Time out at Bayside Lounge, Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre

by Forager on November 30, 2012

I find myself at Bayside Lounge and for once, I’m here in a fairly calm and lucid state – not sleep-deprived, not delirious from excessive consumption of sugar, and not wide-eyed and supercharged with adrenalin. From my description, you’d be forgiven in thinking that I’m talking about a seedy Saturday night out in The Cross, but no, the very respectable Bayside Lounge hugs the external fringe of the enormous Darling Harbour complex that is the Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre (SCEC).

Over the years, I’ve attended many a conference at the SCEC and the last few have seen me trade in my usual passive participant role for a far more active organising one. Inevitably, I can be found stressed and running around trying to herd speakers and fix crises. To fuel the madness I end up eating self-loathing inducing amounts of the ubiquitous free trade stall sugary junk and collecting far too much gimmicky plastic branded junk that I’ll never use. Once, I drank so many fruit smoothies from our own trade stand that I gave myself a blinding fructose-migraine. I hadn’t even realised that was possible until it happened.

Bayside Lounge at the Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre, Darling Harbour

Bayside Lounge at the Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre, Darling Harbour

Bayside Lounge was the reliable time out place for me when conferences became all too much – a blessed quiet escape bathed in natural light and serving more than lollies and ashen swill passing as conference coffee. The lounge has sweeping panoramic views of Darling Harbour, a perfect vantage point for zoning out and watching the crowds of mainly tourists idly strolling by. From the clientele present it’s a clear favourite not just tourists but with other conference attendees too, tucking into their meals, their lanyards still hanging around their necks.

Dining room flooded with plenty of light and panoramic views of Darling Harbour

Dining room flooded with plenty of light and panoramic views of Darling Harbour

For a refreshing change, I’ve come on a hot sunny spring day to experience dining here leisurely and have more than a coffee and small snack. I’ve opted for the tea-smoked lamb as my own attempts at tea smoking duck at home wasn’t what you’d call a culinary feat and since then I’ve found it difficult to resist ordering tea-smoked items from the menu – if just to sample what successful tea smoking tastes like and speculate what I did wrong. The lamb is served cold and subtly smoked, firm but not tough. It is accompanied with a typical French combo of creamy, crunchy celeriac rémoulade and lightly dressed mâche, a common French salad leaf slowly populating our markets here. The flavours are delicate and subtle with the side of char grilled sweet corn salad complementing with some robust punchy char flavours. For $24 it’s a tad on the small side – more an entree than a main size, but I was well warned before I ordered it (in my defence, please see the passage above about tea smoking obsessions).

Bayside Lounge, apple tea-smoked lamb loin

Apple tea-smoked lamb loin with sweet corn salsa, celeriac remoulade, mache and lemon vincotto; $24

The dessert is the main game I’m here for – specifically, the avocado panna cotta. I’m certainly no stranger to avocado based desserts and I’m particularly addicted to the delicious avocado shake favoured by the Vietnamese – an ice cold creamy concoction sweetened with condensed milk that is just pure bliss on a hot summery day. With it’s creamy texture and high monounsaturated fat content, it’s not surprising that avocado lends itself so well to creamy desserts, in fact its Chinese name literally translates to “butter fruit”. This avocado dessert special is only being served during the month of November to celebrate the current seasonal bumper crop of avocados and reportedly took Chef Claudine Balderstone weeks to develop the recipe so I was excited to see the result and just snuck in before the end of the November to sample it.

avocado panna cotta, avocado gelato and chilli avocado marshmallow

Lightly sweetened avocado panna cotta with coriander laced avocado gelato and chilli avocado marshmallow; $12.95

It’s an unctuously rich and creamy panna cotta, the smooth texture contrasted with ground nuts and crunchy toffee pebbles. It’s finished with a light and airy avocado gelato and a sweet pink tangle of Persian fairy floss.

I find the accompanying marshmallow intriguing – a cube of cloud soft sweetness presented in a violent swirl of vivid colour that commanded my attention. The sweetness of the avocado flavour plays second fiddle to the chilli, a mild heat that slowly intensifies but easily doused with a spoonful of the creamy panna cotta.

Chilli avocado marshmallow

Mesmerising chilli avocado marshmallow

It’s the first time I’ve had more than a coffee at Bayside Lounge and enjoying a calm, unhurried and civilised meal was a very welcome change. The lanyard toting clientele around me quickly up-end their coffees and gather their belongings to rush back to an afternoon of conference sessions as I prepared to step out into the sunshine for a leisurely stroll and somehow that made the experience all that more enjoyable.


Bayside Lounge

Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre

Darling Drive, Darling Harbour, Sydney

Tel: +612 9282 5000


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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Richard Elliot December 1, 2012 at 12:49 am

I thought I| universally loved the avocado until I tried an avocado shake in Cabramatta. I can’t put my finger on why I didn’t like it, but it was something my palate just couldn’t handle at all!
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2 Gaby December 2, 2012 at 7:34 pm

I’m usually not very attracted to desserts but this one looks like something else!
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3 Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella December 6, 2012 at 3:07 pm

Hehe I can’t imagine you doing all of those things! You always seem so sensible and in control Trina (meant in the best possible way! :D).

4 rea francis (francicuisine) December 7, 2012 at 8:08 am

Trina – thanks for your post on the wonderful avo dessert at Bayside Lounge! Come in and meet Uwe Habermehl, Exec Chef and his team with me in the new year!

5 The Food Sage December 15, 2012 at 1:30 pm

I’m not sure i can get my head around an avocado dessert – but it looks great in the photo, so i’m willing to take the plunge the next time i’m in the area. Thanks for sharing, Trina.
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6 Forager January 3, 2013 at 4:20 pm

Hey Richard – I lurve avocado shakes! It is a little odd, but I love that creaminess. But I did grow up with them.

Hey Gaby – It was pretty special – some obvious careful consideration and effort in this creation!

Hey Lorraine – ah, stress and very little sleep can turn me into another person! It’s good to know I don’t project that perception normally though!

Hey Rea – No problems! Thanks for that offer and for dropping by!

Hey Food Sage – You should give it a shot – I really loved that vibrant red colour in that dessert.

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