The sun managed to break through the unseasonably grey weather as we flew across to Hayman Island, and I was finally able to fully appreciate the colour of the water, and the beautiful islands dotted all around us. As we splashed down, I was just wondering how they were planning to get our luggage and our good selves onto dry land, (a Hayman Island tinny?) when we started moving towards a boat ramp.
Then our seaplane showed off its amphibious abilities and cruised up the ramp, allowing us to walk down the stairs that appeared and step onto the island. I almost expected to hear Tattoo ringing a bell and shouting The Plane, The Plane! But the arrival of one of those cute little golf carts to carry our luggage was enough for me.
It was one of the more rockstar arrivals I’ve made, and I was surprised to discover how affordable the Air Whitsunday seaplane to Hayman Island is. Rather than being charged per person, you pay $490 to charter the plane which seats six passengers from Whitsunday Airport on the mainland to Hayman Island.
You’d be splashing out if you were flying solo, sure. But if you’re travelling with six friends it’s just over $80 each for an unforgettable view and fabulous arrival. Prices vary from different airports around the Whitsundays so it’s worth checking with the folks at Air Whitsundays for more details.After checking into our poolside rooms, there was barely enough time to soak up the way the room opened all the way from the bathtub to the balcony, and definitely not enough time to actually soak in said bathtub.Nor was there time to sit down at the writing desk and pen a letter… which is a shame as it looked like the perfect place to catch up on my correspondence. No – my body may still have been working on digesting the eight courses from lunch, but there was another eight courses waiting for me at dinner.
Like a real trooper, I threw on a fresh outfit, bid a temporary adieu to my room, and headed down to meet the rest of the crew. As we were led behind the bar, through the kitchen area, and into the Chef’s Table space I was surprised by just how lovely it was.I hadn’t been sure what to expect, but it’s fair to say it didn’t include twinkling chandeliers and a baby grand piano. Between that and my soft spot for delicate orchids in bowls, we were off to a good start before I’d even taken a seat.
Those who have been to Chef’s Table at Hayman Island before may be thinking, “That’s not what it looked like when I was there!” And they’d be right. The chandeliers are a new touch after being rescued from one of the island’s other restaurants as it went through a facelift. And I for one am glad they found such a nice new home.
I also quite liked the ladies who presided over the champagne area like slightly tipsy versions of Oscar, offering more flowers amongst the bubbles.
And speaking of bubbles, it was time to enjoy a glass of Moet, as our first matching wine. Oh, how I do love it when a good sommelier takes care of all that “what shall we have?” business. And then there’s the added bonus of getting to taste a number of wines throughout a meal.As far as I’m concerned, Moet and my personal favourite, Veuve, can go with almost anything. And that was certainly true when it came to our first course, Compressed Kingfish, Avruga Yoghurt, and Green Apple Noodles.
That’s right, green apple noodles. Executive Chef Glenn Bacon had come up with quite a few new taste sensations for me throughout this Chef’s Table meal, and the green apple noodles was the first new one. They were a tad tricky to actually eat, as the chopsticks seemed to spend more time cutting them in half than lifting them to my mouth. But it was worth persisting as they were nice and tangy.Up next, “Two episodes of Queensland Sand Crab. One: Pearls with ink. Two: Truffle’ed pumpkin, coriander sprouts, scratchings, pistachio crumble”. Matched with 2005 Stonier Reserve Chardonnay from Mornington Peninsula in Victoria, for those keeping tabs on the liquid side of things.
Then came Lamb Shoulder, Gently Smoked under Cherry Wood, Pickled Cherries, Organic Quinoa, with a 2007 Wither Hills “Taylor River” Pinot Noir from the Marlborough region in New Zealand. I love lamb, and had locked onto this one on the menu.Which is why I knew what was waiting for me under the mysterious shroud of steam below… though I still delighted in the drama of it all when they revealed the dish, wafting the smell tantalisingly towards my nose.
After our next course, Grainge Fillet Carpet Bag accompanied by my favourite wine of the night, a 1999 Wendouree Cabernet Sauvignon from Clare Valley in South Australia, it was time for another dramatically presented dish. And how.As a palate cleanser, we were presented with a Frozen Sloe Gin Martini. Which I would have expected in a glass. But instead it appeared in a frozen teardrop, lit by a candle, with a beautiful orchid by its side.
At first I assumed the teardrop in front of us was glass, it was so beautiful and delicate. Then I realised it was actually made of ice, and became slightly obsessed with how they managed to do it. It turns out it’s something to do with water, and a balloon, and a large freezer, and then cutting the hole out of the front.
Even after it was explained, it still seemed like a magic trick to me, and I can’t see myself ever trying this one at home. As our ice teardrops were taken away to make room for the next course, I almost shed a teardrop of my own thinking about how this was the end for them, and that they’d be water again soon.
But I didn’t have a chance to be sad for long, because up next was the item on the menu that I was most curious about. The Strawberry Cheese Cake Implosion.
It was the “Implosion” bit that got me thinking. How will they make a Strawberry Cheese Cake implode? I had no idea, but I definitely wanted to hang around to find out. And I wasn’t disappointed.When it was placed in front of me it was clear this was no ordinary cheesecake. Instead I was facing a mini Death Star of white chocolate with a touch of gold leaf.
Then when the chef poured strawberry sauce over it, the white chocolate, well, imploded slowly, melting away to reveal strawberry cheesecake and ice-cream and goodness knows what else.Just as I was coming to terms with how fabulous it looked, I took a bite. And the implosion became an explosion as a Pop Rocks-style sensation started to take place in my mouth. Yum yum yum and FUN.
After all of this excitement it was difficult to even concentrate on the last dish of the evening, Valrhona Manjari Chocolote Biscuit Souffle with Frozen Honeycomb Marscapone. Or to even drink the last two wines that came with the desserts… the 2009 Alasia Moscato D’Asti, DOCG, from Piemonte, Italy or the Valdespino “El Candado”Pedro Ximenez, from Jerez, Spain. But I did my best.
Then the meal was over. After thanking Glenn Bacon for an incredible evening, it was time to be taken on a tour of the Hayman Island kitchens. I’m told they’re the second biggest in Australia, behind Crown Casino in Melbourne, and I’d believe it because they were huge.
The tour took in the Hayman Chocolate Room, and it’s a fair indication of just how close I was to exploding after 20 courses in one day that I actually said no when they tried to tempt me with more chocolate. That’s a first, and may well be the last.
Now earlier I said there was eight courses waiting for me at dinner, but I should point out that technically the Chef’s Table at Hayman Island is six courses. But with the two episodes of crab coming out separately, and the frozen teardrop palate cleanser not officially counted in the mix, it felt like eight.
The menu does of course change from time to time, but I have a feeling they have a few more tricks up their sleeve.The Chef’s Table at Hayman Island costs $245, wine included. Which considering how much I’ve spent on a relatively simple meal and drinks with friends in the past, I consider a bit of a bargain. And there’s also a smaller, Chef’s Bench for between two and four people if you have a smaller group, or want to just share the experience with a loved one.
With just the one table, and so many people who want to try it, the Chef’s Table can very easily book out weeks in advance, so I’d suggest putting in a request for a seat at this special table as soon as you make your holiday booking to the island.
Oh yes, the island. With all this talk of food I haven’t even had a chance to tell you about that. Don’t worry… I’ve saved a few tips for next time!
Amanda Woods travelled as a guest of Tourism Queensland however all opinions and thoughts remain her own.