Several years ago, I spent around six weeks in London for work. Many fun times were had chilling in the European summer. I made many friends, unfortunately I had lost contact with most of them as the years drifted by.
Lucky for me I recently ran into one of the guys I met during that work trip. He has since moved to Sydney with his girlfriend and we all decide to catch-up in Manly for a leisurely dinner on a Saturday night. Nothing beats reconnecting with old friends. It’s super freezing and the ferry ride is a tad bumpy (so not the night for Manly), but we make it there eventually.
We get here and decide upon Hugos, a beautiful establishment overlooking the water. We all agree a cocktail is in order and here’s what we have.
The Aviation Cocktail – Plymouth gin, mazzenez liqueur de violette & maraschino liqueur shaken with fresh lemon
I love aviation and travelling… in fact my motto is that life is meant to be lived in the sky (such as this amazing picture), which is why I chose this cocktail! It starts with the mazzenez liqueur de violette which gives the drink that “sky looking” pale blue colour.
The sweetness of the cherry, the floral notes of the violet liqueur and the botanicals of the gin, with the tangy zest of the lemon form a “symphony of tastes” to make me feel like I am in the sky! I just love it.
My friends opt for the:
Moonshine Cocktail- Plymouth Gin, Massenez Pomme Verte & a splash of Absinthe shaken with apple, coriander, lime & lychee
White Cosmopolitan – Belvedere Vodka, Cointreau & orange blossom shaken with lemon,
basil, honey & ginger, served with a flamed grapefruit zest
Tasting plate for two: four natural oysters, fried calamari, fig salad & Italian meatballs
Now I will go through the dishes in the tasting plate:
The meatballs are tender and succulent, retaining their lovely juices, while the rich juicy tangy tomato sauce adds a beautiful flavour overlay. Great comfort food to start the evening.
The oysters are lovely, soft, delectable, slimy, succulent and creamy. They just gently slide along my tongue releasing a fresh creamy texture and flavours of the sea. My taste buds do a little dance and the evening is off to a great start.
The calamari is very light, crispy and retains their succulent texture and flavour. An example of simple produce with elegance.
The fig salad is simple and doesn’t really match the rest of the starters. Its not sub-par (I just really liked the others) by any means, the sweet figs, hint of bitter sweet balsamic tang with the creamy richness of the mozzarella combine for a refreshing entree.
Crispy polenta chips with truffled Parmesan
We are so excited about the polenta chips…. like eager school kids we await their arrival. Once they get here, the waft of the truffle oil engulfs the atmosphere as we crunch through the crisp outer coating to reveal the rich soft moist polenta centre together with the creamy richness of the parmesan . The grainy texture of the polenta adds another dimension to this beautiful dish… its a dreamy moment.
Hiramasa kingfish carpaccio with avocado, radish, Avruga caviar & spicy citrus dressing
The soft oily sweet meat of the kingfish is the boss of this dish. The other flavours do try to their thing but they are all support acts for the main star “the kingfish”. The avocado adds a smooth creamy flavour to balance the spicy citrus sauce, while the radish adds a crunchy texture to contrast with the succulent kingfish. A beautiful dish that says “produce is king”!
Bonacchi Gentilesco Chianti Classico (2012) from Tuscany
As you will see from our choice of food, it is heavily seafood weighted…. however this is one of the coldest days in Sydney and we are freezing, so we opt for a beautiful rich drinkable wine to keep us warm.
The Chianti is lovely, the vineyard is based in the heart of the Montalbano Hills in Tuscany and has been family owned for generations. The Chianti is smooth on the palate with a strong taste of cherry fruits with a tangy and crisp fresh finish. It proves to be the perfect refuge for this cold winter day. In fact we have two bottles of it.
Its time for the main course, and I go for the:
Grilled snapper fillet with a prawn, cuttlefish, mussel & saffron risotto and Avruga caviar
The crispy skin, smooth creamy risotto, the succulent snapper meat… this is a dish defined by contrasting textures and flavours. I break through the crispy skin and have a portion of the succulent snapper meat; the beautiful fresh flavour of the snapper shines through with all the lovely oils flowing through the meat. Then I move onto the creamy saffron risotto swimming with the mixed crustaceans. I just scoop mouthfuls of the risotto and encounter the sweet prawns, the distinct texture of the calamari and soft mussels. Then the salty “taste of the sea” caviar flows through from nowhere to mark the dish with its elegance and decadence. I just love it.
My friends opt for the following main courses which look amazing (as a side note the menu here is extensive and we are spoilt for choice, we frustrate the staff by changing our selections when ordering as different dishes take our fancy).
Spaghettini pasta with spanner crab, chilli, garlic, coriander, eshallots & fresh lime
Crispy skin barramundi with mussels, broad beans, prosciutto & grilled baby cos lettuce
Tiramisu – Layers of coffee soaked lady finger biscuits & mascarpone cream
We opt to share a tiramisu. The beautiful mascarpone is the epitome of richness, while the strength of the coffee soaked savoiardi biscuits cuts through some of the richness, while the chocolate flakes release a sweet rich cocoa flavour to provide a nice overlay of flavour.
We then turn to cocktails again to close-out the night!
Havana Añejo Rum, wattle toffee liqueur & Penfolds Grandfather Port, flamed into a buttery blaze
The cocktail is warm, having been flamed before serving. There is a mix of the rich sweet toffee flavours, the raisined fruits and walnuts from the port and liqueur with the rum combine for a sweet, smooth and buttery tasting experience.
My friends opt for the Moonshine (discussed earlier) and the Espresso Martini.
Espresso Martini – Absolut Vanilla Vodka, Patron XO Café Tequila with a shot of espresso
Such an enjoyable night, with great food, wine, cocktails and a fantastic location with amazing company!