Summer seems to be slipping away from us, and as the wind begins whipping the foreshore and rain starts pelting the sand it’s obvious that our days at the beach are numbered. Fortunately, the Henley Beach precinct has been steadily adding to its collection of eateries, offering some delicious new places for us to take refuge and enjoy other bounties that the ocean and land have to offer as winter rolls in.

The latest is Blue Rose, which opened just off Henley Square quietly but confidently towards the end of 2021. This confidence is not unfounded, either. The owners already operate Peel Street favourite Gondola Gondola, and if you’ve been fortunate enough to eat there, you’d know they have all the essential ingredients to bring another venue to the Pan-Asian loving punters.

Moving away from the heavy influence of Vietnamese cuisine in their city abode, owners have crafted a menu that catches the culinary spirit of Taiwan and China in their new rendition. Where Gondola Gondola’s interior is warm, textural and cozy, reminiscent of a street hawker’s stall in a restaurant format, Blue Rose has gone bare bones. It’s a stark contrast in every way, with carefully chosen abstract art reflecting the bright tiled walls and dark burnished floors. Different hues of blue form the majority of a colour palette that reflects the ocean, visible from the main dining space, with splashes of paint on selected surfaces and curated furniture and accessories only slightly diverting attention away from their namesake’s shade. Upstairs is starker still, where the use of painted steel and completely tiled walls with bare tables and metal stools for seating makes this area feel a little subway-esque.

From our vantage point on this mezzanine we can just see down to the action in the rear open kitchen on the lower level, where grills and flame take centre stage. I take note of a few Gondola favourites crossing the pass: their signature salt and pepper eggplant is first on the Blue Rose menu, along with dumplings (of course) and their classic and delicious spicy papaya salad, but we’re here to try something new.

Golden eggs with corn ribs in the background. Photo: Paul Wood

Golden eggs are par boiled and then carefully peeled and dissected before being fried to form a crispy exterior: the skill here is maintaining a runny yolk, and they do, with flavours of tamarind, shallot and chilli jam infusing the dish that has been presented with a basic salad of greens. This could do with a little more heat, both in temperature and spice, but is a satisfying start. Next come sweet corn ribs, a simple but tasty starter that seems to be featuring on every new modern Asian menu of late. Blue Rose’s version is nicely cooked with a strong smoky flavour with just a hint of curry offered by crisped leaves scattered on top.

Our last entrée is Yin-Yang pork, and it’s a dish of opposites in taste, texture, flavour and presentation. Laid beautifully around the plate in a deconstructed fashion, this photogenic dish intentionally combines a series of flavours from different places that perhaps shouldn’t go together. Individually each ingredient tries its best to stand up against its neighbour, with pork slices as crispy as promised but perhaps a little overdone, cauliflower puree with a floury taste and texture and beetroot pickled nashi pear offering little but a fruity bite. A brushed-on Sichuan peppery soy glaze has a really delicious flavour but there isn’t nearly enough of it on the plate, and a piece of turmeric pickled cauliflower seems out of place – an addition that probably only brings with it a bit of colour to brighten up the dish.

The “magic mushrooms” dish really lives up to its name. Photo: Paul Wood

The Taiwanese three-cup chicken steals attention away from this so-so starter: it’s a juicy and flavoursome dish that hits all the right notes and has us back singing praises to the kitchen. I’ve tried a few different versions of this traditional Chinese or Taiwanese dish, but Blue Rose’s edit seems to hit a different note: where others might be rich and heavy, this one seems light and fragrant. A fresh and zingy dressing and list of herbaceous ingredients that includes Thai basil, coriander and mint probably explains why. I’m hooked.

A fresh twist on Three Cup chicken. Photo: Paul Wood

Lastly, a plate simply titled ‘Magic Mushrooms’ has us intrigued. It’s a cheeky play on words but the dish itself is serious: packed with earthy flavour, different textures and treatments to a variety of mushrooms. Layered and cubed house-made rice noodles form the base of an assembled tower swimming in a delicious, thick and sweet soy-based sauce. It features bunches of crunchy fried enoki and shitake topped with shredded nori seaweed. This is a feat in layered flavour, texture and presentation.

Blue Rose is not quite Gondola Gondola, but does its own thing in its own casual kind of way. The hits outweigh the misses and it’s another reason to head to the beach, come rain, hail or shine.

Blue Rose

28/220 Seaview Road, Henley Beach

(08)8117 7816

www.bluerosehenley.com

Open:

Tuesday – Sunday 12-2:30pm and 5:30-9:30pm

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