Sunday, 29 April 2012

Sean's Panorama: an elegant and cosy restaurant that's one of Bondi's best

Nestled into a small space between Aqua Bar and a red brick apartment block is Sean's Panorama. It's a restaurant best saved for special occasions: significant birthdays, anniversaries, holidays and other celebrations.  Or you could - like us - just go because you feel like treating yourself.

The idea was to go for Easter Sunday as a reward for staying in town rather than succumbing to the temptation of a long weekend away, but it was closed so we took the next available booking, which was the following Sunday.

A long lunch on a Sunday is one of the joys of life so we made it for 1pm. The restaurant is small'ish, but every seat gets an ocean view thanks to a mirror reflecting Bondi Beach for those tables facing the wall. There are sea-themed paintings on the walls, making it feel like a beach cottage, white tablecloths and vases filled with rather old-fashioned red, yellow and pink roses like my mother used to grow. There's a mix of families, couples and a small group of friends celebrating a birthday party complete with their own balloons.

Sean's Panorama has been a Bondi stalwart for years, serving consistently good food and staying true to its offering as restaurant fads come and go and restaurants change owners and cuisines. I first went about ten years ago and the meal was as memorable then as it was this time around.

The chef is Sean Moran, who has a farm in the Blue Mountains where he grows a lot of the ingredients that end up on our plates. He's Australia's answer to Alice Waters of Chez Panisse in San Francisco with his belief in the paddock-to-the-plate philosophy.

I've always thought that he's got a pretty good set up, a country estate in the mountains and a place by the sea in the city. And the Blue Mountains happens to be Bondi Curmudgeon's favourite place (maybe because it is so far from Bondi).

We order of bottle of Arneis, most of the wine list is Australian or you can bring your own bottle for a $20 corkage fee. The menu is written on a blackboard daily. I was going to have a main and a dessert but choke on my decision and order the squid ink calamari as an entree instead. It's the most tender calamari I've ever had but it's very rich in flavour so I'd recommend choosing two entrees and sharing it. I would have shared with Curmudgeon but his prawn chowder is gone before I can say, 'do you want to share?'

For the main I have roast chicken, and if I could make roast chicken like this at home I would bring back Sunday roasts.  Cooked in sage and butter to a golden brown, the skin is fried to a heavenly crispiness while the chicken inside remains moist and tender. Curmudgeon had roast beef and Borlotti beans and proclaimed it delicious.

 Unlike many restaurants where you have to order the sides and vegetables separately our meals come with a big bowl of roast potatoes and autumn vegetables: beans, turnips and squash. I would have loved to try the dessert menu, but I was too stuffed to fit in a single morsel of the famous noughart so we called it an afternoon and walked back to Rose Bay.

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