WORD has it the city’s club dining scene is slowly dying. If so, you’d never have known it judging by the crowded Motor Yacht Club of Tasmania on Thursday evening last week.
The car park was full, the spacious bar and alfresco deck were buzzing and Refl ections was rapidly fi lling with groups, local families and assorted romantic and sea- tanned couples.
And, with last week’s unbearable heat, where better to dine than by the water, with magnifi cent views over the marina and river through to the bridge as the sun set over the mountain and the lights started to come on in the city.
Not only that, but heading up the kitchen was none other than Phil Kelley, who many will remember from the great days of his and brother Michael’s eponymous restaurants at Stewarts Bay down the Peninsula and, later, at Battery Point.
He’s now married, sails a 50- foot steel ketch, still surfs as often as possible and cooks as well as he ever has.
Phil says when he started at the club three years ago, he was mindful it also served as the local RSL and, accordingly, tailored his menus to an older, more conservative membership.
Open to the public, Refl ections’ trading week is burger night on Tuesdays, seven different $ 17 counter- meal options on Wednesdays and full a la carte menus at lunch and dinner on Thursdays and Fridays, with the kitchen closed on weekends and Mondays.
Late last year, Kelley said, he upped the ante, lightening the a la carte menu and introducing new, more contemporary dishes into the mix of old club favourites.
General manager John Gard said the increase in patronage since had been “quite dramatic”. So much so that, on the day of our visit, he had texted club members advising them the restaurant had needed to limit the bar menu and reminding them to book early if they wanted a restaurant table, because of heavy demand.
Ever- popular dishes such as battered fl athead, chicken parmi, beef and reef and the deep- fried selection of fi sh goujons, calamari, prawns and scallops with tartare are still there, alongside more modern items such as sesame seared eye fi llet, crispy skin salmon with wasabi mash in an Asian- style aniseed broth, and a chilli prawn and green papaya salad.
But the thing about the menu and the food that, for me, lifted both well above what you might expect in a club, and even in many of our restaurants, were the different salads and dressings appropriately composed and fl avoured to accompany and individualise the dishes.
Instead of the ubiquitous slaws and lazy icebergs with everything, the beef fi llet came with the Mediterranean fl avours of cherry tomato, rocket, walnut, asparagus, baby caper and a Dijon vinaigrette; pickled octopus with a goat cheese and beetroot salad; a lovely combination of wilted spinach, mushrooms and pine nuts complemented the baked quail; and the beautifully spiced marinade and dressing of chilli, ginger, garlic and black pepper combined with toasted shellfi sh fl avours to lift the prawn and green papaya dish.
And, just as the baked smoked quail and the deliciously refreshing prawn and papaya salad were very enjoyable, so too were our crisp battered fl athead fi llets and perfectly cooked porterhouse with shoestring chips.
While the wine selection might best be described as adequate, prices are reasonable and most are available by the glass.
A big plus was the staff who delivered admirably professional service while, in a refreshing change, appearing to enjoy being there and doing what they were doing well.
Entrees $ 5-$ 17; mains $ 21-$ 28; steaks $ 20-$ 28; sides $ 4-$ 5.50; desserts $ 9.50; Spring Vale Melrose Pinot Noir $ 25/$ 6.