Nielsen Park in Vaucluse is one of those lovely areas that I frequented when I was a teen and growing up, the Beach House or kiosk as it is more commonly known, is one I used to go to a lot for my fix of ice creams or more grown up fare. So on this Sunday I'm filled with a bit of nostalgia walking along the promenade. A part of me swears the same families are walking past me as the ones that were there 20 years ago.
In Sydney where anything that is waterfront is expensive to dine at (I'm looking at you Balmoral Beach!), it is amazingly good value with all dishes under the $20 mark. In fact the most expensive thing is $18.50 (no wonder we see some bottles of Veuve Cliquot carried to other tables). The atmosphere and decor is like someone's Beach House with mismatched cushions, wooden chairs and white paper tablecloths. It's unpretentious and friendly despite the very upmarket neighbourhood. There is an all day breakfast as well as items such as burger, fish and chips etc but the blackboard which changes weekly features more creative fare. When facing the building, the cafe is on the left whilst the takeaway with ice creams is on the right.
It has to be said, the coffee is fantastic which is a great start.
Our plate of antipasto arrives and it looks mouthwatering in colour and in variety. There is salami with thinly sliced pickles, Persian feta and proscuitto, bocconcini and grilled capsicum, an slightly spicy guacamole type of spread, green and black olives, smoked salmon and a babagannoush and it all comes with toasted bread and croccante wafers.
The Persian feta and proscuitto are my favourites whilst Mr NQN loves the avocado/guacamole spread-calling it a guacamole doesn't quite describe the freshness from the parsley. The black olives are soft whilst the green olives are fat and plump but firmer and stick to the pip. There are 2 sheets of fresh smoked salmon with caperberry and the baba gannoush is smokey. Neither of us particularly like bocconcini but spreading the bread with a dip and popping the quail egg sized cheese balls on top we enjoy them.
The three cheeses for the corn fritters are parmesan, feta and ricotta and the feta and ricotta are particularly pronounced in the taste. The corn kernels are plentiful although a bit too firm for me and the overall cake has a nice texture to it with strings of melted cheese once cut and it goes well with the spicy chorizo and the tomato chutney which is a flavoursome adjunct to the creamy cheese and corn fritter.
The salt and pepper squid, a dish that we always order if we see it is as MR NQN puts it "seriously tender". In fact it's so melt in the mouth I have to check that it's actually squid (it is). It's well seasoned and the tenderness is incredible. Antonio, the manager of Nielsen Park Kiosk who reminds us of Harry in Sex and the City has been looking after us and he gives us some of their homemade tartare sauce too. The chips are fried until golden crisp.
The Chicken Cacciatore is made with fresh tomato, and has a rich, thick sauce with tomato, carrots, celery and onion. It's cooked and served on the bone which we love (more flavour!) and is cooked until very tender and easily falls off the bone. The parsnip puree is a fitting accompaniment and helps mop up the delicious sauce.
We can barely fit any more in but the sound of the cumquat jam entices me as I love sweet cumquats. The bottom is a little roughly finished but it has a generous speckling of vanilla bean at the top as well and it is very creamy indeed which goes well with the sweet but slightly tart cumquats and tart fresh raspberries. The dust is puzzling, it's not really needed and there isn't much of it so we assume it's more there for decorative value.
The elegant chocolate marquise is like a ganache crossed with a mousse. Light but still richly chocolatey it really comes into its own with the espresso anglaise. Even though I have already declared myself full one course ago, the emergency dessert stomach kicks in and I keep spooning.
It's a beautiful sunny day so we go for a walk along the promenade and up to Greycliffe house where I have fantasies of organising a Halloween party one day!
So tell me Dear Reader, what do you think? Is the house perfect for a Halloween party or what?
NQN and Mr NQN dined as guests of Nielsen Park Beach House.
Nielsen Park Beach House
Greycliffe Avenue, Vaucluse, NSW
Tel: +61 (02) 9337 7333
Open 7 days from 8am