Babysitter booked? Check!
Outfit picked out? Check!
Ready for date night? Yes!
Hubby and I are baby-free and ready to relax with a nice meal and good bottle of wine on a Friday night. The room at Cafe Opera may have been newly renovated but the buffet is still bursting at the seams with fresh seafood, salads, meat and a whole wall of sweet treats. Plus, there is an an a la carte menu too.
However, the buffet just looks so enticing with it’s piles of glistening seafood that it is too hard for us to resist. We do a ‘recon’ lap to scope out our plan of attack and then gingerly pick up large, clean white plates and begin piling them high with the cold seafood selections…
This is my entree: Crystal Bay prawns (YUM!!), smoked salmon, prawn skewer, Moreton Bay bug, mussels, marinated sashimi-style salmon and sauces.
I am a sucker for Crystal Bay prawns and these were so good! Typing this now I wish I had eaten more. The bug was also great and the salmon soft and just lovely with the salty, tangy capers.
This is hubby’s entree: sushi, peking duck pancakes, caesar salad, Crystal Bay prawns, Moreton Bay bug and sauces.
Can I just quietly mention something that thrills me about eating out at a posh buffet? They come and clear the plates between courses. Sounds obvious and quite uneventful, but I always think as they are clearing them ‘there goes another plate I don’t have to wash up!’. Ha!
Seafood main course: lobster with garlic butter, sweet and sour john dory, more Crystal Bay prawns, hot mussels and some green veggies.
The lobster was served at a live cooking station but I’m really sorry to report that it was a bit too dry, even with the garlic butter. Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that a pile of lobsters had been cooked waiting to be reheated on a hot plate with the chosen sauce. I’m not sure if it would be possible, but I would have preferred to wait the extra time and have it truly cooked to order.
At this point I considered going back for even more prawns and maybe even a few bugs, but hubby is my voice of reason, reminding me that there are still meat dishes and dessert on the agenda.
Just as I was piling some lamb stew and spatchcock onto my plate I was tapped on the shoulder by Julien Pouteau, Executive Sous Chef. He’s a friendly, curly-haired French-man who is extremely passionate about Australian produce. He tells me that although some of the dishes (especially the dessert case) are European-inspired, they are created with as many local ingredients as possible.
A case in point is the DIY salad bar with gorgeous (Australian) olive oils, vinegars and other condiments. I used the blood plum finishing vinegar on my salad leaves and it was absolutely delicious. Julien says that customers love the flexibility and creativity of building their own salads with fresh, seasonal and interesting ingredients.
That’s when he glances at my plate and asks why I have not ordered from the a la carte menu? Embarrassed, I don’t have an answer, so he interjects and insists that he cook me dessert. Who am I to argue?
I’m so glad Julien came and found me because his desserts are absolutely to-die-for. Above is the Manjari Valrhona Chocolate Molten – passionfruit, poppy seed and cotton candy ($14). A rich, decadent chocolate cake with oozing centre that was almost too full-on for me but just right for sweet-tooth hubby.
The passionfruit flavoured accompaniments were the perfect partners and great to see an international chef using iconic Aussie tropical produce with such flair. I can’t help but mention the stunning glass bowl it was served in, just beautiful.
Julien also insisted we order the Strawberries Sable – cardamom fromage blanc, lemon macaroon and basil syrup ($14) and boy am I glad we did! This type of dessert is right up my alley – freshly whipped cream and perfectly ripe, in-season strawberries. Pure heaven. Plus I loved the strange spice note of cardamom and grassy basil in the syrup. A great end to the meal.
Cafe Opera is open during the festive season for a pre-Christmas buffet lunch (from $55) or dinner (from $65) available from 28th November to 23rd December. Christmas Day celebrations are lunch ($220 per adult including drinks) and dinner ($155 per adult with a glass of sparkling wine on arrival). Bookings are essential, contact restaurant reservations on 02 9240 1396.
Fig & Cherry dined as guests of Cafe Opera and the InterContinental Hotel Sydney. The seafood dinner buffet is priced at $95 per adult.