The Entrance Lake House

On another of our jaunts up to The Entrance to have a butchers at the bi-weekly market, we stopped in for lunch at The Lake House. What a treat! As you know by now, I’ve been spoilt by the bright lights and excellent food of Inner West Sydney being on my doorstep, and hence I’m on the look out, always, always, for a great place to hang and eat.

Strikes me that the Lake House is going to be fulfilling both in my life from now on.

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Even on a chilly, rainy day, the view out over Tuggerah Lake was restful from our table through big plate windows despite the few hardy souls, dressed inappropriately, fishing out in the rain. Skipping the breakfast menu containing the usual brekkie suspects, we opted for lunch, which came in two flavours, set, or a la carte. We knew we’d have to wait until noon for our lunch so, having ordered, we settled down to Toby’s Estate coffee and a quiet mull over the week just gone. Mr C said his espresso was a little burnt tasting but that was absolutely our only teeny complaint of the whole lunch. Which is to say, miniscule.

Whilst waiting we flipped through the drinks menu, happily noting a theme of lots of local stuff such as Rabbit Hole Tea from Erskineville (funny, never noticed the fields of camellia sinesis while we were there) & Anoint Herbal tea from Gosford. This time around we weren’t drinking, but we’re coming back for 4 Pines Kolsch (Manly) and draught Murrays Whale Ale (Port Stephens), and maybe a couple of the not so local but interesting sounding  Barossa Valley Organic ale.

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I was delighted with the water bottles; antique ex soda syphons collected from round and about. Who knew Woy Woy manufactured soda once upon a time?

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As we pondered the bygone glass and drinks manufacturing habits of here & about, the cafe steadily filled with bedraggled folks, all of whom looked immediately happier upon reaching the welcoming interior. Having only been open 4 months, the place has obviously already gained a loyal following. A large table was set with linen and balloons for a celebration. Caffeine fiends braved the outdoor tables to sup their espresso, ponder the view, and bugger off again. Upstairs boasted of function space and parties.

Just after noon, as promised, our food arrived.

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Trio of crispy pork belly, citrus caramel

My pork belly was awesome. Crispy, as advertised, but without that over-salted thing that happens when you try to quickly crisp a crackling. Attached to the meat – no cheating by removing and deep frying or grilling separately. Somehow delicately flavoured despite the use of normally robust fish sauce and coriander, spring onions. And the meat itself just the right side of cooked; gelatinous fat (this is a good thing), soft flesh perhaps just tending towards drying out but stopped just before. For a cafe, such a surprise that I think my eyebrows disappeared up into my hairline for a moment or two. And the caramel was indeed, citrusy. But not cloying. Phew.

For some reason I plumped for chips, a decision I guilted about for about 10 minutes after ordering, given that I’m meant to be cutting back on fats in my diet. I considered calling back the lovely waitress & swapping for a salad. Jees, am I glad I didn’t.

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I don’t want to over state things here, but these were the best chips I’ve ever had in my life. Even better than the chips cooked in beef fat at the chippy in Aldeburgh, Suffolk; better than Tommislav’s chips with vinegar spray, better than the sweet potato chips we had at that burger joint yonks ago when we were really hungry. They were heroic, thick, properly chuffed potatoes, fluffy as on the inside, glassy crunchy on the outside. Seriously, that picture in no way does them justice. Mr C, who had a whopping great plate of perfectly decent pasta, tucked into them with gusto before I stabbed him with my fork. Those dippy things, not that they were needed, were garlic aioli, chilli salt and a chilli sauce with a mystery ingredient we were scratching our head over for a while. I thought Worcester sauce. Which makes it sound grim, huh? But it wasn’t. It was yum.

Turning to Mr C’s prawn linguine:

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This was a good solid, garlicky, prawns n pasta affair. Great stuff, but, as he put it, I won.

9/10

The Entrance Lake House, 27 The Entrance RdThe EntranceNSW 02 4332 5253

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Deeply Crispy Piggy

If there’s anything I love more than hot buttered toast and a cuppa, it’s good pork crackling. I usually get a variable result depending on the quality of the meat (my fault for not sourcing top flight all the time), how long I have to prep, and crucially whether the skin is attached to the meat or not.

A while back I did a pork butchery class with the excellent (and genius knife skilled) Romeo Baudouin at Victor Churchill, Woollahra. Completely as an aside, he turned out an incredible, fluffy yet crispy crackling – using skin off the meat, not attached, and weighted between 2 trays at high temperature. I’ve been trying various methods to reproduce this ever since, and recently managed the best yet – and here’s how.

1)      Cut the excess fat from the underside of the skin, whic has been removed from the meat – the more you cut off, the easier it is to crisp, but cut too much and the resulting crackling can be saliva sucking dry. It’s a personal preference thing, this, you’ll have fun experimenting!

2)      Score – with a craft knife kept specially for this, unless your kitchen knives are ultra sharp. I like a 2cm width crisscross. Cut through the skin but obviously not so far as to cut it to bits.

3)      Dry your skin. Any way you can. Salt, which draws the water from the skin, and air drying in the fridge are best. Using larger grained salt crystals allow you to rub off the excess just before cooking. Rub the salt into the skin, place on a plate and pop in the fridge for as long as practical – half a day or overnight if you can. Dab periodically with a paper towel to remove the moisture sucked out by the salt.

4)      Pre heat your oven to as hot as it will go, 220 – 250C, fan forced if you have it. Ideally, do this just as you’re taking the actual roast out of the oven for its resting phase.  Dust off as much salt from the skin as you can, and place it on a tray – you’ll need one with a rim because there’s going to be lots of fat running off. Place another tray over the top, slightly smaller than the first. Stick in oven for 15 minutes at this temperature. You may as well stick on your extractor fan at this point too, cos it’s gonna be smoky! After 15 minutes, turn down to about 150C to finish – you can remove the top tray at this point – carefully as there will be fat running free. The skin should have puffed up nicely, but still be flat. Continue cooking until puffy all over and slightly browned.

5)      Serve! Betcha it doesn’t last until the roast is rested….

 

I found that the centre didn’t puff up so much initially – because of the trays – so I could have left this in longer. I’d actually got to the stage shown above in advance, and I basically trimmed the edges (ok, we ate them like piggies in the kitchen, burning our fingers in the process!) and stuck it back in for 10 minutes after the leg roast came out of the oven. Result – evenly puffed all over.