Published in the City Hub and City News.
Gourmet gifts and restaurant experiences are always brilliant options for this year’s rapidly approaching Mother’s Day. To be sure you’re not caught short on Sunday 9th May, 2010 I’d suggest you reserve your table promptly. For me, the day is always a little fraught. Even with spending as much time as I do in restaurants, I am on tenterhooks when it comes to suggesting a restaurant to my Mother! Too often my idea of a great or interesting restaurant is met with a frown. She’s not a fan of austere modern decor; she finds silver service intimidating; and in recent years she has replaced the fiery chillies I recollect from childhood visits to Malaysia with blander, more conservative flavours. What’s a girl to do?
In preparation for this column I did a reconnaissance at Nick’s Seafood in the family friendly surrounds of Darling Harbour. I road-tested the Seafood Platter For Two ($159.50) with a rather lovely (and totally Mother-friendly) 2008 Clonale Chardonnay ($54/bottle). On the day I dined, the Airlie Beach Prawns were exceptional, the calamari was nicely tender, but the Moruya oysters were still a bit creamy. It’s a fairly straight-up seafood platter with a fair whack of fried seafood, but my Mum’s not against a ‘Fisherman’s Basket’. She’ll love the whole lobster, and feel chuffed when she’s singled out for a glass of sparkling wine on the house.
www.nicks-seafood.com.au or call (02) 9264 1212
Salt and Pepper Prawns ($31.80) are an absolute highlight at Neptune Palace Restaurant in Circular Quay. They’re experts at both Malay and Chinese dishes and have a cracking wine list that will please even the fussiest drinker – I’d suggest taking a train. Their large menu makes it hard to choose so it’s lucky that on Mother’s Day they are offering a sumptuous Seafood Banquet ($78/head) at a really exceptional price when you consider it contains prawns, lobster with ginger and shallot, salmon and delectable Kelantan scallops. Everyone at the table will get a free glass of bubbly to get the meal off on the right foot.
www.neptunepalace.com.au or call (02) 9241 3338
At the pricier end of things, Flying Fish’s Head Chef Jodie Wallace has designed a six course Degustation Menu ($165/head) using only the freshest Australian seafood. Take into consideration that they’ve got a gift sewn up too though, because the price also includes a copy of ‘Recipes My Mother Cooked’ for Mum. It’s personally signed by Peter Kuruvita who had this to say: “Growing up Mum taught me to be self sufficient from a young age and being able to share her recipes with food lovers is a way I can show thanks. Mother’s Day at Flying Fish is going to be a special occasion and we hope guests will enjoy our exceptional degustation menu.”
www.flyingfish.com.au or call (02) 9518 6677
The King Street Wharf precinct is also a great choice with an array of restaurants including Eleven Kitchen & Cellar, Steersons Steakhouse and Malaya, with offers to suit all budgets. The Spring Bay Tasmanian Mussel specialists, Bungalow 8, are offering a Ladies Who Lunch ($40/head) selection of accessible sharing plates with a free glass of bubbles for Mum. If she’s a bit adventurous, go for innovative Japanese at Kobe Jones for a Mother’s Day Menu ($85/head) which includes crab salad stuffed with avocado wrapped in snapper and then baked with a secret sauce. They’ll reward Mums with a rose and chocolates upon arrival. If Mum finds walking difficult, the whole precinct is serviced by a handy new parking station right across the road.
There’s something about Mums and baking that goes hand in hand. Accomplished bakers could still learn a trick or two from Deniz Gokturk’s Turkish Bakery Delight (RRP $29.95) released this month by New Holland. Turkey is situated on the “crossroads between Europe, Asia and Africa”, and it has a lot to offer bakers, especially if you like sesame seeds, walnuts, pistachios, cheese, black cumin seeds and cinnamon. Mum will soon be baking Tahini Bread, Pastry Cigars and Yoghurt Cakes which will make a nice change from last week’s Anzac Biscuits!
It might not be a recent release, but Luke Nguyen’s The Songs of Sapa (RRP $69.95) would still make a wonderful Mother’s Day gift. The book documents in words, recipes and photos Luke’s personal and culinary journey into Vietnam, culminating in Saigon where he is reunited with family. The recipes even get a seal of approval from other Vietnamese restauranteurs. During a wonderfully fragrant meal at Darlinghurt’s new An Nam Bar and Grill, French-Vietnamese owner Sonia Cru said if you follow Luke’s recipes precisely “the flavours and aromas of each dish mirror exactly what you would find in a Vietnamese home”. It’s in stock at The Essential Ingredient in Rozelle. It’s also available on a DVD called Luke Nguyen’s Vietnam (RRP $29.95) from JB Hi-Fi.
If your Mum is already a great cook, food blogger Jules Clancy has a gift that will keep her recipes alive for years to come. She’s offering an instructional ebook to show Mum how easy it is to create her own professional, personalised family cookbook. Jules lost her Mum to cancer in 2007. Last year she shared her Mum's no-fuss Australian recipes in a self-published cookbook called And The Love Is Free ($29.95). If you buy it, you’ll get her ebook guide How to Bake Your Family Cookbook ($9.95) thrown in for free.
If cakes are the way to your Mum’s heart, High Tea with a Twist ($45/person) at The Loft High Tea Lounge makes a great alternative to lunch. Enjoy mouth watering savoury treats, tasty tea infused cocktails and delicious sweets.
www.theloftsydney.com or call (02) 9299 4770
You can also partake of delicious fresh cut sandwiches, Danishes, pastries, scones, petit fours and a glass of sparkling wine above the Sydney skyline at Astral Bar. Their High Tea ($65/head) will be a little more upbeat than most with live music on offer too.
www.astralrestaurant.com.au or call 1800 700 700
If you’re not so keen on eating those calorific cakes, give Mum a gift voucher so she can take a friend to the Opera High Tea ($145/head) at the Sydney Opera House. It’s a gorgeous waterside setting - an acoustically perfect room in a World Heritage listed building – plus great cakes and a chance to get up close and personal with an Opera principal. She can redeem her voucher as early as May 19th.
www.sydneyoperahouse.com or call (02) 9250 7250
If lofty heights are not for you, celebrate a more down-to-earth Mother's Day at Rozelle’s Ruby L'otel. Mums get to choose from an extensive selection of delicious menus and sip on complimentary champagne during lunch and dinner. Chef has come up with an extra special strawberry mascarpone dessert to mark the occasion; and word on the street is that Firass Dirani (star of Underbelly: The Golden Mile) has been known to dine there too, so keep your eyes peeled!