Peering through the front window on Pittwater Road, you could easily mistake The Herring Room for a fine dining haunt. But the reality is quite the opposite. Taking over the space of a former surf shop, the boards and bathers may be gone, but the laidback northern beaches vibe certainly remains.
What's causing this confusion is the attention to detail that's been paid to both the fit-out and the menu. Tactically accented by exposed brick walls, polished floorboards, candlelight and dark leather chesterfields, the space is polished but still warm and homely — complete with a prize herring mounted proudly over the fireplace.
In the kitchen you'll find a trio of chefs — one French, one Thai and one Australian — and a mix of culinary skills that clearly shine through on the seasonal menu. And while each of these influences takes a leading role at different points, there is one constant: their focus on seafood.
Their signature French dish is an entree-sized squid ink and egg yolk ravioli with crabmeat, lemon beurre blanc, salmon roe and parsley oil ($18), which makes for a deliciously rich but well-portioned combination. Making up the Aussie contingency is a dish of seared scallops with creamy Jerusalem artichoke, chorizo crumb and pomegranate molasses ($24) and Moreton Bay bugs with lemon juice, olive oil, garlic and parsley ($34), among others.
Switching to Thai flavours for the main event, the whole baby red snapper with your choice of an onion, chilli, ginger and sweet soy glaze or a red Thai curry sauce ($36) is pretty spectacular. Served standing up, the fish has been fried lightly enough that it is crispy while still being tender.
When it comes to dessert — which you'll want to save room for — there's another international influence thrown in courtesy of the owner's Greek Cypriot heritage. The baklava baked cheesecake with almond shortbread and vanilla ice cream ($14) is dense, creamy and drizzled with the honey sauce that binds baklava together. They're both great desserts in their own right, but here they make for an epic partnership.
The Herring Room is actually much larger space than you would initially imagine, and the best seats in the house are in the courtyard out the back. Surrounded by high walls adorned with succulents, this little garden oasis epitomises the chilled out nature of northern beaches dining culture.
Images: Lauren Vadnjal.