One of Adelaide’s most highly anticipated dessert bars, Onyx Dessert Lounge opened in November of last year, but I took my time to visit. To be honest, I didn’t want it to be good. Before I even arrived Onyx left a bad taste in my mouth.
I love all things dessert. I love making them, eating them, looking at them. Everything. But I struggled to get too excited about a place that clearly thought it was so far above the rest. We’ve got a budding network of dessert bars in Adelaide, each has it’s faults, but most also have their own unique charms. The desserts aren’t always groundbreaking, and they’re often more cosy than chic, but they’ve carved out a market that really doesn’t exist interstate. No doubt the already established dessert scene is the reason Onyx is calling Adelaide home in the first place.
Their About Me page feels conceited and condescending, as if we should feel truly blessed that Onyx has come to save us from the shabby dessert places that used to satisfy out sweet cravings.
Putting all that aside, I was still looking forward to dessert at Onyx. I don’t believe in judging something until I’ve tried it, and no PR-ridden website was going to keep me away from desserts and cocktails.
We’d only just been able to get in. We’d plan on arriving without a booking, we were planning an early trip anyway, but mid way through the day they announced they were all booked up. After a quick phone call they said we’d have a table, but funnily when we got there it was completely empty.
The colours are bright, and a little gaudy, but after we settled in I actually warmed to the surroundings. It’s definitely different. The large chairs were comfortable, and a lot better than some of the stools you encounter at late night spots. Yes. The menus are on tablets. We were given one, and it was slow and unresponsive. We were pretty indecisive, so flicking back and forth was not an easy task. Some restaurants integrate tablets well, but Onyx falls a little short.
We ordered 3 savoury dishes, to be followed by three desserts. The SA king prawns and scallops were served in mini cones, with roe popping as you take your first bite. They were beautiful and fun, maybe a little too trendy, but I loved them. We also got the smoked cylinders with edible sand, lovely fresh fish with a strong umami flavour, and sweetness thanks to the seeweed. The smoke billowed inside the glass dome, before being released once placed on the table. A nice bit of food theatre to go along with the evening.
The chicken was lightly seasoned, getting it’s kick from the wasabi. Not as enchanting as the other dishes, but we didn’t want to get too swept away.
We managed two cocktails each throughout the night. Despite a poor first choice with the misleading Ice Cream Treacle (Gosling’s black seal rum, white chocolate syrup, vanilla vodka, whisky barrel aged bitters, grated nutmeg, orange twist), I made the top pick with the Balsamic Strawberry Fizz (mint, balsamic glaze, vanilla vodka, strawberry liqueur, strawberries, soda). It was like grabbing a fistful of of the freshest strawberries and plopping them straight into your mouth, just with the added freshness of of mint and soda water. It was pulpy and rich, and I’d happily sip it instead of a mojito next time I’m relaxing poolside.
Vic insisted on the sticky date pudding. It’s a comfort food, and something that many will pick off a menu with glee, but I just always find it so boring. This was the best sticky date pudding I’ve ever eaten. The vanilla ice cream was hidden inside, and it was moist, gooey, and rich. There are times when it pays to listen to your older sister.
We also got the deconstructed pavlova. I’ve had some great deconstructed dishes in the past, this just didn’t hit the mark. It was pleasant enough, but nothing about it really captured the idea of the pavlova. Sometimes deconstructing a dish allows you to have fun with flavours and textures that otherwise wouldn’t work, but I kind of just wished I had a regular pavlova. We polished the plate clean, it just left me wanting.
Finally the bombe alaska, my go-to dessert. I’m always interesting in seeing how it’s presented. Whether the meringue is already toasted, with a ring of alcohol lit around, or whether it’s set alight in front of you. I’m always guiltily a fan of the latter option, I love the charred meringue after it’s gotten that little bit too burt. This was lit before us, but the flame was a bit tamer than some others I’ve seen. Once again a bit of theatre bringing an added spark to the meal.
I’d struggle to really fault the food at Onyx, and the service was also fantastic, but there’s no denying that the big empty room felt a little bit hollow. I’m definitely going back, and I’ll probably keep going back time and time again; the food was skillful, creative, and fun. I just think that they need to realise that their food can carry itself, without the constant need to inform us all of it’s greatness. Drop the PR-speak and give us some real personality.
Onyx isn’t for everyone, it’s more expensive than your average dessert bar, and the chic setting and tablet menus will be all too much for some. What do you think? Is Onyx worth it, or are you struggling to find the love it so clearly thinks it deserves?