Icon review: Sean's Panaroma

Sean Moran at Sean's Panaroma, a Bondi icon since 1993.
Sean Moran at Sean's Panaroma, a Bondi icon since 1993. Photo: Edwina Pickles

270 Campbell Parade Bondi Beach, NSW 2026

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Features Accepts bookings, BYO, Events, Family friendly, Licensed, Long lunch, Outdoor seating, Romance-first date, Views
Prices Expensive (mains over $40)
Chef Sean Moran
Payments eftpos, Visa, Mastercard
Phone 02 9365 4924

It's another humid Bondi afternoon with a thunderstorm rolling in. Seans' ceiling fans spin softly, ice buckets cool rosé, and there's no other place I would rather be on a Sunday with no set plans. Life's too short to rush lunch.

With floor-to-ceiling windows opening to a postcard vista of Ben Buckler, Sean's is a top spot to enjoy Bondi at its finest, and peaks when a storm hits the beach. As much as I love the spectacle of heavy rain slapping waves, I enjoy watching British tourists make a dash for shelter even more.

Sean Moran's Campbell Parade icon is a special place for reasons other than world-class views and standard-issue schadenfreude, though. Honest flavours and integrity are at the heart of Moran's cooking, and the dining room has warmth in spades, flickering between scallop shell pendants and perforated chipboard bright with local art.

The signature farm plate.
The signature farm plate. Photo: Edwina Pickles

The skills and charm of Beverley Wood on the floor are also key. While a bloke in a Manchester United jersey wrings out his hat across the road, Wood explains each dish on the ever-changing menu before excusing herself to greet a fan at the door.

"I have to say hello to my friend Henry," she says. "He's a little boy who likes to drop by and show me things he has found. Last week it was cumquats."

On this visit it's a chandelier crystal and "five-coloured leaf". Everybody wishes they had an Auntie Bev.

Roasted free-range chicken with corn, salted lime and fried okra.
Roasted free-range chicken with corn, salted lime and fried okra. Photo: Edwina Pickles

Locals older than Henry might remember Moran's linguine with rocket, lemon and chilli from the chef's time at The George in Waterloo, where he ran the bistro before opening Sean's in 1993. The linguine rarely features on the blackboard menu (usually four entrees, four mains, some cheese and dessert), but the kitchen can usually rustle up the classic for guests who ask nicely. Moran's signature white chocolate and rosemary nougat is often available on request, too.

When he's not in the restaurant, Moran can found at Bilpin Springs Farm, the 20-hectare Blue Mountains property where he grows delicious things with partner Michael "Manoo" Robertson. It's open to the public for homestays, but Moran also brings Bilpin to Bondi with Sean's farm plate ($28), a smorgasbord of the couple's best produce. Regular special guests include radish, broad beans, broccolini and leeks, with a deep-fried sesame-crusted egg to keep the cornucopia from becoming too healthy.

"It's one of the dishes I'm most proud of," says Moran. "It's a real reflection of what we're about and how cooking can be simple and real."

Sean's dining room has warmth in spades.
Sean's dining room has warmth in spades. Photo: Edwina Pickles

That simplicity is built on a foundation of deep skill and knowledge, however, whether Moran is growing the perfect heirloom tomato or balancing rabbit and pig cheek terrine with roasted olives ($29).

Chefs Sam Robertson and John Hicks lead the kitchen when their boss is harvesting herbs, and I can't imagine anyone has ever complained that a serving is too small. This is food designed to feed.

Case in point, roasted free-range chook ($45) swaddled in fatty golden skin and surrounded by creamed corn, salted lime and fried okra. A rib-sticking sauce of reduced chicken stock, olive oil and pan juices brings everything together and demands white burgundy or gruner with age. (With corkage at $25 a bottle, Sean's is a place to open something pretty.)

If you don't bring your own, there are about 10 wines by the glass listed on a blackboard above the kitchen, and I suspect if there was any more choice tables may never be turned. Leaving the restaurant on a Sunday afternoon is already hard enough, especially when faced with a tartlet of market-fresh strawberries embracing pistachio cream ($19).

Sean's is that favourite pair of jeans that still fits after all these years. It's an old cable-knit jumper that makes you look forward to winter. It's a place loved equally by five-year-olds and regulars who remember Moran from the pastry section of Berowra Waters Inn.

Most importantly, however, it's a restaurant well practised in the healing properties of bloody great food and service.

Est. 1993

Famous diners Nigella Lawson, Anthony Bourdain, A. A. Gill, Sam Neill, most middle-aged celebrities in Sydney.

Signature dishes Roast free-range chook; farm plate; corn chowder; linguine with rocket, lemon and chilli; white chocolate and rosemary nougat.