Herring Room references an older school of thinking – when restaurant menus didn’t have a single theme, but offered popular dishes from different cultures and cuisines.
“Everything on the Sardine menu [Heracleous’ Potts Point restaurant] is inspired by a different part of the world,” says Herring Room’s co-owner, Angela Heracleous. “I don't want things hitting the table with the same flavours. Everything has to taste different.” The uniting themes across the disparate menu are power and seafood. There are few subtle ideas here – most dishes are confident, colourful and rich.
The signature dish from chef Cyril Quiquampoix (La Scala, The Sailors Club) is a rich egg-yolk-filled squid-ink ravioli. The two dark parcels are topped with fresh crab and half submerged in a soup of beurre blanc and lemon-thyme oil. Then there’s a crispy-skinned, whole red snapper doused in red Thai curry that arrives standing upright like a trophy. The wildest and most powerful dish is a sort-of-salad with pickled herring, tomato salsa, parmesan custard and dehydrated olive crumbs, topped with lime sorbet. It’s salty, sweet, tannin-tasting, cold, hot and fishy. “The food is about giving people an experience,” Heracleous says.
The other part of the experience is Heracleous and her floor team. They are experienced hospitality vets. Heracleous runs the floor like an MC: she knows her customers’ names, tells a good joke and is generally a rather charming and rambunctious character. “When new customers come in my husband asks, ‘Are you ready for a show?’” she says.
Herring Room is inside a 1920s-inspired bistro, with floors covered in thick carpet and with brick-layered walls. The overall feel is nostalgic. Heracleous designed the space herself. She says this style of restaurant has gone out of fashion, but that’s the exact reason Herring Room (and Sardine Room) are full most nights. She believes people miss it.
94 Pittwater Road, Manly
(02) 9977 2572
Mon to Fri 5.30pm–11pm
Sat & Sun 12pm–late