Let's get this straight. According to the website Bib and Tucker is open for coffee between 7am and 4pm between Tuesday to Sunday, breakfast is between 7am and 11am on Tuesday through Sunday, lunch starts at noon and finishes at 3pm (Tuesday to Sunday) and dinner is between 6pm and 9pm Thursday to Sunday. Got that? Me either.
It didn't matter, as we were visiting for dinner on a wet winter night and despite requesting a 7pm reservation our group of seven were told we could only have a 6.30pm or 7.30pm sitting. We weren't quite sure why as the restaurant was only about three quarters full (and the deck area, despite its blinds and heaters going full speed, had only one lonely – or brave – table of diners).
Everyone knows that Bib and Tucker is Celebrity Masterchef and Olympic swimmer Eamon Sullivan's new(ish) venture, but there are actually a whole team of Australian sports people behind the scenes including pole vaulter Steve Hooker and hockey player Jamie Dwyer. Its minimalist website says it is not a fine dining restaurant but not a café either, but given its curious stop start schedule, you had better be organised and plan what time you are wanting to eat.
Service is slow. This is fine if you're not in a hurry or not hungry, but if you are it can be a bit of a mission to attract some attention. It took a while for our orders to be taken, and another forty minutes for our meals to arrive. We finally tucked into our dinner an hour and fifteen minutes after we arrived (and we didn't order starters).
The dinner menu is made up of a selection of bites (such as dips, breads, fritters and oysters), small food, pizzas, sides and large food. Vegetarians only get a passing nod with two salads (beetroot or warm quince) and a mushroom and truffle risotto but they do have five pizzas to choose from, and you can also get gluten free pizza bases for an extra $3.
The small food selection varies from an $8 pulled lamb slider to a $29 charcuterie board. Most other small options are seafood including fish tacos ($15), charcoal roasted cuttlefish ($19), ocean trout tartare ($23) and the fascinating soft shell crab slider ($9). I saw a whole tray of these go past and they looked amazing, literally a whole crab sandwiched between a bun, dressed with avocado, green chilli and coriander, their little legs waving happily as they were marched to a table of hungry diners. I wanted one.
The pizzas are large and come on a soft chewy base. One of our group ordered the potato and truffle pizza ($30), which looked very simple with disks of potato, shaved Manjimup black truffle and taleggio cheese. She couldn't finish it, but a pizza box arrived to take her leftovers home with her, which I thought was pretty cool.
Other mains include a rotisserie chicken with pumpkin, chestnut and spelt risotto ($29) or the rotisserie pork belly with nashi pear, cabbage and watercress ($35). There are a couple chargrilled steaks to choose from plus two 'share' plates of Pedro Ximenez braised ribs ($55) and wood roasted lamb shoulder ($80).
I chose the Wagyu slow cooked in shiraz and served with parsnip puree, parsnip chips and fresh horseradish ($36). The meat was tender and easily shredded, the puree was warming although it could have easily been mistaken for potato. The parsnip crisps were fun to eat although I can't remember the big smack of fresh horseradish I was promised.
One of the highlights were the side dishes. A dish so simple as chargrilled broccolini with flaked almonds and lemon ($10) might have been the dish of the night. It was simple and full of flavour. A dish of cabbage salad with feta, pepitas and sherry vinegar ($10) was also really tasty although the feta was almost undetectable.
Rotisserie pork belly with braised cider cabbage and nashi pear
The rotisserie pork belly came out a giant slab of meat, with a generous crispy crackle that only the most hardened non-dieter would attempt. While the meat was tender and the cider braised red cabbage and nashi pear a good foil for the salty meat, it was decided a soft mash would have helped the dish.
The room itself is large and open. I can only imagine how beautiful the view must be on a clear sunny day, but at night with the north facing external blinds drawn, all the attention focuses in on the room. The wooden tables are large, really large, which makes them brilliant for sharing lots of platters with friends, but not so good for intimate conversation. The room is also quite loud and the music doesn't help.
The open kitchen protrudes into the middle of the room, so you can see the team of chefs working on plating up dishes and doing the final touches. Other than small succulents in round fish-bowl like vases on the table, decoration is minimalistic, letting the food and view do the talking. As you walk in, a wall of pictures (of food) taken by happy punters line one wall. Before you even make it inside, two taps welcome 'sandy feet'.
The curious toilets are at the front of the restaurant. Although boys and girls get their own stalls, there is a communal set of wash basins and mirrors. No discrete picking bits of food out of your teeth or reapplying make-up here.
The wine list is quite large but there didn't seem too many choices by the glass (and my friend complained there wasn't a single cab sav by the glass, only two expensive bottles the cheapest being $60 ).
Chilled chocolate fondant is for genuine chocolate lovers
Desserts are pricey but entertaining. Averaging around $16 each, they add a chunk to your bill as well as your hips, and it's probably worth sharing since they are all very rich.
The chilled chocolate fondant with salted caramel, raspberry and peanut praline ($16) was more of a firm chocolate mousse, and very dense and rich. The two girls who ordered them looked at each other woefully, and very quickly wished they had ordered one to share.
The banoffee bombe Alaska ($17) was a perfectly formed toasted meringue with banana and toffee icecream and a biscuit base. For an extra $2 you can order it flambé.
There is also an interesting selection of milkshakes ($7) with flavours I have never seen before such as banana and peanut butter and salted caramel and chocolate. No vanilla or strawberry here, although you can request and vanilla and strawberry thriller (and I suspect it is no ordinary vanilla and strawberry).
Bib and Tucker has a lot going for it, and if you're not in a rush, then the generous food and stunning views would certainly make most people happy, and technically it is open all day from 7am to 9pm. Just don't show up between 11 and 12 or between 3 and 6 and expect to eat.