While Chopinand loves his steaks and burgers, I love seafood and more than that, I adore shellfish, especially prawns, crabs, lobsters, scallops, oysters, mussels and clams.
So when I heard there was a New England style clam bake at The Bucket List for $85 per person as part of the Crave Sydney Festival, I dived in for a girls’ day out without hesitation.
It’s a typical Sydney spring day when the sun is smiling down on scantily clad beach there’s a balmy breeze.
What better way to enjoy this day than at Sydney’s most famous beach with an icy cocktail and fresh seafood at The Bucket List, at the Bondi Pavilion, with breathtaking beach vista.
As you can tell from the name, The Bucket List doesn’t take itself too seriously. Seafood here is served in playful metal buckets from prawns to mussels and fish and chips.
Loungey wicker chairs, laid back wooden benches and colourful milk crates dot the outdoor area while bamboo lamps and distressed timber walls inside add to the casual chic seaside theme.
Cheeky staff in nautical hats and witty t-shirts invite you to “Suck me, shuck me, eat me raw”.
I arranged to catch up with my girlfriend SL over this indulgent seafood lunch and to walk off the calories afterwards at the Sculptures By The Sea, an annual activity on my “arts bucket list”.
We are seated on communal wooden benches, with buckets of chilled wine, serviettes and metal plates and lots of shared platters for a convivial atmosphere.
We started the soiree with a refreshing ginger, mint and lime cocktail and a glass of Chardonnay, followed by two spring salads – snow peas, french beans, feta and almonds, followed by shaved fennel, cabbage and radish.
A clam chowder with Iggy’s sourdough signaled the New England start to the lunch. This warming soup is known for its thick hearty potato flavours studded with chopped clams but the version at The Bucket List was a little watered down and lacking in the strong briny seafood flavours. I thought I would reserve my appetite for the grand dame – the clam bake.
A typical clam bake begins with gathering seaweed at the shoreline. A fire pit is built on the beach and stones heated over the fire and alternating layers of seaweed and seafood wrapped in potato sacks are piled on top of one another and buried in the sand.
The entire mound is covered with canvas that has been drenched in sea water to seal in the heat and provide a steaming chamber. The food gently steams over the seaweed to impart a briny sea aroma, which gives this dish its unique flavour.
In Sydney style, this dish is updated to today’s environment. It’s not practical to casually start a bonfire on a crowded beach and bury the food in the sand so The Bucket List starts a wood fire over makeshift oil barrels cut in half that can be closed to simulate the same steaming chamber.
A medley of seafood is wrapped in muslin bags instead of traditional potato sacks to seal in the moisture and provide a steaming blanket for the seafood.
Before the main course arrived, we were handed sharp scissors which sparked our curiosity. Who would have thought we would have to be armed and dangerous at a civilized lunch? When the clam bake arrived, we were relieved. The seafood was wrapped in a rustic white muslin parcel, tightly tied at the top with kitchen strings.
All that was needed was a simple snip of the strings to reveal a celebration of lobster tail, giant Cloudy Bay clams, tiger prawns and mussels. But the scissors did come in handy as a shucking device to prise open a few tightly closed clams.
We tuck into the seafood medley, experimenting with the trio of interesting sauces and lemon wedges. The sweet lobster tasted best with drawn butter, the giant prawns luscious with seafood mayonnaise and the clams were great in their own juices or with the garlicky potato aioli. With their different cooking times, it’s difficult to ensure that prawns cook evenly with the clams and true enough, one of my prawns was unfortunately under-cooked.
The sides fared better – the grilled corn on the corb were sweet and juicy and the baked potato fluffy and hearty with butter and chives.
The New England theme continued with dessert in the form of a blueberry and mulberry cobbler. Both SL and I love dessert so we have been looking forward to the sweet finish.
The cobbler was crusty at the top, spongy in the middle and sweet and unctuous at the bottom.
When drizzled with the slightly tart lemon curd cream, it’s the perfect way to end the meal. In fact, it was so good, we both succumbed to second helpings!
However, we assuaged our guilt afterwards by going for a two hour walk to admire the annual Sydney arts event – Sculptures By The Sea.
Sand, seafood, sculptures – what is a more quintessentially Sydney experience than that?
The Bucket List
Queen Elizabeth Drive
Bondi beach, Sydney
New South Wales
Tel: +61 2 9365 4122
Business hours: Open everyday 11am – 12am