Special occasion dining is something that I love and the chance to head out to a fine dining restaurant for dinner is one of those times when your expectations rise about service, food choice, presentation, staff and the overall ambience of the restaurant of choice. Clarke’s of North Beach www.clarkesofnorthbeach.com.au is a fine dining institution in Flora Terrace, North Beach and one that I have had the pleasure of dining at a couple of times now and each time their menu has continually evolved and developed depending on the season and who is in the kitchen!
It was my son-in-law Daniel’s 30th birthday and so the perfect excuse to head to Clarke’s and experience a meal to remember. For a Thursday night it was a full house, which straight away says something to me about how highly regarded this restaurant is. The staff is welcoming from the minute you open the door and are always there to help, suggest and serve throughout the meal.
There are 2 options at Clarke’s for dining, there is the degustation menu and then there is à la carte. In this instance we opted for à la carte and were not disappointed with what we each chose to have for our meal. The à la carte menu has a great range of dishes to choose from without being over burdened with too many choices but does offer palette cleansing sorbet, pre dessert desserts, a cheese course and has a wine list to match.
Beautiful fresh-baked bread!
We had a table for 4 in the back room (if you know Clarke’s you will know it is a converted house that has been turned into a restaurant and it was the perfect place for us to be able to chat, relax and enjoy the meal, although with not having any wait staff located full-time in this room it meant we were sometimes over served, and what I mean by that is one waiter would offer to fill our wine glasses up and then leave into the main room and 2 minutes later another would come in and off to do the same thing, which was at times a bit intrusive.
But really overall, other than this the service was wonderful and the staff knowledgeable and courteous throughout the meal, what you really come to expect from a fine dining restaurant.
We decided as it was a birthday celebration we would start with an Italian Prosecco from Canella and it was a perfect start to the night. Light yet full of flavour with a nice touch of acidity it suited what we had chosen as our entrees perfectly. Around the table two of us decided to opt just for the sorbet to start with whilst the others had an entrée and we shared the home-made breads. The sorbet were delightful, one was a gin and tonic sorbet whilst the other was pineapple and chilli. Both of them blended the sweet with a savoury edge that cleansed the palette and were a great start to dinner.
The entrées chosen were the Linley Valley pork belly served with apple textures and crackle dust and the other was sautéed forest mushrooms served with warm toasted brioche and walnut ice cream. Both of these dishes were presented well and the pork belly was full of flavour, texture and indulgent. The forest mushrooms were not masked with any over-riding flavours so you could really enjoy the mushroom taste and fitted perfectly with the brioche and the rich creaminess of the walnut ice cream.
The delightful sorbets!
Pork belly that was just full of flavour and tastes!
Mushrooms with toasted brioche and walnut ice cream!
We all agreed that this was the perfect start for the meal and we moved onto the main courses. We each chose a different dish and each one was again well presented and offered their own distinct flavours and tastes. My daughter decided the have the vegetable option which was a home-made stuffed gnocchi served with seasonal vegetables and whilst the flavours were all there the gnocchi was not as light and fluffy as I believe a really good gnocchi should be and was bogged down by a heavy feel and taste that spoilt the total enjoyment of this dish although the flavours were all there and if it had been lighter it would have been perfect.
Daniel had the South West lamb rack that was served with slow cooked neck with peas, bacon and white polenta. This was cooked to perfection, full of flavour and each part of the dish complimented the other. The lamb taste come through with each mouthful and it was a lovely combination with the peas, bacon and polenta.
Rib eye perfectly cooked!
Roast pork fillet – a taste sensation!
Gnocchi with seasonal vegetables!
Trevor ordered the rib eye that was served with a light jus that went perfectly with polenta and stir fried seasonal vegetables on the side. It was cooked medium rare as recommended by the restaurant and for someone who loves to have beef when out for dinner was a great choice. The rib eye was cooked just the way it should be and the jus gave an extra sweetness when combined with the meat that melted in the mouth. A real delight.
For main course I chose to have Linley Valley roasted pork fillet served with crispy shoulder with muscatel and chestnut sauce and another light jus. I am a huge fan of pork and this dish did not disappoint. The pork was roasted to perfection and the pieces of crispy shoulder just added to the taste sensations here and the jus again added a sweetness to the meat and complimented it perfectly.
We chose hand cut royal blue potatoes served with a béarnaise sauce and the brocolini with toasted almonds and walnut dressing to go with our main course and these were both great dishes, however I would have suggested that we order 2 of each side dish as it was really only enough for 2 people and not 4.
With our main course 3 of us enjoyed the Reyneke Chenin Blanc Stellenbosch from South Africa that was a light, airy, fruit filled chenin blanc that was the perfect accompaniment for our main courses. Trevor loves a good red wine and after some discussion with our waiter chose the Lake Breeze Cabernet Sauvignon from Landhorne Creek in South Australia that was the perfect wine recommendation from our waiter to go with the rib eye that he had ordered.
So other than the gnocchi being slightly over cooked the main courses matched the entrees in terms of quality, presentation and taste.
So then after a short break it was time to consider whether to dessert or not. By this stage I did not want too much else as I was at that stage of the night when I had enjoyed all the dishes so far and really just wanted something small to round out the meal.
The others decided to have desert and I opted to have the pre dessert option of chocolate and caramel with popping candy whilst the others chose to have the caramel and chocolate parfait and the chocolate slice served with a vanilla bean ice cream and a passionfruit cheesecake accompaniment. Each dish offered the perfect end to our meals and we each made the right choices for what we wanted and needed to end the meal. My chocolate and caramel dish with popping candy was just the right size for me and the mixture of the flavours really worked well together.
The chocolate and caramel parfait was served with a meringue top and passionfruit swirls to compliment and add some extra tartness to balance the overly sweet chocolate flavours that were at play here. They all worked well together and both Jess and Daniel loved this dish. The chocolate slice was also well presented and tasted exquisite but for someone who loves his chocolate the one downsize was the serving was too small and Trevor would have preferred a larger serving but he loved the flavours and the ice cream was a lovely light touch that worked incredibly well with it.
The chocolate slice with vanilla bean ice cream!
Chocolate and caramel parfait!
Chocolate and caramel with popping candy!
This was the perfect choice for a 30th birthday dinner and we all walked away enjoying the evening. Again the only 2 real negatives to take away from the night was the over zealous service with us being in the back room and the gnocchi that could have been lighter in texture. But putting those 2 minor things aside it was a delightful and memorable dinner for all of us!
Clarke’s of North Beach
97 Flora Tce
North Beach 6020
H: 9246 7621
Open Tue-Sat 6:30pm-11pm