On the night of the second day we were treated to a fine dining experience by my friends – Tom and Carolyn (she has her own blog too, check it out!) – who played host to me and wifey. They’ve been here for a good few years now and also love eating out, so I was confident the venue they picked for us to catch up over wasn’t going to be anything ordinary.
After a short stroll through the water front and browsing through the colorful installations of Vivid Sydney(link to my first post here), we arrived at Bel Mondo.
After seating and notified by the waiter that, as a large group was due to arrive and we best order before that in order to receive our food on time, we looked through the menu. There were a lot of dish descriptions I haven’t noticed before and I did my best to imagine them from their names, as I do, in order to pick my noms for the night. I briefly meditated before choosing the pan-fried scallops for the entree, the slow cooked lamb shoulder for my main (is the 10-hour process any different from other places that also claim they slow-cook their lambs too? I had to find out!), and abstaining a decision on the dessert for the time being, as I would have a better idea on what to choose to finish off my night after tasting both the entree and main dishes.
The complimentary canapes were shots of pumpkin soup. This was served hot but immediately drinkable and with a touch of ginger it was a very nice starter, considering we had just been walking in the cold and wet Sydney weather.
Fresh bread with dips. A nice filler and with no empty stomach to excuse myself from drinking, I ordered a glass of ‘Old fashioned’ cocktail (woodford reserve bourbon stirred with angostura bitters, a hint of maraschino, stirred over ice & finished with an orange zest & drambuie). It was a bit too sweet in the beginning, but then I got used to it. It was very easy to drink and not just a simple concotion of bourbon and juice. Nice.
This was something Carolyn had been craving for that week, and it hit the spot for her. The rich and decadent pate with grilled sour dough… I almost wished I had ordered it after having a sample! The memory of scallops from the Sails Degustation however, lingered in my mind and I was keen to draw a comparison between that and what Bel Mondo had to offer…
This was a delight to eat. The synergy of sweetness from the rockmelon and the savory ham hock sitting underneath each morsel of scallop, really drove home the fresh taste of the pan-fried scallops. Though I must say the Sails experience was a much juicier one (that and the serrano ham was a mouth-watering experience), the pan-fried scallops is definitely a contender. The truffle mayo felt a bit out of place to me though, as pairing it with other parts of the dish failed to bring any new insights of flavor for me… it could be due to my inexperience with truffle oil and its taste in general? That was the only flaw that I could spot (for myself) in this dish… other than that, the rest of the dish was quickly coerced into my stomach.
One last look at the scallops!
Wifey was persuaded by our hosts and myself to drink, but was at a loss as to what to order. So I looked through the menu and found one penned to be the house classic : Almost heaven. Though it wasn’t heaven for her, wifey definitely enjoyed it – it’s one of those easy to drink cocktails that girls love because it’s chilled, delicious, and has almost no hint of alcohol. I actually quite enjoyed it too, more than my own cocktail actually… (Ed: let’s not dwell on that, shall we)
And here it is : the 10-hour slow cooked lamb shoulder. I haven’t had any slow cooked lambs recently so I couldn’t really compare, but the quality of the meat is definitely impressive. The way the meat followed me as I beckoned with my fork was a telling sign. Though I would have preferred a slightly stronger taste in the risotto myself, together with the lamb it formed a hearty combination. The puree provided the stronger taste I craved for, but that disappeared in a flash and I was left wanting more…
I only had a taste of Wifey’s eye fillet, and it was what I expected – medium rare premium steak, executed to our order. Nothing to fault here. Wifey thoroughly enjoyed it as well!
After our mains, we browsed through the dessert menu. Apart from the usual fare, I spotted something interesting : Liquid desserts! What’s more, there was something on the menu called Espresso Martini…what!? A sweet mixture of espresso in a martini glass is definitely something that I, as a consumer of coffee and random food stuff in general, must try.
This was not as sweet as I had expected from its description. The martini was coated with sugar along the rim, and compared to that I could only taste a hint of sweetness from the creamy mixture. The espresso and vodka greeted my senses some time after taking a sip, and – I’m not sure if this is due to the combination of both coffee and vodka – it definitely helped keep the sleep bugs away for the rest of the night! Wifey also loved it too, though not as much as her cream brulee…
I didn’t try any of the cream brulee save the ginger shortbread bits, but it was good enough to stop wifey from consuming my espresso martini. So the cream brulee definitely holds its own in taste and charm. Enjoying fine desserts in the company of good friends was a most excellent way to round off a good night, and also our last night in Sydney!
After dinner, Carolyn headed home first as she was already sick and had put on a brave face for us (and the chicken liver parfait… but mostly us I think!), while Tom stayed back to take us a bit further around the harbour. We toured around more Vivid Sydney installations and also visited the (outside of) Sydney opera house! We called it a night after the fizz of droplets flying in our face became a heavy drizzle.
On to the third and final day!
Read my previous posts of our Australia trip!
Price: At $55 AUD for two courses at $72 for three courses, this is an expensive restaurant (though probably not overpriced by Sydney’s means) by New Zealand standards.
Other impressions : We felt the food quality was excellent, and the presentation OK. The service we had on the night was attentive, no complaints there either. I heard from my friends that it may pay to make your bookings well in advance as it does get booked sometimes, so that would be something to consider depending on how flexible your travel plans / eating plans are.