It's true that we don't always need a 'reason' for doing things. I don't need to justify why I chose to go to Bretts Wharf in spite of a previous bad experience. I can just tell you 'because I felt like it'.
Having said that, I'll provide a reason all the same.
Charlie and I were choosing between restaurants to go to (as in, I was researching and asking him and he pretty much just agreed to whatever I suggested) and Bretts Wharf crossed my mind. I'd been there once before with my mother and we both didn't think the food was that great. However, I keep hearing rave reviews about this place on Vogue Forums so I became open to the idea that maybe we just ordered the wrong thing.
I was attracted to the notion that it is predominantly a seafood restaurant. This would have never appealed to me in the past but I am, slowly, growing more and more fond of seafood. What sealed the deal was actually watching an episode of 'Ready, Steady, Cook' on Ten. This is one of those day-time TV shows I enjoy watching and my favorite chef is Manu. In this particular episode, he was up against another chef... I was just telling Charlie that I also liked this other guy because he always seems friendly and jolly. Peter Everett (the host) then announces that the other guy was Alastair McLeod from (gasp!) Bretts Wharf.
Thus the booking was made and off we went.
We arrived pretty early. I was worried the restaurant wasn't even open yet (that's happened to me before in the past) but thankfully, as we got closer to the front doors, I could see that there was already a fair number of people scattered throughout. Some were at the bar, that's true, but there were enough at the dinner tables that consoled me into thinking we wouldn't be the only ones eating.
The waiter who seated us introduced himself as our table's personal waiter. We were then given a moment to look through the menus. As it happens, Charlie and I had already looked at the menu online and decided what we were going to order. You can't accuse us of going to a restaurant unprepared.
Bretts Wharf has a selection of tapas, heartier entrees, mains, desserts and a cute glossary of terms that was interesting to read through as we waited for our waiter to return and take our order.
We went for 2 tapas items to share, rather than entrees. I chose the prawn and sausage kataifi and Charlie chose the bug and barramundi spring rolls. Just before they arrived, Charlie decided that he also wanted a side of sourdough. I thought it would be arriving with his main. Charlie thought it would come with the entrees. It didn't - and they took away our bread plates. The bread (and plates) ended up coming with our mains after all but I think there must have been a mix-up because the waiter apologized and said the bread would be complimentary.
I didn't mind that they came with the mains so I wasn't sure what the mix-up was but it was a lovely gesture all the same. For mains, I ordered the seafood paella and Charlie ordered the salmon.
I was really excited about the kataifi. One time that I went to Mecca Bah, I ordered a cheese kataifi and it was brilliant. Kataifi is (according to Bretts Wharf's glossary) a 'shredded filo pastry'. That may be true but it doesn't fully describe how unusually light and crispy it is. The Bretts Wharf Kataifi didn't let me down. The prawn was succulent and I loved the yogurt dipping sauce too (I'm sure that doesn't surprise you , knowing how keen I am on yogurt).
The spring rolls were also delicious. I thought they looked rather plain but one bite turned me around completely. The filling was full of flavor and contained generous chunks of Moreton bay bug and fish. I thought the dipping sauce was just plain soy but it was definitely more complex and perfectly complimented the spring rolls.
They gave us 3 of each item and I didn't know whether I should have 1 extra kataifi or 1 extra spring roll. I ended up going for the kataifi and Charlie munched down the last spring roll. Happiness all around.
Not too long after that, the mains arrived (with the bread). Our little sourdough rolls were served with a palette of butter, balsamic vinegar/olive oil and dukkah. The crust was a bit too chewy/hard for me to handle so I just clawed out the soft insides and smothered with butter. Once you get past the crust, the bread is quite nice.
The paella came in a cute cast-iron dish and was propped up on a wooden board. I was warned that it was very hot. I thought the presentation was beautiful - juicy rice with lots of seafood bursting out of the plan. I've never had paella before but it's always something I've wanted to try. The first taste was a slight let-down for me because I imagined it to be MORE flavorsome. The seafood was good and the rice was creamy and moist but I just craved a bit extra in the taste department. It might have just been me though because Charlie proclaimed that it was 'really good'. When I told him I preferred the salmon to the paella, he said it was the opposite for him.
paella - catalan rice specialty with chicken, chorizo, tiger prawns, reef fish, sand crab, octopus, calamari, clams, mussels, 36.9
I did think the salmon was as good as it gets for an all-out fish dish. That may be a bit disrespectful to fish or to fish chefs but I've ordered several fish mains at various restaurants and have always been let down. My personal opinion is that a fantastically prepared fish will never be as good as a decent steak or lamb. May be I'm just a remorseless meat-eater but I feel that red meat has much more intensity than fish.
Now that I'm through with my carnivorous rant, I'll say that while I don't believe the salmon was better than say, a wagyu rump, I admit it is unfair to compare it like that. I thought that for a fish dish, it was very good. The accompanying sauce, greens and potatoes were done to perfection and the skin on the salmon was phenomenally crisp. The salmon steak itself was juicy and firm... beyond that, I really don't know how to judge fish.
None of the desserts really sang out to me so we finished up after the mains. I left with my stomach feeling cheerfully content. It was a perfect meal in terms of quantity - nice and full without bursting at the seams in pain. It wasn't my all-time best culinary experience by far but it wasn't an ultimate let-down like my first visit. I still don't know if the huge raves are justified but I don't rule out returning to Bretts Wharf for tapas or future unrelenting seafood cravings.