For those who know me, life in the city has been too busy, hectic and stressful especially with work. So it was nice to get away from the bustling Sydney life and head into the more relaxing, quiet town of Thirroul near Wollongong (only 90 mins by train from Central) where we got the chance to check out Flanagans Dining Room. While it was hot, it was also incredibly windy but that didn't spoil our mood that day for a relaxing, chill out session by the beach.
Originally Flanagans was your typical fish and chip shop until it changed management with Claire and her husband (who also takes the reins in the kitchen). It even has the old signage at the front of the restaurant. Since getting head chef, Arman Uz (formerly of Efendy's) involved; the restaurant has turned a new leaf in bringing Middle Eastern and Modern Australian dining with fresh seafood to the Wollongong region. We were also impressed by the interior design that Flanagans give off. It appeared simple with wooden furniture and ocean decor surrounding the place which gives off a relaxing and soothing vibe.
Before getting seated inside, we were treated to a much needed refreshing drink of Blood Orange Gin and Tonuc. Unlike most Gin and Tonic drinks, this one was very sweet and not as strong. Loved this drink. Would love to see more of that drink at bars and clubs hahaha.
Blood Orange Gin and Tonic
The bread was sourced from the Berry Sourdough Company and the extra virgin olive oil arrived from Hunter Valley. There was a selection of woodfired sourdough bread including white sourdough, rye and spelt. Always loved this combination. Once I tried a piece, I got hooked and wanted more but alas must save my stomach for the rest of the degustation. Speaking of which, the degustation menu at Flanagans changes based on fresh produce. Therefore, you would definitely expect some surprises here no matter which day you head down to the South Coast.
Hunter Valley Olive Oil and House-made dukkah
We were treated with countless glasses of Crooked River 2011 Estate White Blend Chardonnay wine to complement with our many seafood dishes.
Crooked River 2011 Estate White Blend Chardonnay ($11 - glass /$44 - bottle)
I was in love with the first entree dish that arrived to our table. The seared scallops were cooked perfectly to our liking and it worked well with the tangy chilli paste. The scallops were also quite juice with a slight crispy outer texture. I would gladly order this dish again just for myself.
Seared Scallops with Sambal Chilli Paste ($22.00)
Clyde River Oysters with Pink Shallot and White Balsamic ($16.00)
The following dish showcases Arman Uz's Efendy origins with its Modern Turkish influence. The texture of cakes were light and bouncy which matched well with the creamy and garlicky baba ganoush, the fruity pomegranate and the bitter watercress. A very colourful and tasty plate that will test your taste buds.
Crab cakes with baba ganoush, watercress and pomegranate (price unknown)
Soon after we finished our entree dishes, FOUR plates of seafood and chips arrived to our table. I was gobsmacked at the amount of seafood that was presented to us. On the menu it is listed as 'Salt and Pepper Local Fish with Handcut Chips' where you get a choice between Bream, John Dory, Rock Cod and Snapper. Because of the restaurant being located so close to the ocean, you are guaranteed to get freshly caught seafood at Flanagans. The fish was fried and lightly seasoned with salt and pepper (I actually barely notice the seasoning when I tried the fish!). The outer texture was crispy while the inside was soft, easy to fall apart and juicy. There were lots of bones so we had to be careful when biting into each fish.
Each plate also came with hand cut fries which were so crunchy and addictive. I believe that these were some of the most crunchy chips I've ever had - possibly twice-cooked? Either way I thought they were amazing that we all wanted to grab more but was disappointed at the serving size (about 4-6 chips per plate). Will recommend ordering a bowl to share (thankfully available for $10) or even just for yourself to gobble it up yourself.
Salt and Pepper Rock Cod with Hand Cut Fries ($28.00)
Salt and Pepper John Dory with Hand Cut Fries ($28.00)
Salt and Pepper Bream with Hand Cut Fries ($28.00)
Salt and Pepper Snapper with Hand Cut Fries ($28.00)
If you are one of those people who can't stand seafood (you know who you are!), you can also get the slow cooked lamb shoulder with smoked eggplant and Cavolo Nero. I can definitely see this menu appearing at Efendy with the use of lamb and eggplant. Those who know me will know that I actually LOVE my lamb so this was a satisfying experience for me. It was tender and soft to the point that it melts in your mouth. The parsnip puree had that sweet taste which complemented perfectly with all the savoury plates so far.
We were all so full but we were still so eager on what to expect for desserts. Were we impressed? Yeah of course we were! Everyone was treated to three different desserts that were made to share. The kadaifi pastry was inspired by Uz's experience at Efendy. This was a favourite for everyone on the table. The nuttiness from the pistachio, the swirls of golden syrup and the pastry layers gave the dish a sticky and sweet crunch to the palate. And it looks so pretty!
Kadaifi Pastry with Pistachio and Golden Syrup ($9.00)
These dessert treat also had a nutty and sticky sensation with walnuts stuffed inside the figs and topped with maple syrup and clotted cream. While I'm personally not a fan of white cream, I would say that the cream actually helped in balancing the overall sweetness from the plate.
Sun Dried Figs with Walnut, Maple and Clotted Cream ($9.00)
I love creme brulee and I haven't had it in a looong time so imagine my face when I saw this dish. This is also shared between all of us although the serving size is much smaller. This dish would be perfect to have for yourself actually...hehehehe. It had everything that I like in my creme brulee - smooth and creamy vanilla custard combined with a burnt sugar topping so you can have a good time cracking it open. I was also gazing at the raspberries on top of the brulee topping. Very nice to have after a rich, sugar overload. One of the better creme brulees that I've ever had (in my opinion of course).
Creme brulee with Mastic and Vanilla ($9.00)
Before we knew it the day was already over. The dining experience was lots of fun and even got to catch up with everyone who I haven't met in a long time. The service was wonderful, down to earth and friendly and that complemented well with the quiet, peaceful setting with ocean views. Will certainly come back here if I ever head down this way. Definitely worth it for a getaway from the busy Sydney life that's for sure.
Claire (owner of Flanagans Dining Room) and Arman Uz (Head Chef)
The degustation menu at Flanagans Dining Room is available on Friday and Saturday evenings for $75.00 pp or $115 with matching wines. Bookings are essential.
Disclaimer: The Random Foodie dined as a guest, courtesy of Wasamedia and the Flanagans Dining Room. Opinions are personal.
Flanagans Dining Room
Thirroul Beach Promenade, The Esplanade
Thirroul NSW 2515
(02) 4268 1598
Breakfast: Saturday, Sunday and Public Holidays from 8:00am
Lunch: Wed-Sun from 12:00pm
Dinner: Friday and Saturday nights