11 October 2016
RESTAURANT REVIEW; PIPPIES BY THE BAY, WARRNAMBOOLby SILKE
Pippies by the Bay is a natural choice when you want to combine one of Warrnambool’s most popular family friendly attractions with a good meal. The restaurant is located right next to Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village, an open-air museum village that explores the region’s rich and dramatic history of early pioneers and catastrophic ship disasters. Read my review of Flagstaff Hill here.
In fact, Pippies shares the same building as the visitor centre of Flagstaff Hill, so on days with less than favourable weather conditions it is conveniently easy to just slip through the door and into the comfortable atmosphere of the restaurant for a warming meal and some cool drinks.
The restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, with the latter being extremely handy when you have booked yourself into the amazing Shipwrecked! light and laser show which takes places after dusk at the adjoining museum village.
The only trouble is when you arrive too early and have to wait outside in front of closed doors while the staff inside is busy setting the tables and finishing the final touches to the dining room. Although nowhere stated, the restaurant does close between sittings, so be mindful to arrive at the correct time for your booking.
However, once inside the welcome is warm and friendly and the setting cosy. Purple electric candles on the tables set the mood for a relaxing dining experience, and on warmer days the outside space overlooking Flagstaff Hill and the Southern Ocean must be an amazing place to enjoy a romantic meal.
We have the standard menu and day specials to choose from for our dinner. At Pippies it’s all about locally sourced food. The Southern Ocean is of course right at its door step, so delicacies like abalone, crab, and ocean trout find their way naturally onto the menu.
If you don’t like fish and seafood, don’t despair. There are plenty of other options on the menu to choose from including potato gnocchi, duck leg, and – who would have thought? – the good old chicken parma. Having said that, all menus at the restaurant feature a selection of seasonal dishes, which means that in a couple of months’ time there might be other creations to enjoy.
Pippies by the Bay is of course a family friendly restaurant, and there are not just kid friendly items on the menu, the kids are also happy to receive lots of pens and some sheets of paper to get creative while we are waiting for our food.
Other families and diners are slowly filling the room, many of them dining here in preparation for the evening show at Flagstaff Hill. We choose a meat dish and a seafood dish to test out the restaurant’s ability to satisfy both palates.
The steak we order is served with a thyme and potato terrine, asparagus, carrots and a red wine reduction. We order it medium-rare and it is cooked to perfection, absolutely no complaints! The potato terrine however lacks a bit of salt, and the sparsely added red wine reduction does not do the dish any favours. It would have been nice to have a bit more of liquid to go with the potato and the meat, just so that the flavours and different textures come together nicely on the tongue.
We also order a seafood option: a beautifully roasted barramundi fillet with two king prawns, served with asparagus on a lemon, chive and fennel risotto. Although I do like barramundi very much, it is a bit of a risky choice. In the past, risottos have been hit and miss, sometimes lacking flavour or not coming together with the right texture, with the potential of ruining the whole dish.
Alas, Pippies by the Bay are absolutely spot on with this risotto. It is the perfect accompaniment to the fish – zesty, acidic, and with the added crunch of tiny onion cubes. In my view, barramundi with this risotto has never tasted better. The king prawns are a nice touch, yet not really necessary. The dish would have worked equally well without them, celebrating the fish rather than taking away all its glory with their presence. But of course, they are also appreciated and deliciously cooked.
One of the kids decides to go with the gnocchi gorgonzola which is not on the kids menu, and as you can see from the picture, it is a heart-warming, saucy dish which is just perfect after a day outside in the cold. Personally, I would have appreciated more gorgonzola in the sauce, but my daughter was very happy with her choice, convincing even my son to give this dish a go who normally couldn’t care less for gnocchi.
After our mains we just cannot go past the dessert menu.
The banana split is beautifully presented, with the ice-cream sitting on slices of cool banana wrapped in pastry. Digging into this dish is like exploring a wonderland of ice-cream and banana goodness. The chocolate sauce on the bottom is deliciously rich and creamy and just perfect.
We also order Eton mess from the speciality board. Admittedly, Eton mess is my weakness and a dish that I cannot leave untouched if I find it on a menu. At Pippies on the Bay it is an Eton mess redefined. Served in a cocktail glass, the “mess” is well contained and not very messy at all. Meringue shards in different colours stick out from the top like ice-cream wavers, much to the enjoyment of the children.
It is a bit too much on the sweet side for me. Personally, I would have enjoyed a more balanced dessert, maybe with a bit more fresh berries or more acidic fruit sauces. I find it challenging to finish as it is too much sugar with too little counterbalancing acidity.
It is busy now at Pippies, and some of the guests have finished their meals and prepare to leave for the show. We check our watches and realise that we are a bit in a rush now. Since we had to wait for our desserts (the restaurant is busy, and the kitchen probably too, so I am not blaming them for the little waiting time) we are now running out of time and have to bid our quick farewells to ensure we don’t miss the beginning of the show. It would have been nice to be able to sit around the table a wee bit longer, maybe for a coffee or an aperitif before heading to the show next door. Maybe if the restaurant had opened its doors earlier this would have been possible.
Overall, Pippies is a sound choice if you are in the area and are looking for a fine dining option with an amazing view and a romantic atmosphere in Warrnambool. Not all dishes on the night can win us over completely but the barramundi with risotto is a dish I would happily come back to over and over again. Like at many other restaurants in regional Australia, pricing is higher than in bigger cities considering the overall experience. If you plan to visit in combination with the Shipwrecked show next door be mindful of the time and don’t get into a rush like us at the end.