Shop 4, 1 McDonald St
Cronulla, NSW 2230
Despite having lived just 20 minutes from Cronulla for over a year, I’ve never once gone down to the beach. A packed scheduled combined with a general apathy for being outside meant I had no real interest in making even a short drive – until now that is. As it turns out, all it takes me to get out and about to explore Sydney is the promise of good food.
Seven Lanterns may not be directly on the water, but at barely 20 metres away from the surf, it’s more than close enough to benefit from the laid-back beach vibes. It boasts an Asian-inspired, seafood-driven share menu that doesn’t do anything too scary, but promises enough pizazz to still feel like a treat.
First up was a bright dish of Tuna Bruschetta ($22, 5pcs), where instead of bread, there’s a base of lightly-seared fish. The acidity hits quite hard, the choice of red wine vinegar perhaps too overpowering for the delicate flavours on show, but it was a refreshing opener that woke up the tastebuds.
I loved the concept of the Fish Taco ($21, 3pcs) – a very liberal reimagination of the classic Mexican street food into something higher end. Instead of a tortilla filled with fried fish, these were airy wisps of rice crackers filled with jewel-bright cubes of sashimi and avocado. Unfortunately, the downfall of this dish is that is that it tasted almost identical to the tuna bruschetta, due to the liberate usage of red wine vinegar. This was partially remedied when I smeared some of the decorative chilli mayo on top, but it could still have done with a little more salt, and a little less acidity. Personally I would have liked it better if the vinegar had been replaced with a good dollop of the chilli mayo but hey, to each their own.
Arguably the signature dish at Seven Lanterns, these grilled prawns were so popular that they were renamed THE Prawn ($22, 2pcs). And they were a hit. The huge, plump prawns were butterflied and grilled until the sweetness of the flesh took on the rich smokiness of the flames, the shell all but falling apart, and then topped with a creamy emulsion and a drizzle of teriyaki sauce. It’s like an Asian twist on the indulgent flavours of mornay, and I especially appreciated how the sauced managed to be flavoursome without overwhelming the delicacy of the seafood.
The smaller dishes were rounded out with the Lobster Sarada ($23), which can only be described as a deconstructed, then reconstructed lobster salad. I was very impressed with the huge chunks of lobster, which were held together by light and tangy mayonnaise, and combined with celery for a bit of crunch. And although the topping of sprouts drizzled in chilli sauce seemed like an odd accompaniment, the herbal flavour combined with the smokiness in the sauce went surprisingly well with the lobster. This may not sound like it’ll work but trust me, it does – just as long as you don’t mind raw sprouts.
Yes, the Popcorn Prawn ($21) may just be battered prawns drowned in a sweet and spicy mayo-based sauce, but that didn’t stop it from being super addictive. I was especially impressed with the quality of the batter; despite being light and delicate, it held its shape remarkably well, and even retained its crunch all the way to the bottom of the bowl.
The excellent frying continued with the DS Calamari ($23). The inclusion of squid ink made the batter an appealing shade of black, its darkness looking extra distinctive against the pearly whiteness of the calamari. The batter was once again light and crisp, bringing out the tender, melt-in-the-mouth texture of the squid.
Finally, the night was rounded out aptly with the Take A Bao ($22, 2pcs), which also happened to be the only non-seafood dish in the entire meal. This consisted of a good mix of Asian influences that came together cohesively – Korean-styled pork marinated in sweet chilli and sesame oil, fluffy Hong-Kong styled bao, and hoisin sauce that brought Peking duck to mind. A satisfying end to the meal.
Seven Lanterns is a neat little restaurant manages to stand out from its neighbours with its menu of modern, Asian-inspired dishes, amongst an entire strip of eateries that appear to do nothing but standard café or bistro fare. Although the menu is nothing ground-breaking, there’s enough innovation to keep things interesting. It’s definitely a place to hit up if you’re in Cronulla, and looking for something a little different.
Rating: 13/20 – lit.
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.
Sweet and Sour Fork dined as a guest of Severn Lanterns.