Saturday, 29 March 2014

Tides Waterfront Dining - stylish dining in Caloundra

Caloundra is not a spot that you would usually associate with Fine Dining or hatted restaurants, in fact, when I think of Caloundra, I usually think of pub dining and RSL clubs.  We've spent a lot of time up at Caloundra over the years, primarily because both of SC's sisters and their families live up that way. In all the time we have been visiting, I never thought to look for a top restaurant to visit, and it wasn't until we were spending the day in the beachside suburb for an unusual activity that we decided to look.

Roller Derby is not the usual type of activity that I would be interested in, but SC's youngest sister 'Bill' had recently started hanging out with a rough crowd (well, not completely true) and their thing was Roller Derby. 'Bill' had been practicing this arcane and unusual sport for some time and the time had finally arrived for her to get involved in her first formal game.  If you're not sure what Roller Derby is, you're not alone but it's essentially one of those American sports that was popular in the 70's which has made a resurgence.  The sport (I use the term loosely!) involved a bunch of females on roller skates, skating around an oval and trying to knock the crap out of each other.  I'm sure there are some complexities and rules to the game, but that's pretty much it in a nutshell.

Knowing that I'd likely not be too interested in spending my evening watching this, SC cleverly packaged up the day with a lunchtime visit to an award winning beachside diner.  Hitting all of the right buttons, SC had found a lovely restaurant that recently retained it's Australian Good Food Guide chefs hat.  Tides at Caloundra is one of only seventeen restaurants on the Sunshine Coast that have been awarded chefs hats and proudly display on their website that they are the only Caloundra restaurant to have one.....  How could I not be tempted to check it out?

Even though we've been driving up to Caloundra so many times over the years, we've not actually been through the city centre and had to plug the Tides address into our SatNav to find the place.  What struck me most about the drive into the city centre was that it was far busier than the Brisbane CBD...  Go figure!  It was a beautiful day on the coast, so I can only imagine that everyone was trying to get their 'beach on' before the warmer weather fades until next summer.

We eventually found out way to the esplanade and as we drove along looking for the restaurant, we were struck by how lovely the Caloundra beachfront area was.  With the inlet to the ocean on one side and the new developments and beachfront houses on the other, I could see the allure of why so many Queenslanders love this part of the world.  It wasn't long before we cruised past Tides and with a stroke of luck, found a park just around the corner.  As we entered the restaurant, we were warmly welcomed and taken to our our seats by on the balcony of the restaurant, which had stunning views of the beach.

We'd looked at the menu online before our trip up and I had seen a number of options that really appealed, but our waitress explained that the full a la carte menu was not available for lunch.  It was a bit disappointing that the lunch menu didn't have some of the delicious looking options that we'd spied earlier, but on the plus side, the lunch menu was incredible value at $50 dollars for a three course meal.  Getting over my disappointment, we placed our orders and sat at our table and watched the world slide by at our splendid view.

After a short wait SC's spectacular looking starter of spanner crab with a gazpacho refresher and toasted ciabatta arrived.  The presentation of the salad was beautiful, with the elements arranged on the plate like a piece of art.  The perfect quenelles of spanner cab had a wonderfully subtle flavour of crab and were interspersed with micro herbs, cucumber and capsicum and had some extra texture from the savoury tuile. There was a sweetness to the dish that was delightful on the palate, which was offset wonderfully by a spicy gazpacho soup that was presented in a jam jar.

I'd chosen the Hervey Bay scallops which were served on the shell with roasted red pepper and a smoked bacon salsa.  The scallops didn't have the same visual appeal that the crab salad did, but where the presentation was more basic, the flavour combinations were stunning.  The scallops were cooked expertly but didn't have the caramelisation that you would expect from scallops cooked outside of the shell.  The bacon and red pepper salsa had the potential to be too overpowering for the subtle sweet scallop, but instead were perfectly balanced in flavour and texture.  There were chewy little bits of bacon that provided some saltiness to the dish and a little squeeze of lemon provided a lovely acidic hit.  My only complaint about the scallops was the portion size, with three scallops hardly leaving a dent in my appetite.

Given that we were at a beachside restaurant, the trend for the day was seafood and SC decided that the seafood linguini with local seafood tossed in a shell fish and a lemon cream sauce looked too good to pass up. The large bowl of linguine came stuffed with Mooloolaba prawns, mussels and reef fish along with a beautifully creamy sauce and al dente pasta.  The generous helping of fresh seafood was perfectly cooked but the winner on this dish was the incredibly rich and complex lemon cream sauce.  It was a lovely and refreshing main that hit all the right notes.

I'd continued with the seafood for my main but was incredibly happy that I was able to include one of my favourite foods as well.  My main of saffron battered Mooloolaba Prawns with chorizo and cherry tomato reduction with rocket and parmesan sounded great, but it was the addition of chorizo that had me committed. The dish was quite well presented with the prawns stacked nicely with the dish achieving a little height and had lovely, vibrant colours.  The prawns were cooked nicely and were covered in a saffron batter that provided a beautiful sweet flavour.  The sweetness continued with the tomato and chorizo reduction but there was just a little bit of heat coming from the chorizo.  It was a lovely dish, but as with my starter, I thought that there was not enough food on the plate, in fact I thought that with only three prawns, the dish was more of an entree size than a main.

Given the pretty sweet deal of three courses for $50 dollars, there was never any doubt that we would be partaking in dessert!  I'd been contemplating the chocolate mousse for dessert, but since I'd already had two very light courses, decided that I go against my initial thought and run with the coconut infused panna cotta with pineapple salsa.  The dessert was beautifully presented with the stark white of the panna cotta and meringue contrasting against the vibrant yellow of the pineapple salsa.  The panna cotta was set just right and had just the right amount of sweetness.  It was divine once you scooped up some of the syrupy pineapple salsa that had just enough tartness to balance out the sugary meringue.  It was one of the best panna cottas I'd had in a long time, made all the better because of the pairing with the pineapple.

After two quite filling courses already, SC went for the worst possible choice for her dessert with the apple and rhubarb crumble with chantilly cream.  Crumbles are great desserts on cold winter nights but not so great on a sunny and warm day when you're already full.  There were some problems with the crumble as well, which was quite watery and probably hadn't been cooked enough.  The toasted crumble on top soon became soggy in the mixture and detracted from the dessert.  SC contemplated sending it back, but since she was so full and didn't want another dessert, we let it ride on this occasion.  It was probably a poor choice to begin with and the lighter chocolate mouse or the delicious panna cotta would have been better options.

As far as ways to spend a Saturday afternoon over a meal, there are not many better options than sitting at a lovely restaurant with wonderful views of the ocean and having a very decent meal.  While there were a few little issues with serving sizes and the overly watery crumble, the majority of the food at Tides was delicious. We were a little surprised with the creativity and skill from the chefs in the kitchen to produce wonderful looking dishes that would be the pride of Brisbane CBD restaurant.

It was not overly busy at Tides on the day of our visit, which was a little surprising given the quality of the food and the absolute value that three courses for $50 dollars represents.  Our waitress on the day was friendly and provided us with a wonderful service that enhanced our experience.  Tides definitely had that beachside feel to it and the smell of the ocean that accompanied the stunning views just helped calm the soul and contribute to a very worthwhile trip north.

After our trip to Tides, we killed a few hours up on the coast watching some footy and ordering in some Pizza Hut for dinner before heading off to watch 'Bill' play her first game of Roller Derby.  To be honest, I'm glad we came up to support SC's sister in her first match of the seemingly ultra violent sport.  I'm never going to be a convert and I'll probably never see a game again in my life, but I now have an appreciation of the skill involved in rolling around in a circle, trying to score points while other players try to take your head off!  And they say AFL is violent!

The crab salad looked wonderful and the gazpacho was a great way to balance the sweetness
Fine dining and silver service in Caloundra - who would have thought it?
Great views of the ocean - why are there always big pine trees at the ocean?
The side of chips were great too - beer battered and super crunchy
The dish of the day for me was the panna cotta
A beautiful day on the coast - and a great way to spend a few hours 

Tides Waterfront Dining on UrbanspoonTides Waterfront Dining

1 comment:

  1. This restaurant not only has mouth watering Panna Cotta, it also has the best panoramic view of the ocean!


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