On the face of it, Bayly's is a theatre restaurant. It is the restaurant in fact of the Ensemble Theatre and attracts largely a theatre going crowd. More's the pity that more people don't make the trek (although the repertoire delivered at the Ensemble Theatre is amazing) just for the food. Oh and the wine list.
But let's start with the food.
Bayly's Chef Caleb Taylor is doing a sterling job of sourcing great produce and treating it wisely. A glance over the menu reads seemingly as nothing thrilling. Bayly's has a conservatively paced menu; mains cover pork, lamb, pasta, market fish, and vegetarian. For Starters there are three cold plates including salad, and warm seafood. Wise choices for the Ensemble Theatre goers. And the ensuant requirements of timing.
Yet, from the first bite we were in fact thrilled with this place. While the rest of our opening night Jack Of Hearts restaurant patrons included playright and director David Williamson, and Ensemble Theatre Patron and musical theatre star Todd McKenny, I wondered where the general public were. Missing out I'd say.
Because the food is superb. Taylor understands produce, sources well then presents it as taste delights. From our summer entrees the salad was of Heirloom tomatoes, beetroot, buffalo mozzarella, aged balsamic, fresh basil. And while this dish ticks all the vegan, vegetarian and gluten free boxes, with it's room temperature ripe tomatoes, and house pickled beet, it's also a visually appealing plate as well as mighty delicious. The Marinated salmon, watercress, fennel, crème fraiche, grapefruit & orange caviar is sensational, a lovely combination. And it mightn't have usually been the wisest choice for a mid-summer Sydney evening, but with the weather a little cooler a little overcast we elected to try the Chicken liver pate, free range Barossa chicken, house pickled vegetables, cornichons, and brioche toast. Again outwardly a conservative plate. But simply stunning in execution; I do declare this is the best liver pate - and yes I mean the best - I've had in years, and years, and years. Rich and deeply satisfying in flavour, robust in density, smooth in texture, without being overly processed. This was a good old-fashioned perfectly-crafted melt-in-the-mouth gorgeous glass pot of goodness. Those pickles were might dandy and a wonderful accompaniment too.
Again the mains read simply enough, and outwardly the dishes are indeed simple. Yet Taylor delivers here too with a dab though understated hand that creates balance and harmony across each plate. Take the fish of the day: Wild barramundi - seared and succulent, firm and not too flaky yet melt-in-the-mouth moist, sitting on top of fabulous in-their-jackets duck fat potatoes. With the succulent pork, the very fine potato gratin deserved its own applause. As did the pork. Taylor's sauces and sides stand on their own too. He's doing an impressive job, right through to tasty, and generous, desserts.
His take on Bombe Alaska sees a contemporary deconstruction with gorgeous still thankfully a tad chewy Kirribilli house meringues dotting the sponge and ice cream flan. The superstar of this program has to be the chocolate. Clever plating with a pre-theatre crowd and even on a busy night the dishes came out well spaced in a timely fashion.Centre stage, a rich Ginger chocolate tartlet comprises double dream, Nutella chocolate brownie soil, pistachiio and walnut crumb, topped with a tangy slick cherry sorbert.
Although the food is fantastic and good value, the wine list though small is also impressive, well considered and cause in itself for applause with great small batch choices under ten dollars by the glass. Gloria Gonzales gives us additional reason to dine at Bayly's with her well trained efficient but warm and friendly team.
And of course, then there is the Ensemble Theatre.