The pairing of pork and scallop has been done to death by Sydney restaurants.
But Chef Zika’s take on this dish is a game changer.
You may call his cooking cutting edge but I’m calling it intuitive – a style that is sensitive yet one that knows how to marry and celebrate the very best of Australian ingredients.
On our first visit to this restaurant, we were blown away by the culinary creativity of its head chef. So when our food lover friends The Travelling Spud and Miss Quintessential were in town recently, Mysaucepan and I both agreed (we often disagree on many things) we must bring them to lunch at one of Sydney’s best kept secrets.
Cottage Point Inn, Cottage Point
Set on an idyllic location on the Hawkesbury River, the charm of this restaurant has seen many men falling to their knees before their girlfriends to plead eternal love.
“It feels a bit like Lake Como” The Travelling Spud says.
“Yes, it does makes you feel a bit like James Bond in Casino Royale, doesn’t it?” I reply.
The panoramic views of the Hawkesbury is a bonus because we are looking forward to be wowed by Chef Zika‘s magic again.
It was previously a Mediterranean-inspired gaspacho jelly with basil oil that kicked off proceedings.
Today’s roasted artichoke with mustard and pork crackling snowed under clumps of parmesan shaving offer a glimpse of the chef’s creativity.
A 2014 Mount Vernon pinot gris is floral on the nose with ripened peach and stonefruits on the palate.
Beautifully balanced with a lingering dry finish, I am inclined towards seafood today to match the subtle intensity of this wine.
One of the hallmarks of a good restaurant is a constantly evolving menu that showcases the freshest ingredients of each season. And the menu today looks almost completely different since our previous visit just two months ago.
So we decide to share a few entrées to savour different flavours.
Cold smoked kingfish
The smoky sweet aromas of this kingfish smells like a honey-glazed ashtray while savoury notes are restrained. It’s like eating expensive ham except these thick slabs of smoked fish are more delicate and succulent than pork.
Deep golden bits of sourdough crust offer taste and textural contrast against pickled crème fraîche.
“The other entrées have yet to arrive but I think this will be my favourite” I declare.
Roast local grown mushrooms
Locally grown pine and shitake mushrooms are wonderfully earthy on their own.
But a sprinkling of crushed hazelnuts, shallots, creamy coffee and brown butter sabayon is stroke of ingenuity. Just like the chef’s heritage, it’s French but delightfully modern French.
Gently seared scallops
Gently seared scallops are jealously cloaked by impossibly thin shavings of Italian guanciale and a sprinkling of pumpkin seeds.
“Woah, this looks solid!” The Travelling Spud exclaims as he spoons a succulent scallop wrapped with a ribbon of guanciale for each of us.
The pumpkin puree is velvety rich with butter and egg yolk and the salt complexity of guanciale gentle. Charred gem lettuce laced with crunchy pumpkin seeds is a clever mop for the puree.
The pairing of pork and scallop has been done to death by Sydney restaurants. But Chef Zika‘s take on this dish is a game changer.
The sky was rather gloomy when we arrived but an hour into our lunch, the sun appears to greet us.
Grilled wagyu rump cap
The Travelling Spud‘s grilled wagyu rump cap has been marinated in black garlic and topped with crunchy bits of puffed quinoa.
Full marks to Chef Zika for presenting the meat on its own next to a puddle of confit jerusalem artichoke, lemon and garlic puree.
Medium rare is an excellent call and we notice a few eye-closing moments as the Spud slowly savours his meat.
The Spud is so named because of his love for potatoes.
“You will love these little potato balls” Mysaucepan tells him.
Crisp and golden brown, these dauphine potatoes are creamy and piping hot inside just like how we remember them to be.
A bowl of salad is fresh with cos hearts, radicchio, iceberg lettuce with a mustard lemon dressing.
The breast and leg of Miss Quintessential‘s roast spatchcock are cooked separately, first roasted for flavour, then sous vide in its own juices for tenderness and finished off in a pan for a crisp finish.
A crumbed endive is crisp with crunchy bits of peanut, parmesan and roast garlic to complement succulent chunks of spatchcock and creamy chickpea puree.
Parley oil and brown roasting juices add a subtle herb dimension to the meat.
Mysaucepan‘s seafood bisque is perfumed with quince and poured over seared mussels, cuttlefish and quince rouille toast.
This dish reeks of wonderful seafood aromas though I wonder if portion size is adequate as a main.
Butter poached Spanish mackerel
My butter poached Spanish mackerel is hidden under creamy clam beurre blanc with a garland of golden brown spatzle, capers, lemon and kale.
I love Spanish mackerel for its sweet, firm texture that flakes off along each contour of the meat. The rich clam beurre blanc add a glorious seafood dimension though I would have loved a bit more of it.
The spatzle is chewy crisp while capers and lemony kale lend acidity to this beautifully balanced dish. I am glad to have ordered this Spanish mackerel because it’s one I will try and replicate at home.
A pre-dessert cheese glass is a modern French cheese board with spoonfuls of tangy green apple jelly, crunchy walnuts and luscious blue cheese foam.
Caramel parfait & compressed water melon
Caramel parfait is buried by compressed watermelon cubes and a heap of salted caramel and crushed pistachio nuts. It’s nutty, creamy and refreshing all in one.
Chestnut tartlet is filled with chestnut jam, rum, chestnut cream and snowed with raw chestnut flakes.
It’s a beautiful chestnut-inspired dessert that is light, fluffy and not overly sweet.
Mandarin vacherin, meringue
Mandarin vacherin is encassed in two half spheres of crusty meringue sitting on a bed of organic yoghurt and sour honey powder.
Despite its yellow appearance, this vacherin is intense with mandarin fruit flavour that’s currently in season.
Aerated coconut chocolate crumble petit four served on driftwood gives a sense of our deep waterfront setting with its gentle, lapping waves as we sip our coffee.
Chef Zika wanders out of the kitchen to greet and tell us about his inspiration for the season, one of which is roast partridge as a special on the menu today.
We have been delighted by his cooking yet again and Sydney should be glad this modern French master has called this city home.
So dear readers, would you catch a seaplane to a restaurant for a special occasion?
Cottage Point Inn
2 Anderson Place, Cottage Point
New South Wales
Tel: +61 2 9456 1011
Opening hours: Lunch 7 days from 12 noon to 3pm, Dinner Friday, Saturday & Sunday 6.30pm – 9pm. Please note the restaurant will be closed every Tuesday & Wednesday from Tuesday 14th April until October 2015.
Seaplanes can be hired to transport guests to the restaurant athttp://www.seaplanes.com.au/
The Cottage Inn has a list of House Etiquette as follows:
- Children are welcome as there is a children’s menu. Parents are requested to keep children under supervision at all times as a courtesy to other guests.
- The restaurant is not on town water supplies and tap water is unsuitable for drinking. Bottled spring water may be ordered from the drinks menu.
- Taxis are difficult to book. Guests are requested to inform staff on arrival if they require one. Taxi companies will not guarantee acceptance of taxi hire.
- All major credit cards are accepted with a minimum charge of $25.
- Special requests for birthday cakes / dietary requirements will be met with pleasure with preferably a 48-hour notice. Cakes are not allowed to be brought to the restaurant.
- Smoking is not allowed in and around the restaurant. Ashtrays are provided near the fish pond at the entrance.
- In accordance with Liquor Licensing Laws, drinks must not be taken off the timber deck area.
- As pontoon space is limited, boat owners are requested to allow other patrons to “raft up”. The pontoon is not available for overnight stays and are required to be vacated after meals.
- Seaplanes, ferries and water taxis service the restaurant. Phone numbers and pricing information can be requested from the restaurant.
- There are two well-appointed apartments for overnight stays, one with a kitchenette.
- As the restaurant is located in a serene residential area, guests are requested to depart the premises quietly to respect the peace of the neighbours.