Baia the Italian is one of the many harbour front restaurants surrounding Darling Harbour. Located in Cockle Bay Wharf down past the Lindt Café & Adria, the outside eating area is flooded with natural light on a clear day. The shrubs lining the front of the restaurant hide you from the bustle of foot traffic along the waterfront & the mini-trains that constantly putter their way up and down the harbour.
Being a group of 7, we were seated right in the middle of the outside eating area on a long table. After quite some time spent studying the menu and debating choices (to which we were told “there is a reason we came back, EVERYTHING is good!” which pretty much settled it) we ordered entrees. Let me start by saying WOW – the size of the menu is massive. And chock-full of things you want to eat! Knowing my own capacity to not finish a meal, I opted out of the entrée round.
Dale ordered the Antipasto plate ($29) which boasts crispy pork belly, Queensland scallops, arctic crab strips, duck prosciutto, chicken liver parfait, Hawksbury river squid and house baked lavosh. They state in the menu that it is great to share, but let’s face it – sharing wasn’t on any of the boys minds! I was lucky enough to be passed one of Dale’s chunks of pork belly and OMG it was melt in your mouth tender & so flavourful – truly my Achilles heel in life!
Dale & Doug (who both ordered an antipasto plate for themselves) raved about the scallops, pork belly & crab. There were some comments about how hard the duck was, and Dale’s parfait was instantly passed on to Helen & Alex to finish as neither of us is very interested in liver. Other entrées that were ordered and received glowing reviews were the Classic bruschetta ($13) which was completely massive for an entrée & definitely a great share idea and the Stuffed calamari ($22) which was beautifully presented on a long narrow dish.
After sufficient time for the entrée’s to settle, our mains were sent out. Most meals came out together (or close enough) but Helen’s Gnocchi with Duck ($28) came out a good 5 – 10 minutes after everybody else had received their meals.
I ordered the Veal back strap ($34) which, to my disappointment, was slightly dry but uplifted by the salty prosciutto encasing it. The mix of the kipfler potatoes, peas and madeira jus made for a delicious combo (I do love my potatoes…) but overall, I wouldn’t order it again. Dale had the Rabbit Conchigli ($26) which he says had a strong gamely flavour and contained lots of rabbit meat. At first glance the portion looked tiny but soon we realised it was simply just a massive plate!
Our table also ordered the Butchers Pizza ($26.50), Beef Duet ($39) and Blue Eye Cod Fillet ($41) which all received a thumbs up. I LOVED the colour of the lime green sauce surrounding the cod!
Dessert (always my favourite meal) was definitely a treat. Dale & I both ordered the Maple wood custard ($19.50) – in hindsight we should have shared just one! – which is a brulee style custard infused with Canadian Maplewood. It was a really dense, free standing custard flecked with vanilla bean & drowned in a maple sauce with a hint of liqueur soaked berry. Let me make this clear – I LOVE MAPLE SYRUP. So I pretty much asked this dessert to marry me. The Gelato macaroons ($16.50) were also ordered at our table and was a massive portion size – various scoops of gelato sandwiched between tiny little macaroons. Also, the boys could not stop raving about the Na Biretta beer!!
Blue Eye Cod Fillet ($41)
Looking around at other patrons there was a mix of young families, couples and groups of friends. The servers were friendly although some didn’t speak English terribly well and If you want a quick lunch than this is not the restaurant for you – there is a sufficient amount of time spent waiting for food (which is a blessing in disguise when eating as much as we did!). The bathrooms are ominously dark after the bright day outside but were clean and large. The inside tables closer to the bar sported leather arm chairs and dark wood furniture which we noted would be perfect for a light snack and a drink in the evening.
Essentially I would go back & be quite pleased about it!