There’s nowhere to hide at Public Dining Room. The restaurant, built on the old Watermark site, is a huge, open-plan space hugging Balmoral Beach with nothing but a window separating you from the dog walkers, beachgoers and fishermen occupying the waterfront. But this is part of its charm. Now that we’re on daylight saving time you can soak up the last of the sun as you take a post-prandial stroll down the pier where locals bob for squid and boats rock with the swell.
If you’re not a Balmoral local, or at least living north of the bridge, it’s a fair way to come for dinner, so we’d suggest packing your togs and making a day of it with Saturday lunch. There are some strong dishes on the menu at PDR, and chef Nick Raitt has plenty of good ideas.
Start with a few tasting plates, such as the cassoulet. A bean-heavy braise dotted with pieces of chorizo is served topped with tendrils of crisp-fried South Australian calamari. It’s tasty but it could easily pass for breakfast beans. Or order an individual prawn. Each of these Yamba beauties is the size of a ladyfinger banana and incredibly sweet and tender.
There are enough of these dishes to make a fine repast without having to venture into the rest of the menu (manchego cheese with marmalade and biscuits, say) but you may want to make the effort for the crisp Burrawong chicken thigh, sitting pretty on a pile of tender asparagus spears. Alongside, there’s a pile of crisp brioche crumbs and a slow-poached egg yolk. Now, there are plenty of people out there who like chicken and egg at the same time – the entire life cycle in one sitting – but there’s a lot going on here. This could easily be two separate dishes.
Sides are definitely worth a nudge. Spring greens are a really nice idea but the addition of a fairly anaemic broth dotted with rosemary oil is confusing. Polenta chips, crisp, golden and piled Jenga-style, are very moreish, while side of the night goes to the thin shreds of cabbage mixed with bits of cured pork, whetted with a little stock.
For dessert, the mango tart served with squiggles of caramel sauce is light and flaky, with beautifully ripe mango artfully sliced into ribbons.
The wine list is a real highlight, though oddly it comes without a cover or anything – just a big pile of paper, which is a shame because it’s an intelligent list with plenty of great drops for compelling prices.
Public Dining Room is still teething – the menu needs closer attention and floor staff need to loosen up a little – but there’s plenty of good here, in one of the prettiest settings in town.
|Venue name:||Public Dining Room|
2a The Esplanade
|Opening hours:||Breakfast Sat-Sun 8-10.45am; lunch & dinner Mon-Fri 12 noon-10pm; Sat-Sun 12 noon-10pm|