What a wonderful, amazing and spectacular birthday celebration I’ve had! My husband and I drove from Melbourne to Mollymook, New South Wales (over two days, stopping in Canberra Australian Capital Territory overnight) to be part of a very privileged group of food enthusiasts to dine with Mr Rick Stein at his boutique restaurant, Bannisters. This is an invitation to Bannisters guests only.
A couple of times a year, over two days, Rick and his family return to Australia to host an Evening with Rick Stein. This event includes accommodation, a dinner hosted by Rick, eating an al a carte menu and enjoying a masterclass the next day, with Rick cooking for us at his beach house! My husband suggested we book this straight away. (Isn’t he just the best husband ever!)
I first found out about this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in April this year when Liz from Good Things, posted on Facebook about this amazing event. At that time, Rick Stein’s India had just finished on TV and his cookbook, with the same name, had just been released. I couldn’t believe that I would be sitting down to dinner with Rick Stein and then watching him cook for us. I was extremely excited and psyched that I would actually be in the same room with a seafood culinary genius!
Bannisters by the sea, is 4.5 star luxury ocean view accommodation, located at Mollymook, on the New South Wales south coast. There is pool side cocktail and pizza bar, overlooking the coast line and rejuvenating day spa to be enjoyed by the guests. The award winning Rick Stein’s Bannisters restaurant is where we would be rubbing shoulders with the one and only amazing Rick Stein and enjoying beautiful fully cooked breakfasts for the next two days – we actually had Rick and his family join us on the last day for breakfast! Ok, he didn’t actually join us, but he was there when we were having breakfast 😉
Everything was awe inspiring from the moment you drive in the car park – from the beautiful coastal views to the stunning, clean, comfortable and spacious rooms (we were booked into The Courtyard Suite – or as my husband called it ‘The Sub-Penthouse’ as we were right below the Penthouse!) and every single member of staff always had smiles on their faces, which in turn made us smile and be happy all the time. I would be smiling too working at such an amazing place in a gorgeous part of the world! Being a guest of Rick Steins was enough to make us smile.
Arriving just after check in time, we had a couple of hours to kill before our dinner with Rick. After settling in to our room, we decided to head to the pool bar for a couple of pre-dinner drinks. Sitting at the pizza and pool bar, next to the infinity pool watching the waves wash up against the rocks just below, enjoying a couple of glasses of French champagne, life really couldn’t get much better than this! It was just amazing and so relaxing, there wasn’t a care in the world.
An evening with Rick Stein started at 7.15pm, where we were greeted with another glass of French champage (perfect way to start the evening!) while we waited for our table. We were joined by two other couples, Clare and James from Melbourne and Sue and Gary from Sydney, who were all as excited as us about this two day spectacular with this seafood connoisseur. Conversation about which was our favourite show or cookbook of Rick Steins started the evening off. Feeling the love and inspiration coming from our table alone was amazing, but to feel the buzz coming from the whole room was wonderful.
We could order anything you wanted from the menu! All I was thinking about was the head chef, sous chefs and all the other chefs in the kitchen, cooking to order, for 100 guests who could choose from 10-12 entrees and 9 or 10 mains! That kitchen was so quiet and ran like a well oiled machine! All meals that came out of that kitchen were world class with all dishes presented exactly the same! I was impressed!
What to order, what to order! I wanted one of everything! I wanted to taste every single one of his dishes as they were all inspired by his trips all over the world and from his home town, Padstow in the UK. All the dishes sounded absolutely amazing, don’t you think? I decided on the Warm shellfish with parsley, chilli, olive oil, garlic and lemon juice for entrée – consisted of mussels, oysters, scampi, prawns, scallops and pipis – and The Madras fish curry with rice and green beans, for main.
My husband had the Oysters Charentaise, with hot spicy sausages – you eat an oyster, have a bite of the sausage and a sip of white wine – for entree and for main he ordered the Whole steamed Snapper with ginger, garlic and soy. When Rick came to our table to have a chat, he was mighty impressed with the way my husband’s Snapper looked – no meat left on the fish what-so-ever and a clean skeleton!
Our lovely head waitress matched a wine to our meal and was even gracious enough to let my husband try a sip of two wines to make the final decision! Where do you get that kind of service? The six of us were all very much in our element, enjoying great food, wine and company, laughing and talking like we’d all been friends for years! During our mains, Rick came over to our table (he stood right next to me – eeek!!) to have a talk to us (he went to every single table throughout the evening!) about what we thought of the food, are we enjoying ourselves, are we looking forward to tomorrows cooking class and what his next venture was – he just finished travelling around Turkey, Lebanon, Greece and Albania for a new TV series and cookbook, which should hopefully be out towards the end of the year, which sounded really exciting. He’s also coming to Melbourne to do a little series about the extensive food culture we have here, which I hope he tweets about as I’m there!
As the host of the evening, Rick got up to do a little speech, which happened to be at the bar right next to our table (so excited!!) talking about his adventures overseas and how he’s very happy that we’re all enjoying ourselves and his food. He was also very excited about cooking for us tomorrow – so are we!
Rick is such a personable, down to earth, friendly man. What you see on TV is exactly what you get in person. He loves socialising and having a laugh, enjoying good food and wine with good friends. And that’s exactly how we felt, like we weren’t guests of his but his friends having a dinner together. At times, I forgot he was a celebrity chef, even though I was very anxious when he was around.
Dessert was next. I am so full but the desserts look and sound amazing! We must have the hot chocolate fondant with macadamias and vanilla ice cream, each, of course. OMG!! It was divine, almost to die for! I had to take a moment to breathe and enjoy the moment as I knew I may not get back for another one of these for quite a while. There’s something about warm, melting chocolate pouring out of a delicate chocolate sponge with vanilla ice cream that gets me every time – what’s your all time favourite dessert?
Next instalment . . . A Masterclass with Rick Stein . . . at his house!