplied by Reidistribute, as well as a final cheese and wine tasting course designed by John to highlight some of his favourite cheeses.
The first course was a shellfish bisque with steamed milk, avruga caviar, and a gruyere crouton. The shellfish aroma hit us as soon as the bowls were placed in front of us, and it took a lot of self control to take photos before digging in! The bisque was smooth and creamy and packed full of shellfish flavour. The gruyere crouton was another highlight, a crunchy bread wafer with blistered, melted gruyere on top.
I was a little unsure about this dish at first. Sardines and fennel are definitely not some of my favourite things but the dish turned out to be a pleasant surprise. Apart from being served on slate, the sardines were crumbed and crisp on the outside and didn’t taste fishy at all. The mizuna and ruby grapefruit segment also helped to cut through the oiliness of the fish, and the fennel remoulade was a refreshing accompaniment and luckily did not taste too aniseed-y for me.
The third course was an absolute winner for pretty much everyone on the table. We were the guinea pigs to test Garfish’s Executive Chef Stewart Wallace’s latest creation. The wood roasted snapper is cooked in a wood roasting oven that is only at Garfish Manly, and it was cooked to perfection with a crispy skin and moist and succulent flesh. The fish sat on a bed of the some of the creamiest and tastiest potato puree ever, which had just the right amount of lightness from the mascarpone and smokiness from the smoked potatoes. Just to make it even more awesome, there were cubes of speck on scattered around the plate that were wonderfully crisp on the edges. If this dish goes on the Garfish menu (and I really hope it does), I urge you to go and try it!
The final course was the one we’d all been waiting for (or dreading, depending on your opinions on cheese). I love cheese but Sir D is not such a big fan so he was not particularly looking forward to this course. John Reid spoke about his food supply business, Reidistribute, and shared some stories about his philosophy on food. He then went into talking about the cheeses and how they taste different when paired with different wines.
A good example of this was with the first cheese, a Taleggio from Italy, which was paired with a sake and a French white wine from Sancerre. A piece of the Taleggio eaten after a sip of sake tasted remarkably different from one eaten after the white wine. Taleggio is a soft, cows milk cheese with a washed rind and turned out to be Sir D’s favourite of the night with its mild flavour.
The next cheese, Fromager des Clarines, is one of my favourites. It is a French, cows milk cheese, and one way of eating it is to bake it in the oven studded with cloves of garlic, rosemary and white wine. The flavour from the garlic, herbs and wine with the cheese is amazing, not to mention the cloves of garlic that are sweet after baking in the oven. It’s melty, and gooey and perfect for dipping pieces of lavosh or crispbread into.
The final two cheeses were probably ones that are the most divisive. The Chabichou is a goats cheese originally made in France, however the one we tasted on the night was from Western Australia. Sir D swears against goats cheese but gave this one a try and found it surprisingly mild and palatable. It is soft and creamy with a slight tang like cream cheese, and paired really well with a French white from the Chablis region.
Sir D also swears against blue cheese which was the final cheese for the night. The smell was quite strong and I must admit that I’m not the biggest fan of blue. The Shadows of Blue from Victoria was actually quite pleasant and not as strong as most other blues I’ve tried. Sir D actually tried more than one bit of this (but not the mould) whereas I demolished the whole lot! Definitely one of the best blues I’ve tried.
It was a fun and informative night and it was such a pleasure to hear from a passionate and dedicated food supplier like John Reid. Thanks to the Garfish team for serving up some delicious food and wine, and John for sharing his cheese stash and introducing many of us to the wonderful world of cheeses!
Penguin says Feed Me dined courtesy of Garfish and The DMA
1/39 East Esplanade
Manly NSW 2095
Ph: +61 2 9977 0707
Open 7 days, noon-3pm and 5.30-10pm
Also located at Crows Nest and Kirribilli