Hervey Bay is a very relaxed, beach-side tourist location. I love the lifestyle, but it's not particularly conducive to showing off my fabulous shoe collection. So when I was invited to the opening night of Salt Cafe's dinner service, I jumped at the opportunity. I've enjoyed coffee and lunches at Salt before, so was looking forward to trying their new dinner menu coupled with a fantastic view - it wasn't just about the shoes.
Arriving at the restaurant, I was greeted by my friends wrapped in cozy blankets that were kindly provided by the restaurant. It is winter here in Hervey Bay, and the 17 degrees at night feels cold (though I know my northern hemisphere readers will baulk at this idea). Ideally the restaurant also needs heaters, as while the blankets definitely helped, it was still a little on the cold side. I believe they were looking into this, and hope it has been implemented - no doubt they will be able to be utilised on the colder days as well, as the majority of seating is outside to catch the sea views (and the breezes are also welcome on warmer days).
I decided to forgo an entree to save room for dessert, but my friends choices looked absolutely delicious. With one friend a celiac, Salt has a number of gluten-free options. I got to taste the gluten-free version of the oven-baked Ciabatta loaf with garlic confit in balsamic olive oil and chilli and it was delicious at $7.00* and enough to share. Another friend enjoyed the roasted pumpkin, spinach and goats cheese mille-feuille served with a baby tomato, basil and garlic confit. I got a taste and it was absolutely delicious and a much more reasonable $14.00. It was somewhat enormous for a starter, albeit light, the goats cheese was absolutely divine - I was excited to find something this delicious and enquired where it came from, so was disappointed to discover it had been imported from Belgium, as I'm yet to discover anything quite so flavourful locally (though I'll keep trying just in case). The star of the day had to be the famous Hervey Bay Scallops on cauliflower puree with crisp prosciutto and caper vinaigrette, stunning at $16.00.
Mains were slightly less successful though. Choices were split down the table, between the duck and the steak. The duck servings were small, especially considering the $27.00 price tag. It was cooked through, and both of us who chose the duck would have preferred it pink - we did suggest they ask diners how they would like it served, as they would with steak. While the menu stated it was a seared orange, honey and chilli duck breast, there was no discernable warmth from the chilli, and the more subtle orange and honey flavours were over-powered by the mild Thai citrus dressing over the mint, coriander and bean shoot salad (and in the current weather, hot vegetables would have been preferred).
The other diners chose the eye fillet wrapped in prosciutto with a wild mushroom and brandy cream sauce on seeded mustard smashed potato with blanched broccolini. The serving size was enormous by comparision with the duck, though it was $34.00. And though both diners ordered their steaks medium-rare, they both came out blue. Personally I would have had to send it back, but they were both happy to dine on.
My highlight was definitely dessert. I chose the tasting plate, and while I shared some spoonfuls with my companions, it was certainly an indulgence at $29.00 (though it was utterly delicious and I wouldn't hesitate to get it again). The Chai Panna Cotta with a petite citrus salad and pistachio shard was eye opening. I don't normally like panna cotta - it's a texture thing - but this was delicious, and the citrus salad, flavoured with ginger powder and mint was a delightful balance to the creaminess. I normally find white chocolate a little sickly sweet, but in the mousse served at salt, it was divine, and I loved the mini toffee apples that came with it. My favourite was definitely the triple chocolate semifreddo with crushed praline which had a great balance of cocoa and an added dose of nostalgia with the coconut wafer served with it. I'm sure you'll agree it was beautifully presented.
There was quite a delay before we were served all our courses - 45 minutes from ordering before our entrees arrived and about 20 minutes between entree and main, though it was a relaxed gap before dessert was served. I expect most of our issues were due to the first night of a new menu being served, and I would certainly be willing to try the dinner menu at Salt again. With a couple of glasses of wine, a coffee and tip, my bill came to $80.00, so my main concern would be the prices, as I think at this level, there are other venues in the area that offer stiff competition on the flavour and style stakes.
Cheers, KangaRue :)
All views are my own.
* post has been amended to reflect the correct pricing of the ciabatta entree at $7. The originally price quoted $17 was taken from the Salt online menu which has also been amended. Having checked the bill, we were charged the correct amount.