It was pitch-dark with a roaring surf when we arrived at Pearls, so there was no danger of being distracted by what I believe are splendid views from the most southerly beach on the Central Coast. The dining room was beautiful anyway, lined with glowing cream weatherboards that were both beachy and deluxe.

The staff were all welcoming, informative and tolerant of our questions and our habit of carving up anything we order between us. We started with a small spicy roast quail, served with uexpected eggplant jam. The man went for “Tajima wagyu intercostals, with spiced carrot puree, rocket, pickled carrot, lentils and crispy onion rings”. The onion rings were my favourite bit of his dinner, as eating them clarified for me what Onion Rings™ are meant to be like. The real things turn out to be dissimilar to Onion Rings™ in flavor, texture and substance, not being made of recycled vinegar-flavoured rice bubbles coasted in salt and powdered rust. Actual onion rings are round wisps of onion in some sort of tempura-type batter, and it was a good thing there were a fair few of them, as they were divine.

My next pick was “Wild boar, ale, porcini & pea ragout, rye maltagliati, pecorino”. Maltagliati was torn rags of pasta – and it was astonishing, sleek and shiny. The boar meat seemed a bit salty – perhaps it was the pecorino – and the dish was fairly uniform in flavour – but it was lovely gravy-drenched comfort food.

The desserts were the most interesting things we ordered. The deconstructed roast pumpkin and maple cheesecake had some little shreds of raw pumpkin on top for a garnish, which were odd and fun to taste. The mandarin ice cream that came with it was exciting too. I picked espresso semi freddo which came with little peaks of avocado/white chocolate cream alternating with little peaks of ‘black Sambuca gel’. The chef came out to serve the desserts and to talk us through the elements – and to convince us to try to assemble forkfuls containing some of each element, which was a pleasant sport.

I had two glasses of wine, which was all the alcohol we could cope with, as we were staying in a holiday house with a treacherous driveway and it was too rainy to walk home. Despite that unfortunate element of moderation, the meal still set us back about $150. Nevertheless, I couldn’t have been happier with the evening. We felt generously welcomed, feasted and entertained.

Clare ate at Pearls on The Beach on July 8th 2016.