Picture perfect: Views from the Beach Club at the Watson's Bay Hotel. Photo: Fiona Morris
If the title of ''Sydney's most Instagrammable restaurant'' existed, the newly-renovated Watsons Bay Hotel could well be in the running, and not just because of the water views.
Take the woman seated at the table next to me during a Saturday lunchtime visit. Not content to snap away at her own meal, she leans over - smartphone at the ready - to ask if she can take a photo of mine. "It just looks so fantastic," she says.
A metal pail bursting with bright orange prawns on a wooden board is certainly eye- catching, but also sums up the spirit of the Beach Club. It's relaxed dining with a sense of fun, and food that strikes a nice balance between pub grub and seaside fare.
Fresh: Chicken Waldorf salad. Photo: Fiona Morris
More than $2 million was spent on the restaurant's multi-level renovation. The decor mixes beachside chic with a touch of whimsy. Much of the abundant outside seating is at painted wooden picnic tables positioned to maximise access to the stunning view. Striped beach umbrellas provide protection from the sun and seagulls. Children are looked after too. There's a little table and chairs in one corner with paper and pencils at the ready, plus a special section on the menu.
It's the details that make this place particularly photo-worthy, and many boxes on the ''2013 restaurant hot list'' have been ticked. Food is served in jars and enamel receptacles, and the flowers are housed in old bottles and conical flasks. The condiments table ranges from Sriracha hot sauce and American mustard to salt in old-school metal shakers. #instafood anyone?
The buzzing crowd is a certain kind of Sydney melting pot, a mix of tourists and eastern suburbs locals; mates just in from the beach, young families and glammed up retirees. Order at the bar and a buzzer is supplied. Do this by courses if you don't want everything to come at once. The drinks list is compact but comprehensive and includes several wines by the glass and cocktails.
The crab and yabbie linguine.
The food menu, designed by executive chef John Pye, has broad appeal, with the beachside classic fish 'n' chips on the menu as well as a fresh seafood platter and that bucket of prawns. The wooden board may make the dish even more photogenic, but it is missing a component - a finger bowl to wipe off the prawn detritus. And never mind the lacklustre smoked chilli mayo it is served with, head straight to the condiments table and grab the cocktail sauce.
For the health conscious there's a quinoa based ''superfood salad''. The dressing is sweet but not overly so and the salad is full of lovely textures. The red quinoa is mixed with pumpkin, sun-dried tomatoes, roasted red peppers, onion, chickpeas, eggplant and pepitas for crunch.
Seafood options include a linguine pasta served with a generous portion of succulent crab meat and two yabbies on top. The oil- based sauce has a subtle spike of heat from the diced chillies and undercurrent of lemon. The pasta is on the right side of al dente, just.
The deconstructed pavlova.
There are burgers and lamb ribs and fluffy-on-the-inside beer-battered chips that don't last long on the table.
For a sweet finish, there are three options. The deconstructed pavlova could be a top-notch dessert but on this visit it is let down by the execution. The lemon curd is a lovely tart contrast to the sweetness of the blueberries. But the meringue is a little overcooked.
Wandering around at the end of the meal, I find myself reaching for my phone. It seems I'm not immune to the #instafood-ability of the Watson's Bay Hotel, or should I say, @WatsonsBayBoutiqueHotel, either.
Crowd-pleasing beachside fare in a spectacular setting.
Bucket of tiger prawns, super food salad, beer-battered chips.
3.5 stars (out of five)
- 02 9337 5444
- Cuisine - Modern Australian
- Prices - Starters $18-$43, mains $22-$30, salads $18-$20, sides $8-$10, desserts $12-$14, kids' mains $10.
- Features - Licensed, Outdoor seating, Views, Family friendly
- Chef(s) - John Pye
- Opening Hours - Mon-Sat 7am to midnight, Sun 7am to 10pm
- Author - Sarah McInerney