Reef: A Degustation with a View
It has been raining non-stop for days but we have an anniversary to celebrate – our first year on the Coast – so we rug up and brave the wet.
As we slush through puddles en route to Terrigal, the sun suddenly comes out and blue sky emerges from under the grey.
By the time we get to Reef at The Haven, it’s like a summer’s day and from our window seat in the beachfront restaurant, we’re treated to one of the best views on the Coast – Terrigal in all her glory.
We’re treating ourselves to the degustation menu, which starts with a pair of oysters that look so beautiful perched on seaweed with pickled cucumbers and golden lemony pearls, they could pass for art.
The pearls play a trick on your tastebuds. They resemble roe but are actually manufactured to explode with just the right zing of flavour at the right moment.
A Moet in hand, we toast to a chic, fun first year as Coasties.
Next up is some poached dory stuffed with a salmon mousse and a crisp salad of fennel and radish.
While we’ve been savouring all this delicious seafood, some surfers have paddled out and are carving up some frothy barrells near the rocks.
We can get a better look at them, and spy on the rock fishermen and distant paddlers, through the supplied binoculars.
A mother humpback and her calf came in recently and we’re also told dolphins frequent the area but it’s mostly pelicans and seagulls through the lenses today.
Course three is a piece of crispy-skinned Huon salmon and half a scampi on a bed of butternut pumpkin cubes, tender soy beans, pancetta and the piece de resistance, a smattering of truffle cauliflower cream. It’s divine.
Throughout the meal, hubby says again and again, “this is the best degustation…”
He’s not just talking about the quality of the food and the clever flavour combinations, but the generous servings.
Too often degustations offer servings that would hardly qualify as a palate cleanser but at Reef, even the cleansing dollop of blood orange sorbet is big and tasty enough to almost pass for a seventh course.
By the time the pork belly arrives, I’m starting to worry about fitting it all in. As if sensing my food foreboding, ominous clouds start to crowd the sky over Terrigal.
It’s definitely going to rain again, but we’ll be cosy inside with the best seats in the house to watch Mother Nature’s stormy encore.
Turns out the pork belly is just the right size. The salty crackling sends my tastebuds into overdrive and the pork tastes sensational with the delicious carrot and cumin puree and exquisite orange ginger gel. The sesame pork croquette is an added indulgence.
In any other circumstances, I’d be champing at the bit for a lamb rack but when it arrives, and it’s another generous serving, I’m terrified.
All it takes is one bite and I know I’ll find a way to fit it all in. Served with sweet baby vegetables that almost look too cute to eat, and a celeriac puree, it’s the jewel in the degustation’s crown.
With its peppery plum characters, the recommended medium-bodied Leconfield Shiraz is the perfect accompaniment.
Before we know it, three hours have gone by and we’ve arrived at dessert.
The pelicans have stopped harrasing the fishermen and retreated to the top of power poles.
I’m looking at the colourful dessert and thinking there really couldn’t possibly be any room left in my lamb and salmon stretched stomach. But it’s just panna cotta, coconut ice cream, poached pineapple and some more itty bitty pearls – and none of that needs much room.
With a green layer like Cottee’s lime cordial and Frosty Fruit and Weis Bar flavours that evoke childhood summers, it’s like sunshine in a bowl and is the perfect antidote to the dull, grey sky, which is still threatening to rain.
Our waiter, Santiago from Colombia, has been the perfect gentleman.
We happily depart with a few hundred dollars for one of the most enjoyable meals we’ve shared together.
We’ve come prepared with umbrellas but it’s only when we settle back into the car and turn the key in the ignition that the first fat dollops of rain splatter on the windscreen.
The six-course degustation costs $110 or $150 with matching wines.
Coastal Chic tip: If you’ve got a few hours to spare, we highly recommend the degustation and as with all the Coast’s beautiful waterfront restaurants, we think the view is best enjoyed during the day.