Renowned owner of Sydney's Catalina restaurant, Michael McMahon, dies

Michael McMahon at his Catalina Restaurant in Rose Bay.
Michael McMahon at his Catalina Restaurant in Rose Bay. Photo: Quentin Jones

Michael McMahon, the veteran Sydney restaurateur behind harbourside Rose Bay restaurant Catalina, has died.

McMahon had endured a long battle with heart issues. After spending the day with family, the restaurateur had a heart attack on Tuesday evening and passed away. He was 66.

He had also taken a severe blow with the closure of Catalina amid the COVID-19 crisis and had expressed his frustration with close friends in recent days.

Michael McMahon outside Catalina restaurant in 2014.
Michael McMahon outside Catalina restaurant in 2014.  Photo: James Alcock

A statement released by the McMahon family described him as a charismatic and spirited man: "He was opinionated, bombastic and generous to a fault. He loved his friends and family…the deterioration of his health over the last decade meant that he had to bid farewell to many of the things that gave him pleasure, like sailing and sharing a great bottle."

Chef Neil Perry praised McMahon as a mentor, passing on his knowledge bank as a restaurateur and wine guide.

"He was the consummate restaurateur. What Michael, (his wife) Judy and their family have done to create a massive eastern suburbs institution at Catalina is amazing," Perry said.

Born in 1953, Michael and his wife Judy McMahon, were stars of the Sydney restaurant scene. In 1983 they purchased Barrenjoey House in Palm Beach, but their opus proved to be the 1994 birth of Catalina. The restaurant has become a Sydney staple for a who's who of local and international diners. It is also a family affair, with Michael, Judy and their children Kate and James working there.