There’s very little that can beat a leisurely Saturday afternoon when the sun is hanging high and you’ve had a productive morning enjoying the outdoors, completed a hard workout or just nutted out an assignment or piece of work, and are currently free of all obligations.
Firefly is a dining venue that feels like it was designed for rewarding you with a good meal while basking in the light-flooded brightness of an idyllic afternoon. Step inside and the venue calls on the best elements of a charming old English tavern, all rough brick walls, a hint of rust and slightly worn-in wood. This is a place where the dishes are designed for sharing and conversation in the quietly relaxed atmosphere flows easily like the wine.
Despite the more European feeling in Firefly’s decor, the slightly creamy Smoked Trout ‘Hand Held’ Salad reminded me vividly of South East Asian cuisine. The fragrant smoky trout was sweetened by the salad that consisted of bean sprouts, spring onion and a sweet and tangy flavour profile, courtesy of the citrus and coconut dressing. Wrapped in the leaf, it’s a satisfying, light mouthful that whets your appetite for dishes to come.
I really enjoyed the individual components to the Canadian Seared Scallops; the scallops were tender, the cauliflower puree creamy and full of flavour, and the pickled pear delicately sweet. The reduced balsamic sauce and slight touch of alfalfa sprout were great subtle details. However, all these components felt like a prelude to the morcilla sausage, which dominated the dish with its meaty, umami flavour, so that you tended to lose the smaller elements when eaten together.
Both dishes were paired to our first wine: the Pooley Cooinda Vale 2013 Pinot (Tasmania), had a very refreshing fruity perfume that was a combination of berry scents, predominantly cherry and strawberry. The sweet berry tang helped to add a hint of sweetness to the dishes, then tapered off into a more woody, spicy finish.
The Pumpkin Tortellini, which is a re-imagining of Firefly’s old gnocchi dish, is definitely a highlight of the new menu and is a beautifully colourful dish perfect for heralding the transition into spring. The pumpkin puree centre is extremely smooth and full of subtle, natural sweetness, encased in the smooth tortellini skin. Taking advantage of the natural power pairing of pumpkin and sage flavours, the crispy sage and almond sliver garnish is precisely the delicate touch of texture and flavour (with a slight cheesiness) that really makes the dish. The tortellini skin was quite thick towards the top, but that’s a very small complaint for a great dish.
The Grilled Haloumi was, again, another indication of Firefly’s unexpectedly international culinary influences – one bite of the warm chickpea salad, with its abundance of onion, tomato and hint of coriander, and we were whisked away from Asia and dropped in the middle of Spain. The chickpeas are quite firm, making this a very filling dish and one you’ll need to work a little bit for. If you enjoy the haloumi squeak, this is the perfect chewy haloumi for you. It’s not reinventing the wheel by any means, but great if you’ve got a hankering for these specific flavours.
Our matching Trofeo Estate 2013 Pinot (Mornington) had similar fruity notes to the Pooley, but was softer and sweeter on the palate, with black cherries constituting the dominant flavour. It was a very sweet wine that went well with the pumpkin tortellini, especially as the notes of spice came through.
You would be forgiven for stopping here in the meal since Firefly’s dishes, though delicately portioned, are surprisingly filling – but, of course, we had to try the mains.
I have to say that the Dead Mouse Shed 2014 Pinot (Yarra Valley) was my favourite of the wine pairings – it was smooth, soft and less tart than the berry-based pinot before, with an earthy, slightly savoury taste that left a pleasing warmth and spicy taste in the throat.
The Crisped Pork Belly is one of the stars to come out of Firefly’s new sous vide machine. This dish signals a return to Asiatic culinary influences, starting with the beansprout heavy salad. The pork belly is cooked overnight via sous vide and so the heavy greasiness that you often get with pork fat is entirely absent, instead leaving a melt-in-your-mouth silkiness that complements the tender meat, with ubiquitous crispy skin. The pork is bathed in chilli caramel sauce that is a curious blend of sweet and savoury, and reminded me of oyster sauce when paired with the meat. The small kick of spiciness is enhanced by the wine.
The flavour of the Roasted Lamb Rump could be a little divisive – it has quite a strong taste that is almost a little gamy, but in a way that really highlights the natural, earthy flavour of lamb, complete with crisp skin and a good division of fat and meat. The refreshingly sweet pea puree and minted potato side worked well as a tag team to introduce some textural interest and complementary flavours. It was a pity that the mint didn’t really come through. Again, the wine pairing worked well in enhancing the lamb meat.
Each new Firefly dish is distinctive for being a very well realised and beautifully presented addition to their menu, and a hint of more potential to come. And if you’re currently short on said leisurely weekend vibes, allow this restaurant to convince you otherwise, even if it’s just for an hour or two.
24 Young St, Neutral Bay
Phone: (02) 9909 0198
I Ate My Way Through dined as guests of Firefly