It’s not every day your beverages command their own seat at the table, but that’s exactly what occurred when I visited The Entrance Lake House last weekend.
Spying a forty-buck Craft Gin Tasting Board ($40/6 x 15ml) where you get to select your own gins from a sixteen-strong list proved too hard for me to resist. “It’s a good way to get the day going: a taster and midday feels like 5.30pm,” offers our waitress with a grin as she delivers the chair-mounted collection, encircling a glass of ice cubes.
Taking in the lovely view of Tuggerah Lake’s wide passage to the Tasman Sea from our window table, I work my way through the collection. While I won’t bore you with a full run-down, my two favourites were the Scottish-made, Japanese-inspired Jinzu Gin, and Husk Distillers’ Ink Gin made in Tumbulgum in Northern NSW.
Jinzu is flavoured with junmai sake, yuzu (Japanese citrus) and cherry blossoms with subtle juniper underneath, and drinks very nicely with some melted ice to lengthen it.
Ink Gin is more complex and savoury, speaking of sea plants before moving on to be dominated by more volatile aromatics like juniper, pine, orange peel and pepper berry. While I like it as a sipper, by adding tonic you get to really appreciate the science behind this colour-changing gin.
Not one to be out-done, my dining companion also orders a chair full of drinks with a Tasting Board ($40/6 x 15ml) from the Lake House’s fifteen-strong Scottish Whisky collection. Arranged by region with a helpful map, it’s Islay that impresses the most with the Bowmore 12-Year-Old being an easy winner with peat, smoke and vanilla. Downed with a Six String Pale Ale chaser from the venue’s Invitational Craft Beer ($9) tap, it’s certainly a nice way to kickstart your weekend.
The venue’s airy interior adds to the relaxed holiday ambience too, with wide archways, loads of natural light, slowly rotating ceiling fans and enough height for potted indoor palms.
The room’s centrepiece is an original 1903 wooden staircase that harks back to the building’s origins as a guesthouse for tourists exploring the newly opened Newcastle railway line.
The menu offers up one-plate-meal mains like Beer Battered Flathead ($27), or the option to eat tapas style. Cut into three long thin fingers, the aforementioned fish is fresh and well-handled with a good intensity of flavour against credible chips, tartare and salad.
The same batter doesn’t work quite so well on soft shell crab in Crab Two Ways ($16) as it’s a bit too heavy to really taste the crustacean interior. Combined with fairly bland claw meat, the crab is served in a nicely presented Asian-inspired green noodle salad that benefits from some additional seasoning.
Oysters ($36/dozen) don’t list provenance on the menu but were plump Sydney rocks on the day I dined. They were opened a bit early, so lost their tasty liquor making au natural a bit disappointing. Kilpatrick wanted for a bit more crispness on the bacon, while miso mornay was applied too heavily to taste the underlying bivalve.
Beef Carpaccio ($16) is a little on the small side for sharing, but it’s tasty and well-seasoned with truffle mayonnaise, toasted hazelnuts and Parmesan Reggiano cheese hiding under mixed leaves and edible flowers.
Wedges of Crispy Squid ($16) are nicely tender and well-suited to the smear of lightly spicy harissa aioli they’re served upon.
I’m less excited by the Roast Pumpkin Salad ($16) teaming walnuts, pear and not quite enough feta cheese with mixed leaves, so I’d probably skip it over in favour of dessert.
The latter runs from Panna Cotta ($16) topped with ice cream and tart stewed berries to creamy old-fashioned vanilla malt milkshakes.
While there’s better food to be found in other Central Coast venues, there’s a warmth and friendliness to this spot that’s appealing, with particular mention to the service delivered by our bubbly waitress Ashleigh, from Forresters Beach.
The Entrance Lake House
1 Oakland Avenue, The Entrance
Ph: (02) 4332 5253