Alex Harmon finds her way around the new, post-International Convention Centre, Darling Harbour...
Sometimes I spend too much time in dingy dive bars drinking cocktails from used soup cans and mopping up fries loaded with cheese curds and bacon bits that I forget how the other half dine. You know, with natural lighting and a classic, seasonal menu. Harbour Bar and Grill is one such place that reminds me of the other way to dine. It's got water views, it's got wait-staff who smile; it's got a huge list of meaty options. Not to say it's boring.
The menu is inventive and bold with a focus on smoked meats and a slight twist on some Aussie classics. I mean, where else can you get a crocodile burger? The Chargrilled Crocodile Burger ($24) isn’t a gimmick either, I’ve had a croc. pie in Darwin (definite gimmick) but here it’s cooked superbly with that wood-fired taste, smoked zucchini and beetroot relish - delicious.
On the more delicate side is the Grilled Scallops ($21) – it’s like something you’d see at a wedding, served with quinoa and apple salad, and butternut squash puree.
Darling Harbour just screams out for cocktails and the signature cocktail list here has some hits, especially the elegant Kiss in Kyoto ($17) with pear vodka, hints of Frangelico, apple juice and egg white. The Frozen Strawberry and Basil Margarita ($17) is good, if a tad O.T.T. with its snow cone vibe. Charming waiter Jacopo wants us to order the bruschetta (“I’m Italian of course”) but tells us the Duck Spring Rolls ($19) walk out the door. We can’t help but go with the popular vote – they’re gorgeous.
This restaurant is full of head-turners, like the rack of smoked barbeque ribs that go past our table sending us into food envy disarray - but for something a bit more subtle the Smoked Swordfish Fettucini ($29) is a quiet achiever, with sundried tomatoes, olives and mushrooms. Goes down as nice as the sun over the water with a glass of Tightrope Walker Pinot Noir $8) from the Yarra Valley.
The gold star on top of the tree has got to be the Chocolate Brûlée Dome ($10) with chocolate mousse and caramel brûlée insert finished with a shiny dark chocolate glaze and gold dust. It's a true knockout on the dessert menu.
It’s nice to do something different every now and again - smoky flavours in the fresh outdoors - lovely.
Harbour Bar and Kitchen
Level 2, Harbourside Shopping Centre, Darling Drive, Darling Harbour
Ph: (02) 9280 2029