Flair, the name itself is probably not the most provocative or original for a restaurant, its location is also not the most eye-catching one either. We have driven past that tiny strip of shops at Erina Heights a million times but never really pay much attention to it. Unless you've been tipped off by friends like we did, this restaurant is definitely not in the food sighting radar here in Central Coast. But I can see that is about to change.
Last minute realisation that I won't be in the country for The Pom's birthday, an impromptu decision and booking has secured us a 8pm seating at Flair for an early pre-birthday celebration. We arrive at the restaurant right on time, the glowing signage outside stated, 'creative_style_cuisine' with underscores between each word can be interpreted as edgy, but to me, I'd still be confused what it actually means if I've never heard about this restaurant. Luckily, I am well informed and researched prior to our visit to know we will be here for a modern contemporary fine dining this evening.
8pm seating proven to be a not-so-popular-session despite it is a Saturday night in summer, the restaurant isn't that busy by now with only four other couples - two of the couples are now chatting loudly over the tables about their recent travels whilst at another table, a 20-something-puppy-love duo are still dressed in summer shorts and thongs, obviously they came straight for dinner after having a nice day at the nearby beach no doubt. At this point, I am thinking to myself, "Nope, I don't think they get what 'Creative_style_cuisine' on the signage really means before they walk in."
Fresh warm breads and soft butter welcome us, whilst we are served with amuse bouche of chilled cucumber soup with a hint of shellfish saltiness that open up our appetite.
The menu is straight forward, with five choices on each Starters, Mains and Desserts, priced at $24.00, $38.00 and $15.00 respectively. But we find the wine list is rather limited and not all are available in glass but have to order a full bottle.
The Pom starts with the smoked salmon terrine, a fusion of French technique with Japanese flavour. The terrine resembles a mini pink salmon brick wall with perfect bricklaying of using cream cheese, it is smoky, salty, smooth, soft and creamy. In contrast, fresh poached prawns are sweet, firm and ridiculously bouncy. The Japanese twist of wasabi, miso chantilly, pickled daikon and tobiko roe presents the dish with a refreshingly clean flavours.
My entree is simply a work of art, colourful geometrical objects meticulously placed on a black slate tile. Or in another words, boneless crisp chicken wings stacked on thick round corn meal polenta pucks, crumbed soft-boiled quail egg with gooey yellow yolk, slices of grilled chorizo, chimichurri dressing and a tile of crunchy chicharron spices the dish up with a sexy Latin touch.
A palate cleanser is served unexpectedly after the entree. The snowy mound of aloe vera granita is particularly cooling in the summer heat. We are fascinated by the plate it served on as much as the granita itself.
By now, most of the patrons already finished their meals and left the restaurant, but somehow there is still a long wait before our mains arrive at the table. It is close to 10pm.
But I am glad the wait is worth it, the mains look just as spectacular as the starters. The trio of pork is not for the faint hearted, it is a generous stack of nice pink tender juicy pork loin rolls on top of spiced rich grilled black pudding slices. A block of slow braised pork belly is fall off the bone tender, only if there is any bone. The chef is speaking my language, one tile of pork crackling is simply unacceptable, an extra long piece of crackle is balancing on the dish like a seesaw to complete one's desire of crunchylicious. The sour sauerkraut with the sweet meat, the silky smooth cauliflower puree, and the mini apple cubes, I think you get the picture it is a darn good dish!
The roast beef fillet is more down to earth in presentation and flavours, in comparison with the other dishes we've tried. The fillet is cooked to order, medium rare as it should be, juicy red meat with a nice caramelised shield, served with a whole roasted single-clove garlic bulb (also known as One Clove Per Head garlic) which is a first for me.
So far so good, and we are very impressed with the meal. We have high hopes that the desserts also won't let us down.
My heart does skip a beat when they bring out the desserts. The chocolate brownie and peanut butter ice cream is richer than Richard Branson and definitely a lot sexier and delectable than Richard Branson. "It's not about the money, money, money...."
Not everything is listed in the description on the menu, I've discovered fudgey and moist dark chocolate brownie, with a scoop of peanut butter ice cream, honey roasted macadamia crumbs add nuttiness, with a smear and splodge of salted caramel, a honeycomb triangle, a tiny cinnamon-sugared donut, and toffee banana slices.
It is soo-per-kal-uh-fraj-uh-lis-tik-ek-spee-al-i-doh-shuh
We also have a more refreshing, fruity dessert of blueberry jellies with lemon curd and elderflower cream, served with a scoop of blueberry sorbet and a coral of yellow lemon sponge. It is a light, summery dessert to end our meal.
It is almost 11.30pm by the time we finish our meal. Chef Jason Martin comes out from the kitchen and we have a great chat. I complimented him how I thoroughly enjoyed the meal this evening before hitting him with some tougher question like, 'How do you survive running a fine-dining restaurant in Central Coast?' His one-shoulder-shrug says it all before replying, "It's tough."
"Tonight we had a table booked for six people, they came in, had a look at the menu and then they said, "I don't understand the menu", we even tried to explain every single dish to them but they think is too confusing, stood up and walked out of the restaurant." he added.
But then on a more positive note, Jason has taken over this restaurant just a little over 1.5 years and he is already doing good things. Word has definitely got out about this little restaurant in the coast, as Jason had to design a last minute degustation menu for a group of food writers armed with cameras, who decided to have an impromptu visit just few weeks ago. Soon after, the restaurant was featured in an article on SMH, as one of the top 10 gourmet places to visit in Central Coast.
So, is there a place for fine dining in Central Coast, NSW? It is debatable.
But for now, Flair is definitely on top of my favourite fine dining restaurants in Central Coast that worth a revisit or two.
Flair Restaurant 1/488 The Central Coast Highway
Erina Heights NSW 2260
Phone (02)43 652 777
Tue - Sat 6pm - close