The sign on the door reads: “Sorry, booked out for lunch”. The other signs were there, too: some delayed traffic at the top of the expressway, a jam-packed beachside car park, and then hordes of people spilling out onto the deck of the newly opened venue, officially part of the Aldinga Bay Surf Life Saving Club.
But this is a far cry from your typical boatshed. It’s a shiny new build, with panoramic windows capturing the best of beach views all the way down to the rugged coastline and cliffs that separate this part of the Fleurieu from its more southern reaches.
Word is out. Silver Sands Beach Club is the place to be. Today, spring has set in, the sea is sparkling, the sand really does seem to have some silver about it, and the masses are making the most of it. We decide to try our luck, pushing past the sign and trying our best at looking desperate for a drink. At worst, a wine on the grass would be enough to quench our thirst, and, at best, we could snaffle a quick bite to sate our hunger.
We see some familiar faces. Behind the bar is one of Adelaide’s best DJs – Mark Kamleh. Turns out that entertaining crowds behind the DJ decks may transfer well to running a heaving lunch venue. On the floor is Nick Stock, most notably a wine guy but today is navigating enthusiastic diners with plates in hand. There are a few other recognisable hospo faces running the show today: with venues facing problems getting good staff, these mates have clearly called in a few favours. They’ve employed a bunch of locals too, mostly juniors from the surf club, I hear.
This life-saving team makes room for us on the deck, in the sunshine – prime position. Next time, we’ll book. Today, we order lunch.
We delve wine-first into Stock’s expertly devised list of drinks. The by-the-glass list is excellent in both selection and cost. Price points and taste levels are considered, from $9 dollar glasses of light and bright whites, to $20 for some cracking Champagne, and on to some more serious $22 red imports. It’s in the full list where you realise you might be drinking under the guidance of a maestro – there is not one wasted spot in the by-the-bottle menu. Not many places can achieve that.
By now I’m more interested in the food menu, seeing plates of this and that landing at nearby tables. We expect a wait, but hell, this kitchen must be organised. Not 10 minutes after ordering we are greedily stuffing some pillowy buns, overflowing with rounds of tenderly cooked prawn, coated in a club sauce (think seafood sauce, only lighter, creamier, less tart.) These are loaded on top of some sliced iceberg lettuce and topped with a smattering of chives. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it – a motto for anyone preparing this simple summer favourite. It’s a winner, without too much fuss.
Apprehension set in when ordering the next item. Despite trying a good many, I’ve only ever had two fish pasties that have hit home in my time (one on the shores of Mykonos, the other at our very own Peel Street Restaurant) and I really, really want to enjoy this lunch. I’m a fool to question. Outside, a flaky pastry as golden as the sand down below crunches beneath my knife as I (generously) cut this in two, to share with my date. The aroma hits. It’s the ocean. Somebody in the kitchen has managed to make a kingfish filling carry the scent of the sea right to the plate. There’s a little coconut in there too, perhaps a nod to nostalgia, when it was okay to tan. But there’s no oil here. Only crunch, and creaminess, and utter delight. I consider how strange it sounds to feel so excited about a pasty, but here we are.
A few green leaves, a bit of pink-pickled cauliflower and a little dish of that same club sauce from the prawn bun, are added to the plate, confirming that a pasty like this belongs on a plate and never in a brown paper bag.
Silver Sands follows the coast down south for their next dish. It’s cape squid, which as an ingredient, might be the best there is. This dish could be up there too. The tube and tentacles are char-grilled with a light and spicy coating courtesy of a marinade made with nduja (that spicy, spreadable Italian sausage that is often cooked down to a sauce). Flames have scorched the edges of each cut but the calamari remains tender – like, melt-in-your-mouth tender. Again, I feel like I’m back in Greece. There’s a Moghrabieh (pearl couscous) beneath: it’s been cooked in a stock with finely chopped herbs and adds some weight, texture and flavour to this showcase seafood dish.
Of all the pleasant surprises today, it’s the grilled swordfish that really reveals the nuanced talent in the kitchen, led by Alessandro Gramazio (previously of Osteria Oggi and Herringbone). This oft-beige and dense king of the ocean is seen on fish and chip shop and pub menus all over the place for those exact reasons. As a fillet, it’s fairly inoffensive, but in my view typically boring. Not today.
Gramazio’s version has been flashed on a grill and arrives gleaming beneath a coat of olive oil; the fish is propped on a dauphinoise that I expect to be potato, but is instead kohlrabi. Whatever the main ingredient, this buttery and cheesy bake is an absolute delight. So too is a smashed olive and caper medley on top, and a sharp-flavoured, lightly spicy and deep-coloured tomato sugo that amps the whole thing up a few notches.
And last from the Silver Sands menu is a dessert you won’t typically find near a beach but should be glad if you do: lemon tart with crème fraiche. Great pastry, perfect wobble, no fuss, just plenty of citrusy punch.
But even better than this dessert has been the musical vibes. A soundtrack made for eating and drinking. No real surprise, with a resident DJ running the show – and this is a Club, after all.
Silver Sands Beach Club
Norman Road, Aldinga Beach, South Australia
Bookings (highly recommended):
0460 762 345
Friday – Sunday 12-10pm
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