Sometimes I can't help it but the Australianisms pour out of my mouth.
"How's the serenity?" a loud voice emanating from my chest bellows as I slide open the balcony doors and inhale deeply. It's the silence combined with the sea air. All the stresses of the past week dissolve as if hands were kneading away knots and my anxious mood from the drive disappears. Instant contentment, you can't bottle it.
Bannister's at Mollymook is a south coast hideaway perched on a headland at the end of a quiet street in the seaside town three and a half hour's drive from Sydney. The building was originally built in the 1970's as a seaside motel and the bones still remain in the courtyard and layout of the rooms but what lies behind the door is far from motel.
Our room #29 is the Green Island Penthouse suite. With over 100 square metres of internal space and 40 square metres of outdoor deck, it is expansive and decorated in modern creams and neutral shades. It's the sort of suite that would house newlyweds. Bannisters and indeed the South Coast is a popular destination for weddings and group vacations.
Mr NQN gets busy with the fireplace (alas we can't get it to work despite calling maintenance) while I take a look in the suite. The sitting room adjoins the kitchenette that contains a comprehensive selection of tea with a reasonably priced mini bar (Toblerone is $3, soft drink $4) and there's a gas cooktop, dishwasher and outdoor bbq for those that want to self cater. And delightfully, there is a lemon and a knife for those people (like me) that like to have a hot water and lemon drink in the morning. There are also a range of spa items for sale available for purchase in the room.
Sliding doors separate the living room from the bedroom and I hear Mr NQN in the bedroom. "You're going to like this," he says and I follow his voice. The king sized bed is very comfortable and over the next two nights, I get a well rested sleep.
The bathroom is enormous with giant oval bath on the right - it's big enough to probably fit three people (not that my mind immediately wanders to threesomes). The marble floors are heated (bliss!). The sink holds a range of amenities from facial bar, shampoo, conditioner, body wash, body lotion, toothbrushes, shower caps and vanity kits.
Behind one of the two frosted doors there a toilet (one of two in the suite) and the other holds the suite's very old steam room.
Because of the motel style layout and the fact that it is very popular for holidaying groups, it can get noisy when people walk past the room. Internet is said to be included (and it is needed if you're with Optus or Vodafone as signal is very patchy in the area) but when Belinda and I both check in at different times, we aren't offered internet codes and instead make use of the 10 minutes for free every four hours thinking that this is the included internet.
There are complimentary activities like stand up paddleboarding, push bikes and breakfast is included in the tariff. The infinity resort pool looks out to the view and there are plenty of wooden lounges available as well as a snooker and games room.
But what many come for is the restaurant open with Rick Stein in 2009 called what else but Rick Stein at Bannisters. The restaurant is very full this Saturday night and we needed to book dinner here a few weeks ahead. Starting the evening at the pool bar with cocktails I have memories flooding back of our visit here a few years ago with Mr NQN's family.
There is also casual food available here including pizzas, salads and salt and pepper squid and there is a range of Bannisters signature cocktails. Mr NQN goes for a Japanese Slipper and Belinda has a martini. I go for a Stassen elderflower and lime cider which is very drinkable and before I know it, I've downed half of it and am on my way to be very "happy."
Breads and dips $10
The grilled Turkish bread is delicious. Served toasty warm and fresh, it comes as six olive oil drizzled pieces with small pots of olive oil, dukkah and hummus. I probably should have eaten more than one piece as the effects of the cider started to get to me and I started pretending to be a cat sitting in one of the enormous egg chairs suspended from the roof.
"Come on kitty," Belinda says and we enter the Rick Stein at Bannister's restaurant. It's very busy and there aren't any white tablecloths, it's more South Coast luxury with nice artwork and large windows that when it is light show the view of the native trees. Rick is said to visit the property 6-7 times a year.
There is already a small bowl of black and green olives infused in garlic oil on the table and we nibble on these while contemplating the large one page menu. Prices for entrees are reasonable and range from $19 - $38 for the fruits de mer plate for one (we see a few of these go past and it looks fantastic). Mains however are on the pricey side and range from $39-$47 for a fish curry.
Service is very friendly and attentive but items can be slow to arrive once offered. Also we only wanted to order one fish pie (at $44, it is not an inexpensive item) but we are told that we need two and that they insist that they are going to bring two which appears pushy. The bread comes out warmed with a nori and regular butter. The nori butter is salty and has a little hint of fishiness to it. I particularly like the bread dipped in the garlic oil from the olives.
Oysters Charentaise $27
There are a range of oysters on the menu but there is one dish that sounds interesting - the combination of oysters and sausage. They arrive as six oysters and three fat, short sausages. You are to eat an oyster and take a bite of the sausage and then have a sip of chilled white wine. The oysters, served with just lemon and the spicy sausage are fantastic together and the sausages don't shy away from spice at all. It's a great combination and we also enjoy the sausages by themselves.
Prawn fritters with Rick's tomato chutney and Kachumber salad $24
The prawn fritters are said to be from Rick's latest book on Indian cooking and they're freshly fried battered king prawns served with his spicy Indian tomato chutney and kachumber salad. The chutney is heady in spice and the prawns succulent and well cooked.
Warm shellfish plate $54 for two
The warm shellfish plate is my favourite course. Generously portioned for two, there are clams, mussels, prawns (one king and lots of school), oysters, crab and scallops on the shell. These are simply cooked with parsley, chilli, olive oil, garlic and lemon juice and this allows the natural flavour of the seafood to come through. They offer us more bread which we happily accept to mop up the delicious sauce on the plate.
Bannisters Fish Pie with broccolini $44
After all the discussion they only bring one pie in the end and it wasn't because we insisted on only one but because they decided that we only needed one. Thank goodness because by now I am getting really full. The fish pie comes with a crispy crumb crust and is full of salmon, blue eye trevalla, snapper, scallops, mushrooms and prawns in a creamy veloute sauce with a hint of truffle. It comes with broccolini and toasted almonds which is a good pairing with the creamy pie.
Indonesian Seafood Curry with Swordfish, ling, squid and prawns $47
In hindsight, it would have been prudent to order just one curry but we ordered two. The first is a creamy curry with lots of Indonesian spices and aromas. There is lots of seafood including both swordfish and line, curls of squid and large king prawns. It comes with rice and a bowl of chilli coconut, green bean and bean sprouts which you are to add for spice and texture. This little accompaniment adds a lot to this dish.
Madras fish curry $46
This is the stronger Southern Indian curry so we ate this last. The blue eyed trevalla curry has a tomato and tamarind base with plenty of mustard seeds and curry leaves. It's a bold curry and spicy too. It comes with a soft, puffy naan, mango chutney and a kachumber salad on the side.
Accompaniments for the curries
There are four choices for dessert plus an affogato, cheese selection and ice cream and sorbets. They are items like a chocolate fondant, panna cotta and sticky date pudding. To be honest we're completely full up at this point and the only thing that we're curious about is the roulade so we order that to share.
Roulade of soft meringue, pistachio, lemon and lavender cream $16
It's a lovely dessert and just what we needed. The roulade is feather light egg white meringue spread with lemon and lavender cream and rolled up. It's dusted with pistachios and served with a scoop of lemon and lavender ice cream, fruit curd and segments of orange and pink grapefruit. It's a refreshing end to the meal.
That evening, we draw a bath and relax in our suite. The bed has been so comfortable that I have risen before my alarm each day, well rested and ready to go. Breakfast is served until 10:30am in the Rick Stein restaurant and is a standard buffet breakfast with bacon, sausages, mushroom and fried and scrambled eggs. There is fresh fruit, toast, croissants and English muffins. Everything is included in the tariff except for the coffees. I go for black pudding and scrambled eggs.
But it is the a la carte menu that has me interested. There are three items on the a la carte menu at $9.95 each including grilled Scottish kippers. Never having had kippers before I order a serve of these. "What do you call that?" Mr NQN asks peering at the kipper sounding just like Darryl Kerrigan from the movie The Castle. The kipper is enormous and it is almost like having an entire smoked trout to yourself. The kippers are grilled with butter and split open. The smoked kippers are salty and fishy (kippers are herrings) although I do like them with the scrambled eggs and croissant. We retire to our suite where we pass the time watching two bunnies hopping around the gardens.
So tell me Dear Reader, have you ever tried oysters and sausages together? Would you go for seafood at a restaurant like Rick Stein's or would you prefer meat? And when you stay at a hotel do you make use of the bath?
NQN and Mr NQN stayed as guests of Bannisters and were given a $150 credit for their meal at Rick Stein at Bannisters but paid the balance.
Rick Stein at Bannisters and Bannisters Point Lodge
191 Mitchell Parade, Mollymook NSW
Tel: +61 (02) 4455 3044