There is a whole lot of grooming on show at Pelicano in Double Bay on a Saturday night. Teeth gleam, tans glow and hair falls to shoulders in carefully choreographed waves. And that's just the blokes. The ladies have poured themselves into cocktail dresses and donned the highest of heels. Even the waiters are impeccable in cherry red, buttock-hugging jeans and blue-and-white striped shirts. Everyone looks ready for a big night out.
Thanks to the glammed-up crowd, pumping music and extensive cocktail list, this bar-cum-restaurant feels more bar than restaurant. As the night wears on, a queue forms outside, presided over by a beautiful young woman. If she gives you the nod, you walk down a flight of stairs into a slick bar space, where drinkers perch on stools or stand in clumps, sipping such concoctions as the Widow's Kiss, the Hanky Panky or the Truffle (yep, it has a fresh black truffle garnish).
The restaurant is down another flight of stairs, separated from the bar by a white painted railing. The design ethos - plenty of white and blue, with light fittings made from rope and driftwood - is vaguely nautical. With so many gorgeous young things about, it feels a bit like we have stumbled onto a playboy's luxury yacht.
The music that makes the bar buzz is much too loud once we are settled at a table. We have to lean across our plates to have a conversation and shout our orders at the staff. Once we manage to make ourselves heard though, the food arrives surprisingly quickly. Presentation obviously matters as much in the kitchen as it does to the clientele. An entree of blue swimmer crab, tomato consomme and avruga caviar comes layered like a dessert in a cocktail glass. The crab is white and creamy under a jelly-like layer of consomme. It is pretty and rich but is perhaps trying just a little too hard.
The petuna-smoked ocean trout is just as attractive but less fiddly. Luscious curls of pink fish snuggle beside beetroot slices on a slate slab. Perched on top is a savoury pastry cigar filled with goat's curd. It feels special but not overblown.
The waiter leaves one of our party with his dirty cutlery to use for the next course. In a restaurant where most of the wines cost more than $50, and some more than $1000, this feels like a careless oversight.
Dirty cutlery or no, the mains are delicious and show plenty of creative flair. Duck a l'orange two ways includes a cheeky spin on the good ol' sausage roll. Moist, crumbly duck meat comes encased in a flaky sheath of pastry. The other, more traditionally presented piece of meat is perfectly tender and lip-smackingly good with the accompanying smears of orange-infused sweet potato.
Baby radish chunks add crunch and zip to the fish of the day, which is John Dory with girolles mushrooms. The crispy suckling pig with pears, celeriac and balsamic is impressive but the wild mushroom fricassee with poached egg and prosciutto lacks punch.
Interestingly, of all the menu's elaborate, beautifully presented offerings, it is the simplest dish that really blows us away - a humble side of potatoes. But, oh, what potatoes. The crunchy, golden morsels have been boiled with star anise before baking, which gives them an incredible flavour. We love the snap peas, too; they have just the right amount of snap.
That is not to say we don't enjoy the razzle-dazzle of the more substantial fare but those simple little sides are proof you don't always have to dress up to impress.
Glammed-up modern Australian.
Entrees, $17-$25; mains, $18-$40; desserts, $15-$19.
Petuna-smoked ocean trout with goat's curd and beetroot; duck a l'orange two ways; sauteed potato.
24 Bay Street, Double Bay,
Wed-Thu, 5pm-midnight; Fri-Sat, 5pm-2am; Sun, 3pm-10pm.
- 8021 4050
- Cuisine - Modern Australian
- Prices - Entrees $17 - $25, Mains $18 - $40, Desserts $15 - $19
- Opening Hours - Dinner every day
- Author - Louise Schwartzkoff