Our drive up to Palm Beach is an ill timed one at best. Ill timed because of several reasons. It's a Friday night and Queen Viv is making her way from Double Bay through to Potts Point where she'll pick up Miss America and then drive to our place. What's stopping her is the 4 accidents and/or breakdowns along the way which ensure that they both arrive at our doorstep after 2 hours of strenuous inch-by-inch kerb crawling traffic. Ill timed because it is absolutely pouring down with rain and has been doing so all day despite the calendar indicating that it is Summer. Ill timed because we are now almost an hour late for our dinner reservation at a place that offers a spectacular view, yet we cannot see a trace of it because it is so late and the sheets of rain obscuring our view of anything in front of us.
Palm Beach is one of those far flung Northern Beaches retreats, 41km from the CBD where wealthy folk and celebrities own houses (think the Hamptons of Sydney). For fans of the Australian soap, it's also where the outdoor scenes are filmed for Home & Away. The neighbourhood liquor store advertises "Free Delivery" for Champagne orders and there's a general sense of money and laid back lifestyle. Set at Latitude 33 degrees 35'29 S Longitude 151degrees 19' 26E, Dunes is set inside Governor Phillip Park and you can get there either by seaplane, bus or car. The drive by car there is about an hour from the lower North Shore and by the time we arrive and find the entrance we fall upon it, hungry and tired. It reminds me of overseas resorts, the sea scent pervading the air and even though it's raining, there's the ever present humidity. The last time we were out here was for that fantastic weekend staying at the Barrenjoey Lighthouse.
We're shown to our table in the restaurant. It's comfortably decorated in a beach house style with nice big brown leather lounges next to a fireplace and well spaced tables all lit by candlelight and the whole room is lit with rows of tiny fairylights. We're shown the menus. They differ quite a bit from the one on the website and we make our selections quickly. After all, we're hungry and there are items that are just begging to be eaten like the Free Range Duck and the Tandoori spiced Rack of Lamb.
My entree of the Crab arrives, a cucumber encircled mound of white crab meat. The crab meat isn't bad and there is quite a bit of it in the dish. The avocado and ruby grapefruit pairs well with it, the very hard toast not so much as it's extremely crunchy and dry compared to the delicate crab meat.
Queen Viv both have the Sydney Rock Oysters with Campari granita which they seem very satisfied with, Miss America holding up the shot glass of granita to his mouth to gather every drop. Curiously there is no bread given during the meal although there are plates for bread set on the table.
Queen Viv's duck is two large pieces of free range duck, cooked beautifully so that the skin is soft and crisp and the meat is tender inside. It's a sizeable dish and one that she can't finish, despite her best efforts. And she has no shortage of volunteers to help her finish it with all of us eagerly partaking in the mouthwatering duck.
My husband's Lamb is perfection. I don't believe I've ever had lamb this soft and pink inside and hubby knows that he has a winner. Queen Viv and Miss America, both New Zealanders who know their lamb are both enraptured by the softness of the meat too.
My Boullaibaise is enormous and packed full of seafood. There's scallops, fish, prawns and mussels as well as sauteed spinach and the mere sight of this vivid scarlet plate packed full of seafood has me excited. The prawns were a little overcooked but the fish and the scallops were deliciously soft.
Still for that amount of seafood I am not complaining and the accompanying buttered herbed toast and mayonnaise are delicious (although I would have loved another slice or two of this).
Miss America's fish was good and decently sized but after the outstanding lamb and duck he can't feel a comparatively like he should have chosen one of those. But due to the enormous serving sizes, we do a bit of impromptu plate swapping and he gets to try a bit of everything.
By now the torrential downpour shows no sign of abating so we rush to the car. Former road torture victims Queen Viv and Miss America, ensconced in the warmth and dryness of our car declare that it was well worth the drama.
Dunes at Palm Beach
1193 Barrenjoey Rd
Palm Beach 2108 NSW
Tel: +61 (02) 9974 3332
Tue-Sun 8.30am-11.30am, Tue-Sun 11.30am-4pm
American Express not accepted (Visa card is accepted)