Tag Archives: Sydney dining

It’s the Côte d’Azur of Australia, Watsons Bay Beach Club

Tourist hotspots don’t generally appeal to locals. It’s something about those piercing American accents, bum bags and over-sized, under-used professional cameras. However, the recently renovated Watsons Bay Beach Club, may well be an exception to your anti-tourist radar.

The view from Watsons Bay Beach Club

The view from Watsons Bay Beach Club

Formerly the Watsons Bay Hotel, this new “beach club” takes you to a white-washed seaside oasis. It’s like the Côte d’Azur of Australia, except without the chic French accents. The “club” in the title refers to the multi-purpose use of the venue; there’s dine in or takeaway, a BBQ area, the “Miss Watsons” bar, table tennis, a bottle shop and accommodation plus various function spaces. You can rattle on about the colourful umbrellas and the staff’s Bassike blue-and-white striped uniforms but the main attraction here is the cracking view of Sydney Harbour, the city skyline and the Bridge. If you don’t get that tingly “wow-I-live-in-one-beautiful city’ feeling, then I suggest you hand in your Australian residency because it doesn’t get much better than this.

The nautical theme of the venue

The nautical theme of the venue

When you have views like this, you can’t expect the food to impress too, right? I bite my tongue as we sample Sydney rock oysters and a smoked Snowy River trout pate. Enjoyed with a chilled glass of Stony Peak sav blanc, the quality of the produce impresses. In the mains department, I’m not a tourist but it’s hard to go past the “famous” fish and chips. Sadly, the Coopers batter doesn’t have that light, crisp fluffiness but the chips give this dish a capital F for famous. From the “fresh and green” options, the char grilled chilli and lime octopus salad isn’t char grilled and the dressing could do with some work but it’s a kilojoule-friendly dish for the yummy mummies.

Chilli and lime octopus salad

Chilli and lime octopus salad

Leave your Jesus sandals and matching khaki outfit at home and throw your Polo knit over your shoulder, pull on your chinos and slip on your boat shoes because the Watsons Bay Beach Club is as good as Sydney gets to the French Riviera. If only Johnny Depp thought the same thing too.

Anna Lisle

Read more about the Watsons Bay Beach Club here.

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Filed under Reviews, Watsons Bay, Watsons Bay Beach Club

Hola, we’re off to meh-he-co!

Just when you thought good-ol’ Sydney town couldn’t take another taco… hola, Mejico! Swinging open its doors, right next to Jamie’s Italian on Pitt Street, Mejico has set itself apart from its fellow quesadilla-loving counterparts in various arenas.

Firstly, the name. It’s not pronounced Mexico, it’s “meh-he-co” – the way you say it in North America. I’m usually not one for silly restaurant names but just saying “meh-he-co” gets me all excited. I almost want to break into a Mexican hat dance and twirl my brightly coloured skirt. Almost.

It's a far cry from your usual Mexican restaurant

It’s a far cry from your usual Mexican restaurant

Secondly, the fitout. You may want to leave your feathered headdress at home because Mejico is no ordinary cantina. Owner Dr Sam Prince, of Zambrero Fresh Mex Grill, has spent over $4 million on a design that features fluro pink stools, leather lounges, an open bar and bold hand-painted striped walls. This vibrant aesthetic, together with a team of staff that strut around in fluro pink-and-white striped t-shirts mean that energy levels at Mejico are high.

 

Hiramasa kingfish ceviche with watermelon, radish and pepita on house-baked tostadas

Hiramasa kingfish ceviche with watermelon, radish and pepita on house-baked tostadas

Thirdly, Mejico does not serve Mexican street food. Chef Daniel Schai (imported from Singapore) has created an upmarket menu with dishes such as Achiote chicken and 24 hour smoked pork belly tacos. But the key component in all dishes is freshness. And this isn’t the standard claim-to-fresh-produce statement. It’s; “You want guac to start?”. Smack, bang – the wait staff mash it up right in front of you. “Need a corn fix?” Out comes the grill. Plantain chips are made by hand and the tostadas are baked in-house.

Chargrilled Black Angus sirloin with quinoa, black bean, pumpkin and green chimichurri

Chargrilled Black Angus sirloin with quinoa, black bean, pumpkin and green chimichurri

And lastly, there’s more than margaritas on the drinks list. In fact, Mejico has the longest tequila list in Sydney. If you don’t want to eat, guests can perch themselves at the open bar and enjoy a cocktail or two.

Restaurants love to make a claim but most are just that; statements that aren’t followed though. At Mejico, they practise what they preach.

Anna Lisle

Read more about Mejico here

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Filed under Mejico, Reviews, Sydney CBD

Serious soul food at Sean’s Panaroma

Is this the most unpretentious hatted restaurant in Sydney? Sean’s Panaroma (note: say and spell, ‘pan aroma’) is a Sydney institution which opened on Bondi’s Campbell Parade, way back in 1993. A man before his time, Sean Moran was one of the first chefs to implement a paddock-to-plate eating philosophy. He’s against genetically modified foods and he, together with partner Michael Robertson, have designed their Bondi restaurant with a closed loop system that involves composting and recycling. Aside from the ethical eating to be done there, one of the big draw-cards of this restaurant is view. Stunning vistas of Bondi’s coastline can be observed from the dining room and it’s a landscape that doesn’t disappoint, regardless of the weather.

The humble dining room at Sean's

The humble dining room at Sean’s

The menu at Sean’s is simple. Four entrees, four mains and four desserts are scribbled on swinging chalkboards and dishes change daily. Rather than an over-descriptive explanation of each dish, Sean simply lists a couple of ingredients. We opt for the “mulloway, tarragon, pippies” and “hogget, eggplant, rosemary”. Steamed in a bag, the mulloway is served on a bed of lemon, olive oil, tarragon and snow peas, all of which are generously topped with pippies. The lemon is slightly overpowering but the olive oil broth is so well developed that any of the bitterness is lost. The hogget (mature lamb) is served as a rack and roasted. The meat is slightly overcooked however, coupled with an eggplant mash and snow peas, the dish is wholesome and tasty. This is the type of food that you would eat at home, sitting at your mum’s kitchen table. The food may not be perfect but it’s made with a bucketful of love. Sean offers serious soul food.

Mulloway, tarragon, pippies

Mulloway, tarragon, pippies

The wine list offers a selection of boutique Australian varietals, vintage and non-vintage French champagnes, and a range of digestives. You can also BYO for $20 per bottle. Sean’s may not be cheap and you certainly aren’t paying for the décor but each dish is absolutely delicious and also generously portioned. Plus, how can you put a price on love?

Anna Lisle

Read more about Sean’s Panaroma here

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Filed under Bondi, Bondi Beach, Reviews, Sean's Panaroma

Not much wrong with Mr Wong

Every man and his blog has “checked in” at Mr Wong. Foodies, socialites and cashed up executives flock here to experience sexy Cantonese fare and a killer drinks menu that features everything from sake to cider.

 

Mr Wong is swank central. Spread over two levels, the restaurant is littered with timeless colonial furnishings –  quirky lampshades, antique Chinese cupboards and quaint pieces of china – but rather than feeling stale and stuffy, Mr Wong exudes a sultry, ‘I’m-on-the-set of-Sex-in-the City’ vibe. Yes, there are token ‘Chinese restaurant’ touches, like a couple of waving cats, but design king Michael McCann has ensured the end result is all glamour and style.

 

Mr Wong is cleverly geared for group dining

Mr Wong is cleverly geared for group dining

Mr Wong is cleverly geared for group dining – bookings can only be made for six or more and the restaurant is furnished with mostly round and rectangular tables. The menu, too, is best approached with a horde of hungry friends to ensure you get a taste of at least a few of the 80 dishes on offer.

 

Mr Wong embodies all the assets of a truly great restaurant. From the moment we walked in the doors, we were met with efficiency and courtesy. We soon forgot about the fact that we had to wait for an hour to get a table, thanks to the two ‘complimentary cocktail’ vouchers we received to use at their sister venue, Palmer and Co, just around the corner.  The food refuses to play second fiddle to the restaurant design, with classic dishes such a Chinese roasted duck and soy braised chicken with ginger scallion sauce taking centre stage. Steamed, poached, pan-fried and baked dim sum make up the lunch menu while dinner dishes are graced by roasted meats and live seafood from the tank. We recommend the XO twice-cooked green beans with pork mince and the stir fried chilli king prawns. Both are outstanding.

There are over 80 dishes on offer

There are over 80 dishes that make up the Cantonese menu

The food doesn’t come cheap but when you consider that Justin Hemmes put in a casual $4 million to give life to Mr Wong’s, the bill isn’t quite as outrageous. The service is smooth enough, perhaps a few more men in tuxedos would help, but the “people-watching” is unparalleled – especially if you nab a table on the top floor with views of the entire restaurant.

 

The no-bookings policy has meant a visit to Mr Wong has, in hindsight, been regrettably long overdue.

Anna Lisle

Read more about Mr Wong here

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Filed under Circular Quay, Mr Wong, Reviews, Sydney CBD

Jump on a ferry to Sydney’s East – Dunbar House

How is it that we live in a city surrounded by water and yet casual harbour side dining venues are few and far between? Sure, we have Icebergs and ARIA but what about a restaurant that doesn’t sap up half your weekly wage in a few meagre mouthfuls? Not only is Dunbar House located in one of Australia’s oldest standing buildings, it also happens to be 30 metres from the shores of Watsons Bay.

Colourful Missoni fabrics and William Morris wallpaper make up the cafe’s interior

Ask for a table on the sandstone verandah to experience harbour-side dining at its best or, if it’s too windy, head inside where you will discover a chic and elegant sanctuary where groups of Eastern Suburbs ladies enjoy long lunches and high teas. Glamorous gold gilt mirrors hang on walls that have been lined with William Morris paper while custom-made furniture, upholstered using vibrant Missoni fabrics, make up Dunbar’s interior. The elegance isn’t reserved for the décor – high tea is served on pastel-coloured Wedgewood china plates, sauces and stands, all from the Harlequin collection. Looking around, I half expect to see women dressed in full length dresses with gloves and exotic plumes.

From Dunbar’s “Summer Nights” menu – pan fried scallops, blue cheese, radish and witlof.

Despite the suave surrounds, the menu is expansive, with enough options to appease even the fussiest of Eastern Suburbs diners. For breakfast, the waffles with honeycomb butter and poached seasonal fruits are worth an indulgent splurge or for those watching their waistlines, there is a selection of omelettes and dishes such as bircher muesli and house baked granola. The lunch menu puts other café menus to shame with dishes such as salmon ceviche, wagyu meatballs with orecchiette and spiced lamb and haloumi salad. It reminds me of Café Sopra at Fratelli Fresh – and the quality of the ingredients speaks in the same tongue.

Watsons Bay is geographically pretty close to the city (11km to be exact) but it isn’t the easiest place to get to. If you’re visiting during the week, the drive is easy and quick but for weekend bookings, it is best to catch a ferry to avoid the city-to-east traffic.

Anna Lisle

Read more about Dunbar House here

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Filed under Dunbar House, Reviews, Watsons Bay