{restaurant review} Public Dining Room

Blame the salt air. Blame the beachy Scandinavian whites and creams and blonde wood furnishings, and the long window baring all of sun-tanned and swimsuit-wearing Balmoral Beach. In such a setting, you can hardly be blamed for going past the impressive chargrill and meat menu and choosing instead things taken from the sea. It’s good fortune, then, that chef Richard Falkiner has a light, gentle hand with seafood. Nude, seared scallops sit on large white plate, with a pretty wreath of tiny cauliflower florets, raisins and walnuts ($25).

In what is perhaps becoming Sydney’s signature dish, lead by Tetsuya, a soft pillow of lightly smoked confit of ocean trout takes a turn for the fresh with a cucumber salad, ocean trout roe and baby radish leaves ($24).

The Palmer Island mulloway, pleasingly crispy skinned and soft with butter, comes on a smear of carrot puree and doll-size garden of “sea asparagus” or samphire, salty, crisp and tasting not unlike apple skin, and steamed baby spring vegetables, soft with a central satisfying crunch ($32).

The excellent concept of a “young adults” menu forced a little squeal of delight at our table, even though neither of us met the description, alas. A crumbed John Dory fillet comes with a tumble of crispy fries and a salad ($15), and a glorious sort of 1950s heyday dessert, ice-cream with a selection of ever changing toppings ($10), conjures the beachside vibe.

Off the sea-related ingredients, if we must, the Golden Plains pork belly is happily crispy skinned, proper crackling of course not possible with suckling pig. A turn on the old pork-goes-with-apple scenario sees instead a potato and pear puree, and the comforting addition of nutmeg roasted pears ($36).

The incredible Valrhona chocolate fondant is biscuity and filled with a smooth and oozing bitter chocolate sauce ($16). A scoop of subtle buttermilk sorbet balances on a little mound of coco bean crumbs, dry until they melt in your mouth. We don’t mind if we do pair this with the NV Stanton and Kileen ‘Grand liquor’ muscat from Rutherglen, Victoria, thanks very much for the suggestion ($16).

The sand is within toe’s reach, and this is right where a long jetty stretches across the water. Come before the night does in a bid to catch the full summery gilded Balmoral cove at its best. It is this beachy appeal that thankfully causes Public Dining Room to open its doors on Sunday evenings in the summer months.

IN A FEW WORDS: Bikinis meet relaxed elegant dining for the beachside set.

COME HERE FOR: The seared scallops with cauliflower, raisins and walnuts entrée. And the view.

 This review appeared in Sunday Life magazine in April 2012.