The girls have since graduated from college. One works as a crew member on a luxury private yacht where she travels the world and goes to exotic places like the Galapagos Islands (yes, I'm beyond green with jealousy). The other is working at a five start hotel in Sydney (AND she gets super cheap five star accommodation around the world as a perk - yes, I'm also jealous of this one).
I didn't quite know what to expect when The Boy and I were invited to dine at William Blue Dining. I think I was possibly expecting a TAFE style cafeteria with bright fluro lighting and dodgy laminex tables but this place was anything but that! It's very swish - white tablecloths, etched wine glasses, nice lighting and polished front of house staff (aka the students) dressed smartly in their black and whites.
The commercial cookery students, all looking very professional in their chef whites, have charge of the open kitchen which seems to run smoothly and quietly under the guidance of their head chef, Jason. Considering the restaurant is fully booked everyone is very calm. No Masterchef style tantrums or meltdowns in this kitchen let me tell you! Impressive.
We kick off our dinner with a drink. I'm quite taken by the mocktail of the night, the "mandarinee", a summery blend of mandarin and berries that is sweet and refreshing. I love the little pieces of fruit that are in the drink. It's a Crowne Larger for The Boy (just one though as he's driving us home). The drinks are delivered to our table by our waiter who does a great job of pouring the beer without causing a great big ice-creamy type foaming glass of beer like I always do.
The little dinner roll is pipping hot - obviously fresh from the oven. The serve of butter is very generous and the soft, salty butter melts into like bread like a match made in heaven! It's really good bread, really good.
The Boy is rapt with his choice of delicately plated prawn and shitake spring roll with daikon, snow peak tendrils, pickled cucumber and chilli sauce. I was offered a (very) little morsel and they are not skimpy on the prawn. The roll is almost bursting with meaty, fresh flavoured prawn meat and the mushrooms add a nice earthy note to the dish.
My choice for entree was the baked goats cheese "en croute" with a pear, witlof and hazelnut salad and I couldn't have been happier with this dish. The presentation was immaculate. The goats cheese was served on a toasted baguette and was just a little melted. The cheese was deliciously salty and had such an earthy "ripe" flavour which I think was enhanced by being served warm. The salad added a fresh counterbalance to the richness of the wonderful cheese and I loved the addition of hazelnuts to the salad - fancy.
I was really happy with my main course of barramundi served with smoked butter sautéed mushrooms, celeriac puree, buttered brussel sprouts and chicken jus. The delicate flakes of fish were hiding under a tile of delicious, crisp skin and I have to say I LOVED the brussel sprouts -- and that's not something I ever thought I'd say. They had a nice mild flavour and were in no way reminiscent of the putrid, stinking sprouts of my childhood dinners!
The Boy loved his pork saltimbocca with ham hock croquette, sauerkraut and pork garlic jus (and so did I)! The pork was quite smokey, almost tasting like a smoked ham, and the croquettes oozed, delicious metly cheese when we cut into it.
Do you ever order something to share and then wish you hadn't agreed to share after all? Yes, me too! These thick chips were served with a rich garlic aioli (an extra $4 on top of your $32 for three courses) really were too good to share. The thickly cut chips arrived at our table pre-seasoned to perfection and had a nice crunch on the outside with soft, fluffy innards.
The Boy is so predictable in his dessert ordering! I knew the chocolate molten pudding with Grand Marnier ice-cream and a citrus salad had his name all over it. The pudding was served warm and a river of chocolate slowly oozed out when we sliced the pudding in half. My choice of lemon curd mousse cake was much lighter in flavour and the cake was so fresh, and zesty in flavour. The ice-cream accompanying had a great citrus flavour. Citrus + citrus = winner!
The Boy and I had a great night at William Blue Dining. We were both so impressed by the quality of the food - the flavours were great and the plating was really something special. Service was also really lovely - considering that the wait staff had really only had about 10 sessions working in the restaurant since starting their course earlier in the year I think they did a stellar job and were guided really well throughout the night by their restaurant manager, Rebecca. It was really interesting being in a fine dining environment that was also a classroom. I loved hearing little bits of advice and guidance coming through from the kitchen and floor to the students - I may have even learned something myself!
I think this just goes to show if you want a career in hospitality -- perhaps Masterchef is NOT the way to go.
William Blue Dining is at Level 9, 171 Pacific Highway (Northpoint Tower), North Sydney. Phone them on: 9492-3299 or book via their website. Bookings are recommended and please note that as the restaurant is part of a college they are not open all year round.