Delectable Dining

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In this regular segment we take delight in focusing on one very special restaurant that offers an exquisite fine dining experience. On this occasion our food critic, Ravenous Renee, relates her culinary affair at Sails on the Bay, in Elwood.

A memorable evening at Sails on the Bay

By Ravenous Renee


Having a booking for two, on what was one of Melbourne’s first true, cold, wet n’ miserable, autumn nights – ‘Sails on the Bay’ was a warm and welcoming contrast. Entering the romantically lit, ambient establishment, with white tablecloths and sheer draping sails hanging from the ceiling; this restaurant was slightly deceptive from passing it on the outside, but more than a pleasant surprise upon entering. Exceeding expectations from moment-go, my dining partner and I were warmly greeted by one of Sail’s Restaurant and Bar Manager’s — Kevin Board, and taken to our window table overlooking the beautifully serene Elwood bay. The sandy stretch, lightly illuminated by the establishment’s soft outside down lighting (capturing the glimmer of the raindrops that fell), further highlighted this place as a date-worthy, smart corporate, or special occasion, magicalvenue (also catering for functions).

Being attentively attended to by our lovely and very amicable waitress – Morven; from beginning to end, the service here could not be faulted. Same went with the food that Sail’s evidently talented Head Chef, Rafi Cohen, continually dished up. Nothing failed to disappoint, from the complimentary appetizers of creamy pumpkin soup we received before our entrees, to the recommended wine we drank, mains we consumed, and coffee and sweets we finished our meal off with (and totally demolished); everything was divine.

Getting the night under way, I ordered the ‘Cured ocean trout with avocado puree, dill and orange, pickled cucumber and savoury buckwheat sponge’ ($21) as a starter, whilst my dining partner dined on the ‘Vietnamese chicken, wombok and beanshoot salad, with rice paper crackle’ ($22). All entrees sounding very exotic and that they were indeed, in flavour and presentation.

Served in melt-in-your-mouthslivers, on a small wooden cheese board — my sashimi trout came out colourfully and artistically configured, with dainty dollops of Jaffa coloured caviar, delicious avocado, dill and orange creamed flavourful surprises, tiny cubed pieces of green sweet pickle and miniature bite-sized croutons. Delightfully divine with every mixed-sensation mouthful, my entree was agreeably light and refreshing, as much so as my dining partner’s Vietnamese salad; a somewhat average item you might think to appear on a gourmet menu, but once pronounced upon your palate — the flavours would argue tenfold. If a dish could have an age and personality, this one would be vibrant, young and oh so enthusiastic. The tangy, gently sweet dressing that it was graced in, prepared the palate well for the mains to come, and on that note, so did the wine that our lovely waitress Morven have hand-picked for us (by the glass) from Sail’s impressively extensive wine list.

Ordering the Duck Breast; served pink with leg confit, cabbage, bacon, baby beetroot, apple relish and star anise juice ($42.0), I was (ironically) recommended the 2011 Wild Duck Creek ‘Yellow Hammer Hill’ Shiraz Malbec (Heathcote Vic $12). It maintained a slightly spicy, stone-fruit, dark berry and peppery taste and aroma (that sat well-rounded on the palate and tasted nicer the longer you let it linger), similar to my 2012 Bodegas Patrocinio ‘Zinio’ Tempranillo (Rioja Spain) ($9.0) that followed — and gratefully, both red wines went exceptionally well with my food.

Deserving an equally commendable mention, my dining partner ordered the ‘special’ (twenty years commemorative dish) of ‘Deep Sea Blue wrapped in kaiserfleisch (epicurean smoked ham made from the eye of pork loin), braised savoy cabbage with autumn vegetables and honeyed soy jus’ ($39) and likewise, the wine to complement the dish    (I was told) was similarly gratifying. Starting off with the 2012 Breganza ‘Savardo’ Pinot Grigio doc (Veneto Italy $9.5), crisp, dry with high acidity (perfect for fish based dishes), and ending with the 2013 Isabel Estate Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough NZ $11), offering a superbly clean finish to a meal worth every tasty morsel, it was evident — nothing was compromised.

Now, getting back onto the food: at first glance I was hesitant about whether to order the duck breast (as from experience, it can sometimes be a hit or miss), but not wanting to irritatingly change orders, I was more than delighted when it came out. A feast for every sensory organ of my body, it was an art piece of rich autumn colours on a plate. With four tender generous carvings of ‘lightly pink’ fresh duck meat, served over a bed of cabbage infused with bacon bits — adorned with seasonal burgundy red (and golden) baby beets and condiments artfully dressed around the sides; the true smoky-sweet distinct taste of game cooked perfectly, was almost good enough on its own. The ‘extras’ simply created the volumised complexity of the dish, offering sweet and tangy — contrastingly mouth watering flavours, to not only compliment the duck, but to showcase Rafi’s exceptional culinary talent.

Sampling my dining partner’s plate — the fish was succulent and fresh and resembled a meaty like texture that went fabulously well with the kaiserflisch (that was neatly wrapped around it). Also an art piece to be marvelled at, it looked like a dish you would see in a Jamie Oliver or Donna Hay cookbook. A circular, wholesome portion, served over a bed of finely cooked, shredded mixed vegetables, and one of Sails on the bay’s most popular dishes in 1995 – this ‘limited-time-only’ dish was an honour to have experienced – a trip down memory lane.

Lastly, ordering coffee and dessert to finish off what was a wonderful night on all merits, we went on Rafi’s personal recommendations and ordered the exquisitely tasting and finely presented ‘White chocolate delice and dark chocolate parfait, with salted caramel’ ($15.5). With two opposing, but complimenting pieces of heavenly indulgence on a plate, I couldn’t decide which I liked better; they were both so good. The ‘White chocolate delice’ resembling a firm, but creamy unbaked cheesecake like texture (with flavours of crème caramel and fresh vanilla pod) and maintaining a chocolaty soft biscuit base — was out of this world. The small caramelised crisps decorating the top of its layer, adding the final detailed touch. Then meet the ‘Dark chocolate parfait’ that resembled a thick slice of chocolate roll (like what you can buy from the supermarket, but far more superior by all limits of the imagination). Something in between a cake, chocolate mousse and Italian-like ice-cream inspiration, rich and velvety smooth in the middle, with a delectable chocolate sponge encasement (of what appeared to withhold chocolate gratings and popping candy). Both desserts could not be surpassed. The coffee too, was arguably divine, and came out with complimentary caramel fudge and blackcurrant, sugar-coated, jelly like sweets – a very nice touch.

Walking out of this establishment after a remarkably enjoyable night, I was enthralled with the exceptional culinary and atmospheric experience that my dining partner and I had received. ‘Sails on the Bay’ never failed to deliver on service, value for money, indulgence or style, and expectations were exceeded on all accounts. A highlight of my recent eating exploration adventures, this is one place I will be highly recommending to friends and family and personally coming back for more! With a focus on the finer details that other restaurants fail to achieve, and a seasonally inspired menu, ‘Sails on the Bay’ is a true chameleon of rewarding gastronomic experiences, definitely not to be missed!


Sails on the Bay

15 Elwood Foreshore, Elwood

Opening Hours:

Tuesday to Saturday; Lunch from 12 Noon, Dinner from 6pm

Closed Sunday & Monday

Ph: (03) 9525 6933

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