BEAUTIFULLY BALANCED: Crispy skin duck breast with beetroot and fetta tart. Pictures: MJK CreativeSince the 1960s the Mawson Hotel has been a much-loved local watering hole.
The hotel is no more. Instead, on the site, a local family have transformed it into an apartment complex, complete with an IGA, and a restaurant that pays homage to the past.
It also celebrates its beachside location with a correspondingly casual and contemporary Australian menu.
You can come for coffee, or a wine, for breakfast or lunch; and now you can also come for dinner on Friday or Saturday night.
The place is almost full and buzzing at 1pm on Sunday, with families and couples; a broad demographic. I’m glad we’ve booked.
The menu is correspondingly all encompassing, with something for everyone.
Kids are treated with respect and can choose between grilled or fried chicken or fish, lamb sausage or lasagne. The first three come with chips, and vegetables or salad.
It is impressive that the vegetables are seasonal; Brussel sprouts, broccolini and Dutch carrots.
The sprouts and broccolini are vibrantly green and just the right side of al dente and surprisingly get a modified thumbs up from our 10-year-old grandchild. At least she does try some.
I suggest they offer kids sprouts the way they come with some of the adult mains; deliciously roasted with slightly charred edges.
Be sure to check out the specials and seafood board.
Today there are oysters prepared several ways, seafood marinara, beer battered dory, pan-seared mackerel or crispy skin duck breast.
SNAP TO IT: Try the chilli crab.
Crispy skin duck breast ($28) with beetroot and fetta tart was a little disappointing; the skin fell short on the crispy stakes. On the other hand, the flesh is pinkly moist and sits on a bed of beetroot puree with a disc of pastry on the side and a scattering of fetta cheese all round; a deconstructed tart. This dish is beautifully balanced; rich duck, earthy beetroot, tangy cheese and flaky pastry.
Roasted winter sprouts lift the pan seared mackerel ($30) to a new level.
Flaky, white, golden crusted fish, tangy grilled lime, sweet roasted winter sprout halves and this year’s go-to vegetable, roasted cauliflower. Yum.
Or, from the regular lunch menu you could choose char grilled peri peri chicken which comes with smashed chats, mint yoghurt and a simple leaf salad ($26).
The marinade of hot chilli, spicy paprika, ginger and garlic make this Portuguese dish a real winner.
Minted yoghurt helps cool the palate.
There are just three house made desserts; apple crumble with ice cream and custard ($14), brownie with toffee chocolate sauce and nut crumble ice cream ($15), and panna cotta with seasonal fruit jam ($12).
Or you can also choose from a selection of cake, cheese cake and pastries in the refrigerated cabinet.
SEAFOOD SPECIAL: Squid salad.
Panna cotta is one of those deceptively simple dishes that needs to be served on the day it’s made to be perfect.
There should be a definite wobble, which is only seen if it is turned out. Too much gelatine or a longer storage time makes it easier to turn out of the mould, but you lose the wobble. Here, the chef has compromised and served it in a glass. It’s creamy and smooth but just a little firm.
Today’s topping is a strawberry jelly, rather than jam. Not sure about the point of the garnish of a fine dehydrated slice of blood orange except as a good texture contrast.
Thumbs-up goes to the service staff; prompt, friendly, even though the place is almost full. And to the kitchen as well that knows kids don’t like waiting and gets their orders out very promptly.
Caves Beach already has the Caves Beach Hotel. The Mawson Café and Restaurant is a worthy complement.
Quick BiteWhat:Mawson Caves Beach,5/3 Mawson Close, Caves Beach; 4972 1813Chef:Brendan RueWines:Small wine list of mainly Australian wines; seven by the glass.Hours:Weekdays and Sundays, 7am to 4pm; Friday and Saturday, 7-11.30pmVegetarian:two Mawson bowls; cheese platter.Bottom line:lunch for two with two mains and two desserts, without drinks, less than $90.Wheelchair access:excellentDo try:Pan seared mackerel if available.