Sydney is truly beautiful; the views are stunning from every angle. Yes, Melbourne has its pockets of beauty, but overall its looks can be best described like that of a brooding Emo.
But alas, beauty comes at a price. Especially on Sundays and Public Holidays when everyone in Sydney applies a 10% surcharge to everything, which apparently was outlawed in May 2009 through an amendment to the Trade Practices Act, yet this is ignored by restaurateurs.
And this is a shame, because the prices at Catalina already push into the $50 bracket for some mains and another 10% on top of that just becomes a little crazy, irrespective of the stunning views. This is not a Melbourne person baulking at Sydney prices, in fact it’s far from it. If a dish is fantastic and becomes an experience as opposed to a plate of food, its price is totally justified.
Which bring me to others’ reviews on their dining experience. One person on another site gives Catalina 10/10 for food, service, ambience and value, stating that they dine there a couple of times a week and “… for those that are finding faults with the price / portions of the meals – your (sic) obviously not well equipped to be dining at this restaurant.”
Well equipped? What the fuck does that mean?
OK, this is a long, drawn out way to get to my point, but here it is. I do find fault with Catalina’s prices and in particular the portion size. In most instances, the dishes themselves fell down in the flavour department. If you are paying mid-thirties for an entrée and mid-fifties for a main course, the dishes on offer should be pushing into OMFG experience territory.
My Tuna Carpaccio with soy and citrus dressing was six small discs of paper-thin tuna (probably no more than 20 grams of protein on the plate), flavoured with a ho-hum dressing (as advertised) and a scattering of micro herbs. I’ve had better and it was just very pedestrian. My fellow diners also reported their dishes weren’t exactly rocking their worlds either; the natural oysters with tobiko (flying fish roe) lacked some punch from the accompanying lime and chilli and the seared Queensland sea scallops with zucchini and goats cheese croquettes and tomato frito was under seasoned.
However, there were some good news stories from other parts of the table; the confit pork belly with cuttlefish, fennel purée, pancetta and lentils received a big, fat tick. In hindsight, I should have stuck with my initial choice of Catalina house smoked salmon with soft boiled duck egg, truffle mayonnaise and brioche. I somehow think I would have been very happy with this dish.
Mains again, varied in terms of our satisfaction. More so there were elements of dishes that were disappointing. In terms of flavour, my special of kingfish with chorizo, squid and chickpeas was bang on. Equally so was the quality and doneness of the fish. Unfortunately the chickpeas were underdone and mealy, which was a shame.
Two fellow diners opted for the double roasted pasture-raised free range Burrawong duck à l’orange; it was reported as OK, if not a little dry. However praise all round for the pan fried snapper fillet with potato and garlic mash; lemon caper butter and the 200 day grain fed beef tenderloin with gnocchi romaine; truffle, mushroom and pancetta salsa.
Catalina bake their own excellent quality sourdough bread and this is offered generously from taking your order through to the main course.
For dessert, we took on two of the dessert selection plates, which feature five smaller desserts from the menu. We were served the classic lemon tart with mascarpone, a dark chocolate mousse with salted caramel centre and caramel ice cream, a Vanilla bean crème brûlée with marmalade ice cream, white chocolate, fromage frais, cherry cheese cake with sour cherry ice cream and the honeycomb parfait with chocolate brownie and caramel. All desserts were well presented. Unfortunately the first forkful of the dark chocolate mousse with salted caramel centre brought with it a great big hair. Very off-putting, however the extremely apologetic server removed the dessert plate and a new one was eventually brought to the table.
Aside from the hair, the desserts were wonderful. Each one met or exceeded our palate’s expectation and the standouts were the sour cherry ice cream and the hairless version of the dark chocolate mousse with salted caramel centre was my favourite.
Our unofficial way of rating a place it by its cheese selection. For $43 we received a portion of cheddar, brie and blue. The brie and blue were perfectly ripened and in their prime. The cheddar was a bit lacklustre in the flavour department. The accompanying walnut bread was excellent and the quince paste, muscatels, etc, were of your normal garden variety.
Throughout the day we stuck with the 2010 Shaw & Smith Sauvignon Blanc, which attracted the expected 300% mark up. We drank more than a few bottles of wine, so we were mindful that our price point wasn’t too steep. Catalina’s wine list is extensive and mostly expensive. We paired our cheese with the 2009 Punt Road Botrytis Semillon ($92).
Would we go back? Probably not, given it’s Sydney and we’re in Melbourne and there are 100’s of other places to experience.
Was it worth it? No. I’ve had much more memorable meals at $250 per head… although there was that stunning view.
To top off a day of highs and lows, the cabs we ordered to take us to our next point of call refused to take us because of the distance (a 5 minute drive), so we hopped on a Watsons Bay-bound ferry and enjoyed some cleansing beers on the deck of the Watsons Bay Hotel, watching the sun go down over Sydney. At least we ended on a high.
Lyne Park, Rose Bay NSW 2029
(02) 9371 0555
Good for: the stunning vista, catching a sea plane to hang out at Summer Bay
Not good for: owners that stroll around with self importance, reeling off chef’s names as close friends and associates. We don’t care.