Café Del Mar, Darling Harbour

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

I always look forward to the Aussie summer because it means barbecue feasts, long days at the beach, and, of course, lots and lots of seafood. And what better place to celebrate summer than at a restaurant and bar aptly named Café del Mar, the name of which means café of the sea!

You may not have seen Café del Mar among the many other restaurants on the banks of Darling Harbour. That’s because it’s nestled up on the rooftop terrace of Cockle Bay Wharf, above the buzz of the other restaurants and bars below. This slightly more intimate location makes for a more relaxing, atmosphere, aided by the gentle tones of the sea blue interior.

I was lucky enough to be invited to a Zomato meetup hosted by Cafe Del Mar along with a small group of bloggers, and was delighted to sample some of their menu in celebration of summer.

Lemon, Lime + Bitters and Café Del Mar-Tini
Sip on a cocktail or two as you settle in to watch the sun set over the Harbour. Café del Mar’s signature cocktail of coconut vodka, pineapple, basil and lime sings of everything summery. It’s sweet and punchy, made with a house pineapple reduction that is cut back by the zingy lime.

Watermelon, marinated Persian feta, Jamon Serrano
It sounds like a weird combination, but it works. Similar to the classic Italian combination of rockmelon and prosciutto, refreshing, sweet watermelon is offset by the cured saltiness of jamon. The soft saltiness of the Persian feta balances each mouthful.

Wagyu Bresaola, potato skordalia, soft quail egg
Like little piggies in a blanket, cute domes of soft quail egg are wrapped snug inside a layer of tender wagyu beef. The sprinkling of sharp cheese on top adds a bit of saltiness, providing a good amount of seasoning to the creamy soft egg.

Crisp Pork Jowl Cigars wrapped in Brik pastry, truffle aioli
The ultra-thin Brik pastry cracks upon first bite, enveloping a soft pink pork jowl filling which makes for a perfect, tasty canape. The creamy aioli on top goes perfectly with the bite-sized mouthful.

What I love about entertaining in summer is that it usually ends up being a sharing affair.
Everyone brings a dish, we pile up our plates, and eat until we’ve tried everything on the table! As well as the singular mains on the menu at Café Del Mar, there are also shared dishes.

Bouillabaise seafood stew
Summer is perfect for seafood, even in soup form. In this Bouillabaise, a delicate crab broth is full of the fruits of the sea: barramundi, half shell scallops, black mussels, Balmain bugs and surf clams. Although it is clear and light in appearance, the soup packs a whole lot of seafood flavour and there is a small hint of chilli in each spoonful. 

The toasted sourdough and rouille on the side are perfect for soaking up every last bit of this seafood stew, as do the cubes of Binjie potato.

Chermoula crusted, slow cooked pastoral ‘Murrylands’ lamb shoulder, salsa verde
The smell coming from this 8 hour slow cooked lamb shoulder was to die for. A poke of the fork nudges aside the crusted outer to reveal layers of tender, pink meat marbled with just the right amount of fat. 

If I was eating alone, I would happily grab the bone and chew on the meat all night long.

Roast ‘Holmbrae’ free range chicken, Tuscan style roast potatoes
This roast chicken is flavoursome and moist from the breast right down to the bone. The lemony stuffing makes it even tastier, as do the nuggets of roasted garlic and rustic potatoes which soak up all the lovely juices.

Steamed green beans, gremolata
Vibrant, gently steamed green beans are given a lift by punchy gremolata. A wonderfully fresh side to accompany the shared main dishes. A second side of sautéed cavolo nero, garlic and pinenuts (not pictured) is a lot punchier, with a warming hot chilli kick.

Espresso Martini
There is a strong level of sweetness in this dessert cocktail to balance the natural bitterness of the coffee liqueur. A theatrical layer of foam pays homage to the humble cappuccino. This hybrid of an espresso and a martini is sure to get you up when you’re down!

Selection of desserts

Coers a la Crème, citrus salad, sugared dates, candied pistachio, mint, ras el hanout
This intriguing dessert is a play on the traditional French dessert Coers a la Crème, which consists of soft cheese that is set overnight. Here, the cheese is mixed with a tiny bit of salt and paired with sweet flavours usually associated with Middle Eastern cuisines such as pistachio, citrus and date. It’s an ingenious melding of flavours that is refreshing and exciting.

Sunken chocolate mousse cake, champagne ice cream, raspberry ripple
A slab of dark chocolate cake rests under quenelles of ice cream, raspberry sauce and fresh raspberries. This is a very rich dessert, with a texture that resembles cake rather than mousse. The raspberries help overcome the sweetness of this decadent dish, and although the champagne in the ice cream is not very noticeable, it has a deliciously creamy flavour.

Arlette; caramelised puff biscuits, fresh mango, passionfruit, coconut custard
A kind of coconut mille-feuille, puff pastry is layered with a delicious coconut custard, passionfruit and shards of toasted fresh coconut. It’s a light dessert perfect for summer, and the curd is so good that we wished there was more!

Selection of cheeses – with Medjool dates, muscatels, toasted fig and walnut bread
While I’m not typically one who opts for an after-dinner cheese board (I’m more of a sweet dessert girl, hehe) all three of the cheeses featured here are irresistible: a hard, 24 month aged Manchego, semi-soft ashed ‘Mauri’ Taleggio and creamy, Vacherin LeDuc. The LeDuc is so soft that it is almost melted in texture, with a deliciously rich flavour. They're particularly good with a smear of the sweet and savoury jelly that's also on the board. 

Café del Mar is the perfect venue for a summer celebration, relaxing drink by the harbour, or casual get together with friends and family. Why not try it next time you're looking for a dinner or drink with a view? 

I was privileged enough to be invited to dine as a guest of Zomato and Café del Mar, however opinions expressed are my own.


Cafe del Mar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

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  1. The lamb sounds incredible. And I totally would have nabbed the bone! lol