We drove what felt like an epic five million miles to get to White Sands Estate, just outside Scamander, last week. It’s two hours to Swansea (if you stick to the proscribed speed limits). We would be staying in Swansea the night before going to White Sands, so when I booked, I asked the receptionist how long it would take to drive from Swansea to White Sands. She replied, “An hour” and added that it was about half an hour past Bicheno. So, taking her at her word, I took my powerful daily diuretic tablet (prescribed to make this human body loose fluid by urinating frequently!) before we left, in the full knowledge that it takes approximately one hour to kick in, so I had that travelling time up my sleeve as a grace period requiring little or no toilet usage!
Unfortunately, after ¾ hour, I was about to explode all over the interior of the car, and we were nowhere near Bicheno, let alone past it (Bec was driving and sticking to her 80 kph speed limit)! So we stopped at a roadside stall and they kindly let me use the facilities. We then progressed onwards for another ¾ hour, with me frantically holding on yet again! You have no idea how pleased I was when we eventually arrived there!
On first observations, this seemed like a potential goldmine. Situated in the most ideal spot right next to their own private beach, and having a putting green, swimming pool, tennis courts, basketball court, cinema, canoe lake, trout lake, children’s play area, BBQ area, games room and a variety of accommodation choices, as well as the HUGE dining room (restaurant called, most unoriginally, “Le Blanc” ‘blanc’ being the French word for white!), and Iron House Brewery. They also have conference rooms and a huge function centre so are ideally placed to cater for a wedding, in this idyllic setting, booking out all the accommodation for the wedding guests, with the function room having enough space to hold easily 100-200 people and activities aplenty for all those bored souls.
We were shown to our table, to find ourselves, in the midst of this large, high ceiling-ed gymnasium-type room (painted all white!) only one of three tables dining. I was surprised at the scarcity of diners on such a lovely sunny Sunday lunch time at this beautiful spot.
I could well understand it after we’d finished entrees and mains. Descriptive words that spring to mind include disappointing, unadventurous, ‘safe’ menu and mediocre food. Don’t get me wrong. The food was acceptable, and I couldn’t justifiably returning it to the kitchen saying it wasn’t up to my expectations, but it simply wasn’t.
Apart from bold notations on menu items which contained their various Iron House Brewery products (lager, porter, pale ale, wheat beer), there was absolutely no reference as to the origins of any other menu ingredients, which I expect from somewhere that boasts that they have “a menu that includes the freshest regional produce Tasmania has to offer”, put together by their “talented chefs”.
As starters, we had herb and garlic bread ($6), salt and pepper squid with a garden salad and aioli ($17) and confit duck leg with caramelized fennel and an orange butter sauce ($19).
For mains, slow braised lamb shoulder with crispy potato, honey roasted carrots and baby spinach ($28) and Iron House beef burger with caramelized onion, bacon, lettuce, pickle, cheese and a house made relish ($18).
Those “talented chefs” may well be qualified, professional chefs, but they will never get any further advanced in their career if they churn out tasteless food like they did on Sunday. The slow braised lamb shoulder had not one iota of garnish of any sort on it, and was the biggest hunk of meat I have seen anywhere. They could quite easily third that serving and sell it at the same price. It was, as advertised, slow braised so was tender and juicy. Unfortunately it looked so unappetizing plonked there in the middle of the plate that just its appearance turned me off. You know they always say we eat with our eyes – and I do, and this dish simply wasn’t doing it for me.
The herb/garlic bread was just ordinary slices of a French stick with herb/garlic butter on one side. That’s it. Not char grilled, not oiled, not cut thickly, not over-endowed with dripping, warm, flavoured butter or oil. Just that. If I were a chef, and had some pride in my work, I’d be ashamed to send that out.
The salt and pepper squid was cut too thickly, and the oil wasn’t hot enough when they fried it, because it was slightly soggy. It didn’t taste at all spicy either.
The service was fine, as you’d expect it to be, as the two other tables present when we arrived, departed as we were served our entrees, so the waitress only had one table to look after.
I would venture to suggest that they get a consultant in to advise on ways they can improve the whole operation, but I fear that if this is their concept of “relaxed modern dining at its best”, then getting a professional in (David Quon or Paul Foreman for instance) would be a wasted effort.
All in all, a wasted day, really. We should have just gone along to the Swansea Bark Mill, or Swansea RSL and would have enjoyed ourselves just as much, if not more.
In summation, White Sands Estate is, in my opinion, merely a white elephant!