A feast of fresh seafood

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A fresh seafood feast. That’s how I describe our dining experience at the new Pelagic Bar and Dining, Bailey’s Arcade (where Antigo’s used to be).

“Fresh” is the operative word. I know, I know, many think it’s impossible to get fresh seafood in landlocked Canberra, but what a passé view. Pelagic’s fish are caught the day they’re picked up at the airport, which means the quality is as close to best in class it can be. “No frozen allowed,” I’m told.

The word “Pelagic” comes from the Greek pélagos – “open sea”. When you enter, you see the raw bar, serving up sashimi, tasting plates and serious cocktails.

Thankfully, soggy fish and chips, deep fried, rubbery calamari and seafood smothered in sauce aren’t on the menu. This is fresh food served simply – dishes that allow the seafood to shine.

We started by sharing entrées. The melt-in-your-mouth Merimbula oysters were a stunning start.

Next was the sugar-cured ocean trout with horseradish mayo served “on toast”. Not my favourite dish in either presentation or flavour. The super, thinly sliced trout was lost on the dusty toast. I felt sorry for it.

However, the Queensland scallop tartare was exquisite and the crab omelet, with oyster chilli sauce a delight. We carried on for another couple of dishes and would never have stopped – all of us loving this way of dining – but we had promised to give the mains a go (all $30).

My seared kingfish served with caramelised white whitlof, parsley and a Cabernet reduction was beautiful with the strong, dense fish holding its own against the rich reduction.

The roasted barramundi is for those who love this prized fish. It’s served with salsa verde, fun potato crisps, caramelised garlic and pancetta, with the pancetta really adding to the dish. The char-grilled salmon is for those who adore braised fennel. It was served with crunchy toasted almonds and pucker-power orange and eschallot vinaigrette.

The dessert menu makes you drool (most $12). The rich and creamy cinnamon pannacotta came with macerated strawberries, candied orange zest and mint. The Pina Colada was another winner – pineapple and lime sorbet, coconut ice cream, meringue and spiced rum gelé.

A highlight was the decadent Truffled Alexander – truffle infused St Agnes VSOP, crème de cacao blanc and shaved chocolate (dangerous!) and the Orange Sorbert Negroni, with orange segments and exotic caramelised orange oils, a lovely sweet ending.

Pelagic has a large wine cellar and a private dining room. The interior has been overhauled and now features a smart bar, interesting lighting, polished concrete floors and industrial tubing on the ceiling. And as for service? Impeccable.

Pelagic, Bailey’s Corner, open lunch and dinner Monday-Friday and dinner Saturday. Cocktails from 5pm. Closed Sunday. Call 6162 0752.

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Wendy Johnson
Wendy Johnson: Food reviewer for Canberra CityNews magazine since 2004, covering stories for true foodies to digest.

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