I’m wary of the harbourside restaurants in Sydney. Apart from two or three exceptions, my experiences have usually been rather tepid – either average food at high pay-for-the-view prices or just downright subpar, though thankfully the latter is rare. Usually, I end up thinking to myself “I could do better for less of an impact on my wallet”. You really are just paying for the view, nobody’s trying to kid anybody here.
As they say – there’s no such thing as a bad product, just bad pricing (well, unless your food poisons you). That’s why I keep going back – harbourside restaurants are undoubtedly very good venues for hosting birthday dinner parties and similar celebratory functions.
It is with this thought in mind that I visit Nick’s Bar & Grill for a friend’s 21st – let’s see how it fares!
Date Last Visited: 27/4/13
Address: The Promenade King St Wharf Sydney, NSW 2000
Recommended Dish(es): Prime ‘angus’ fillet steak served on creamy mash, sauteed asparagus & hollandaise sauce
Nick’s actually owns several harbourside restaurants – Nick’s Seafood, Cyren, Adria, and so on. You may notice a consistency between them; this is why.
The Bar & Grill tends to draw upon a little bit of every other restaurant – so you have not just seafood, but a whole host of other proteins and pastas to suit your fancy. For the 21st, a set menu was chosen. These range from $58 to $80. In this particular case, A $75 menu was chosen. Keep this in mind when you consider the value proposition of the whole meal.
The antipasto plate is designed to be shared between 3-4 people. I’m always a sucker for a bruschetta, so it was a pretty good start. I avoided the other plain breads – there’s just no reason to go there when I have bruschetta on the menu. Well, I lied, I did have half a slice to try out the cheeses and the fish roe mix (taramasalata). They were quite punchy and definitely welcome on otherwise plain bread.
I also ended up trying one, ONE olive. It was strong as expected, and I tried no more – I’m not a fan of eating whole olives; my tastebuds get overloaded pretty easily.
There was a choice between either a hot entree or a cold one (to share, of course). Between me and my table neighbours, we decided to get one of each to try out the full spectrum. If I had just once choice, I’d have gone with the seafood platter. Health nut? Hah, you should see what I eat on my workout days :S
I was a fan of the oysters more than anything. They’re smaller than your standard Pacific, and thus a much more delicate morsel to consume – there’s no hiding of staleness here. Good thing they’re very fresh and plump! The mussels were OK, though didn’t really jump out at me with any flavour sensation. You get the texture of it and then it just passes away with little fanfare.
Smoked salmon is good as always; made me wish I still had some bread and feta actually.
You just knew the other option was going to be deep-fried: this is how Nick’s will cater to anyone. I felt that this dish was a let down as it tasted quite soggy – very little spring & crispiness to the batter. The local fish and chips will do it better in this department.
Random salad to boot…though actually useful to cut through the oiliness of some of the heavier dishes.
There was a choice of three mains, and I regretted not choosing the steak. For me this was the pick of the night. The use of a rather cut is a smart idea – I’m a little prissy when it comes to steaks – rumps/T-bones don’t do it for me, it has to be the tenderloin.
I very much liked this faux-filet mignon – the steak itself was done within reason, and the usage of hollandaise sauce was a rather surprising and zesty twist. It may not be to your palate, but it worked well, cushioned with the starchiness of an ample amount of rosti underneath. This dish simply works.
The barramundi is another main choice. Whoa, that dish certainly looks a lot more oily than it actually is! In this case, the deceiving look is definitely in my favour. The fish itself was rather bland, and the sauce does only a little bit to actually bring it up a notch – but mostly it was just lemony squeeze which doesn’t carry enough substance to fully eke out the fish. It was cooked well though – tender enough, and a decent consistency.
This was actually the main I chose – when they said “fried” I didn’t expect a “deep fry”. That changes the landscape somewhat. It’s quiet good though – if you can get past the copious (or generous?) amounts of batter the fish inside yields great flavour when had with the zesty tartare sauce.
I was full after just one piece of it! Truly, the set menu will fill you up. We haven’t even reached desserts yet.
And now we have! As with the previous dishes, you get a choice between either the creme brulee or the fondant & ice cream combo.
Not too much to say here, the brulee was about what I’d expect. The hard caramel coating cracks surely enough, while the biscotti goes quite nicely with the custard beneath. I felt that the biscotti was necessary to complete the experience.
Unfortunately, this fondant flopped quite badly – the signature of a good fondant is that you get a chocolate river oozing out when you cut it open. Granted, I’ve seen many restaurants get this wrong so not going to ape too much on Nick’s for it. Still, it’s not a successful fondant.
Taste-wise, it was like a tough-ish spongecake which really needed the ice cream to balance it out. It’s pretty much the only way these desserts could work. Thankfully, the ice cream was extraordinarily refreshing – especially due to the heaviness of the food that was had eariler.
Is Nick’s a good option for your next restaurant visit when you have $75 (pp) in your pocket? Not if you’re hunting after quality. But, if you’re going for the views, or hosting a party and want a nice location, you make a decent enough choice choosing Nick’s.
As usual, feel free to leave a comment or three
Awesome: it’s got the harbourside charm
Not so Awesome: quality of food is average, or below average if price is taken into account