The Lakehouse Cafe: Fresh flavours lakeside

ALFRESCO: Patrons enjoy dining out on the balcony at the Lakehouse Cafe at Murrays Beach.  Pictures: Max Mason-Hubers

ALFRESCO: Patrons enjoy dining out on the balcony at the Lakehouse Cafe at Murrays Beach. Pictures: Max Mason-Hubers

What: The Lakehouse Cafe; 11 Shoreside Row, Murrays Beach; 49711745; lakehousecafe.com.au

Chef: Shayd Hector.

Wines: 30 wines, 12 by the glass, from the Hunter, Orange, Mudgee, Vic, SA, WA and NZ as well as a prosecco from Italy and a champagne from Epernay, France.

Hours: Breakfast and lunch: 7 days, 8.30am-3.30pm; Dinner: Fri-Sat, from 6pm (bookings essential).

Vegetarian: Three breads, one entree, cheese plate, one wrap.

Bottom line: Entree, main, dessert for two (a la carte), about $110 without wine; three course special for two, $96 including a glass of wine each.

Wheelchair access: Yes.

UNDER COVER: The deck is a great place to eat and watch the water at the Lakehouse Cafe.

UNDER COVER: The deck is a great place to eat and watch the water at the Lakehouse Cafe.

A LAZY summer afternoon, a beach to walk on, a pier to fish from, a shady tree to sit under; what more can you ask? And you might even spot a shark, although you are not on the ocean.

There's a new warning sign on the pier since a shark was recently sighted just offshore at Murrays Beach on Lake Macquarie. But your table is on the cafe deck well back from the beach and there is not even shark on the menu.

You can relax and consider more pressing matters - what to order from the delightfully varied list of dishes.

Service can be a little slow, although the orders are taken quickly and water is brought without delay. When you have children in your party you are just that little more aware of a sometimes lengthy wait for the kids' food.

Which is a shame, as the food is pretty darn good. With a party of four adults and two children (there is a kids' menu) you might be able to make a good dent in what is on offer.

Roasted beetroot tartlet (entree, $17) with caramelised onion boasts flaky pastry, a decent dose of beetroot and a plethora of balsamic and oil-dressed greens interspersed with cubes of creamy feta.

MAINS: Pulled Emerald Valley beef in crisp filo, with watercress, pomegranate and prosciutto salad and red pepper jus.

MAINS: Pulled Emerald Valley beef in crisp filo, with watercress, pomegranate and prosciutto salad and red pepper jus.

The only criticism - could have had more caramelised onion.

On the other hand, coconut crumbed prawns come with textbook quality crunch.

This can be ordered as an entree ($18) or a main ($29). The entree is generous; five good-sized specimens come with a small salad, a wedge of lime and a decent splodge of chilli aioli. You might need to fight off wandering hands.

Restaurants which offer deep-fried food stand or fall on the quality of their cooking oil. Here, the prawns, flathead, chips, spiced Asian squid (all deep fried) are crisply cooked, with the clean, fresh flavour of a good oil.

And speaking of crisp, you can't fault the crispy skin pork belly main ($29). A neat, well-sized brick of melt-in-the-mouth meat is covered with fine pork crackling which shatters under the fork.

This perches on a raft of broccolini and shredded red cabbage; a pool of deeply flavoured jus and a generous smear of carrot puree just add to the pleasure.

Pulled Emerald Valley beef cheeks in filo ($32) is a grown-up version of your humble meat pie.

Fragrant slow cooked beef, shredded and encased in crisp pastry comes with a mahogany-hued red pepper jus, with a prosciutto salad dotted with pomegranate seeds providing a slightly Middle Eastern flavour.

Not everything is deep fried. There's also a juicy seared salmon fillet ($30) with a spicy chorizo and chive-speckled potato salad, baby tomatoes, sinfully rich saffron butter and a wedge of lime to cut through the richness.

The wine list is surprisingly varied with enough interesting well-priced wines, both white and red, to marry well with the varied menu. And a glass of wine is included with the Set Lunch Special (2 courses, $39; 3 courses, $48).

For dessert you could choose the ubiquitous sticky date pudding with butterscotch sauce, crepes with chocolate sauce, lemon curd tart, affogatto with Frangelico or baked chocolate mousse cake with blueberry coulis.

All we have room for is the trio of mixed gelato and sorbet with blueberry compote and pistachio praline - three generous scoops: raspberry sorbet, vanilla bean ice-cream and salted caramel ice-cream.

There's just time to wander down to the lake and play spot the shark while the kids paddle in the shallows.

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