There’s no better way to enjoy the company of friends or to mix business with a little pleasure than with an extended lunch, especially if you can dine on or near the water. Our Culinary Cruising team seemed to think Sydney would have a plethora of such options, and called our colleagues at Club Marine’s Sydney office to find out where they go when the midday grumbles strike.
“It’s Sydney, there’s great food everywhere,” they said. “Fly up for a day and we’ll show you Melburnians around!”
Apparently, all you need to do when looking for spot to eat in Sydney is randomly put your finger on the map to find any number of eateries, all of them sure to hit the mark. We wanted to scoot around Sydney Harbour by ferry – as you do – so a waterfront venue and two other restaurants a short walk from the water made the final cut.
We began with a delightful lunch at Deckhouse Woolwich, where guests can arrive by boat or water taxi at the wharf out the front – drop off and pick up only, though, as it’s generally reserved for use by the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust. Then we wandered up the hill to nearby Woolwich Pier Hotel to find out why devoted locals call it the best pub in town, before rolling down the other hill to Woolwich Wharf (a 10-minute walk), scooting across the harbour by ferry, and feasting on Italian delicacies at Bel & Brio, conveniently located close to the new Barangaroo Wharf (use the F3 ferry).
You’ll find the recipes of what we lunched upon on the following pages. Enjoy!
Where to eat …
Floor to ceiling panoramic windows, uninterrupted views across the water to Sydney Harbour Bridge, and a grand arrival by water taxi just as Wild Oats XI slid into neighbouring Woolwich Dock – that’s what we’d call a novel way to begin a lunch date.
Deckhouse Woolwich’s location and its sophisticated brekky and lunch menus have made it a favourite among Sydneysiders, and a sought-after venue for corporate events and weddings. The ambience is fresh and lively, with a paired-back décor that lets those sensational views shine.
Deckhouse is the kind of restaurant where a table of friends could order all the entrees to share and be perfectly happy for a couple of hours. The mains are equally as varied and enticing – try the spanner crab and prawn pappardelle with lemon crème sauce, barramundi fillet on Paris mash, or Cape Grim pasture-fed ribeye with black truffle butter and chips. Sensational.
We opted for an entrée of peppered soft-shell crab with a dainty salad of pickled radish and cucumber, seasoned with chilli mango dressing. The dessert selection was made easy with a tasting plate for two – our favourite had to be the ginger steamed pudding.
(02) 9817 4394
Peppered soft-shell crab
Pickled cucumber, red
radish and mint salad
3 soft-shell crabs, cleaned and patted dry
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup corn flour
250ml (1 cup) white vinegar
140g (2⁄3 cup) caster sugar
1 tsp sea-salt flakes
4-5 mint leaves
½ cucumber, cut into round slices
2 red radishes, cut into round slices
30g long red chilli
6 cloves garlic
3 tblsps sugar
150ml fish sauce
1 lemon, juice only
To make the pickle salad, combine vinegar, sugar, salt, mint leaf, sliced radish and cucumber in a large bowl.
To make the chilli dressing, blend chilli, garlic and sugar. Add the remaining ingredients. Adjust the sugar, lemon juice or fish sauce for desired taste.
Season the crabs with salt and pepper. Dust in the corn flour, shaking off excess.
In a deep fryer, fry the softshell crabs until soft – around two minutes.
Serve the crabs on a bed of pickle salad and dress with some chilli dressing.
For the dish we enjoyed, Deckhouse added little mango pieces to the chilli dressing, and crisp snow pea tendrils and lettuce leaves to the salad.
Steamed ginger pudding
50g stem ginger from a jar, sliced, plus 2 tblsps of the ginger syrup
2 tblsps golden syrup, plus 4 tblsps extra
175g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
175g butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
175g golden caster sugar
3 large eggs, beaten
2 tblsps milk
Custard, to serve
Generously grease a 1.2lt pudding basin and line the base with a circle of baking paper. Cut out and grease a 35cm square piece of foil. Alternatively, prepare individual-serve moulds.
Scatter the sliced ginger into the base of the pudding basin, drizzle with two tablespoons golden syrup and the ginger syrup. Set aside.
Sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl. Add the butter, sugar, eggs and milk and beat with an electric whisk for a few minutes, until smooth.
Spoon the batter into the basin (or moulds) and level the top.
Place the foil on a work surface and fold two pleats in the centre. Place, buttered-side down, on top of the pudding basin and secure with string around the rim. Before cutting the string, take it up over the top to create a loose handle, then tie securely. Trim off any excess foil.
Place the pudding basin on a trivet or an upturned saucer in a large saucepan and fill with enough boiling water to come two-thirds up the side of the basin. Cover with a lid, bring to a simmer and cook for two hours. Check the level of the water (after at least 30 minutes) and top up with boiling water if necessary.
To serve, loosen the sides of the pudding with a knife and carefully turn out onto a plate. Pour over the extra golden syrup and serve with custard.
Woolwich Pier Hotel
We’d heard whispers that Woolwich Pier Hotel is one of the best lunch venues with a Sydney postcode. Anything you want, we were told, they’ll have it.
And it proved true – among the seating options are moody club-style rooms with leather armchairs and polished wooden tables, balcony dining with views across the harbour, and a bright bistro hall with a well-stocked bar. Outdoors, there are cosy tables for two or, for groups of all sizes, the stylish ‘Pavilions’ and ‘Clubhouse’.
As you’d expect from a decent pub, the weekly events include trivia nights, pasta- and steak-themed nights, live acoustic sessions, and even high tea. The weekly Saturday’s Kids Day on the Lawn is popular among parents yearning for a quiet meal and an adult drink, with a ‘kids coordinator’ taking care of activities while the grownups relax at the lawn’s edge.
And the food? Pretty much anything you might want, in top-notch quality and generous portions. No one goes home hungry from this place.
We were tempted by the super-succulent pulled Wagyu beef brisket roll, and a refreshing Eton mess. Aussie pub grub at its best.
Woolwich Pier Hotel
(02) 9817 2204
Pulled Wagyu beef brisket roll
Handful of wild rocket
20ml smoky barbecue sauce
50ml liquid cheddar cheese
Panini bread, or your preferred burger roll
1 brown onion, sliced, caramelised
1 to 2kg Wagyu beef brisket, trimmed, with a bit of fat retained
Spice dry rub
½ tblsp chilli powder
¼ cup paprika
2 tsps onion powder
2 tsps ground mustard
1 pinch cayenne
1 tblsp garlic powder
1 tblsp cumin powder
½ tblsp Cajun seasoning
1 tblsp sugar
½ tblsp allspice
Salt and cracked pepper
Tomato and pepper salsa
1 red capsicum, brunoise
2 Roma tomatoes, deseeded, brunoise
1 tblsp smoky paprika
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated on a Microplane grater
1 pinch cayenne
1 tsp oregano, chopped
¼ bunch parsley, chopped
25ml extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup sherry vinegar
Salt and pepper
Combine the spice dry rub ingredients. Rub the spice mix all over the meat and dry marinade overnight, or for at least two hours.
To make the tomato and pepper salsa – combine all ingredients and let stand for at least an hour before using.
Heat a heavy-based pan until smoking. Add oil and sear the beef on all sides until caramelised. Set aside to cool down. Once cooled, seal in vacuum bags (sous-vide bags).
Set the oven temperature to 90°C/steam roast. Fill a deep Gastronorm pan (or large, deep baking dish) halfway with water – it should be just enough to cover the sous-vide bags. Immerse the bags in the water and cover them with baking paper. Cover the pan with a double layer of foil and seal all sides. Cook in the oven for about nine hours, or until the meat is falling apart.
Pull the meat apart and mix with the jus left in the bag for moisture.
To assemble your Wagyu beef brisket roll, cut the panini bread (or your burger roll of choice) in half and drizzle with a little olive oil. Slightly char the bread in a grill. Apply mayo on both sides of the bread. Place rocket, then the pulled beef and caramelised onion. Drizzle with the barbecue sauce and add about a tablespoon of the tomato and pepper salsa. Top with the cheese and the other half of the bread. Secure the roll with a skewer.
Serve with hot chips or salad.
Woolwich Pier’s classic Eton mess
100g egg white
100g caster sugar
100g icing sugar, sifted
Coulis and garnish
2 punnets fresh strawberries
1 tsp icing sugar
500ml cream (35% fat)
1 vanilla bean pod
1 tblsp sugar
Preheat the oven to 100˚C, or 90˚C fan forced, or lowest gas mark setting (if using a fan-forced oven, set the fan speed to lowest or completely off).
Whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form, then gradually add the caster sugar. Beat until well dissolved – the mixture should be smooth when rubbed between fingers. Slowly add the sifted icing sugar and whisk until well combined.
Spoon mixture onto an oven tray lined with baking paper. Level it with a spatula for even baking, but ensuring mix remains aerated.
Bake the meringue in the oven until firm and crispy (depending on your oven, this can take several hours, so check it after the first hour and then regularly thereafter. It should sound hollow when you tap it).
For the strawberry coulis, blitz one punnet of strawberries into a purée until smooth. Add the icing sugar and mix well.
Cut the remaining strawberries in quarters and thin slices for garnish.
For the Chantilly cream, cut the vanilla pod in half and, using the tip of your knife, scrape the seeds out and add to the cream. Whisk the cream until stiff while gradually adding the sugar.
To assemble, break the meringue into bite-size pieces and add about a spoonful of the cream and about two tablespoons of coulis and mix well. Place in the centre of a bowl and finish with the remaining strawberries, mint leaf and a drizzle of coulis to finish.
Bel & Brio
With a name that loosely translates to ‘beautiful & sparkling vivacity’ and the promise of a fine-dining Italian lunch experience, Bel & Brio just had to be on our Sydney Harbour lunch cruise.
Bel & Brio was established to provide the affluent Barangaroo neighbourhood with good food and wine, and it does this with gusto. Its European-style food emporium is a veritable gourmet paradise, with a marketplace stocking fresh produce (including from the Bel & Brio farm) and imported and local pantry staples, along with house-made Italian-style delicacies, breads, pastries and readymade meals.
It also boasts a restaurant, a coffee cart, an elegant bar, and the Cellars wine store with around 2000 wines.
Go there for lunch or dinner and tuck into the charcuterie (which includes Parmigiano Reggiano drizzled with white truffle honey from Italy’s Piedmont region) while waiting for gnocchi with taleggio and black truffle infusion, or crispy pork belly with apple puree and blood orange sauce, and a variety of beautiful Italian desserts and sorbets.
And don’t leave without enjoying a vino or Insta-worthy cocktail at the bar!
We can also recommend the grilled snapper with olives, cherry tomatoes and herb-scented crumbs. Here’s the recipe … buon appetito.
Bel & Brio
(02) 9299 9107
Grilled, with olives, cherry tomatoes, herb-scented crumbs
1 whole baby red snapper, filleted
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
20g black olives
100g cherry tomatoes
10ml white wine
5g Sicilian capers
1g parsley, chopped
1 tsp oregano
5g fresh basil
2ml extra virgin olive oil
10g herb-scented breadcrumbs (recipe follows)
Fresh herbs to garnish, such as flat-leaf parsley and fennel fronds
Black pepper, ground
Artisan sea salt
To make herb-scented breadcrumbs, heat a drizzle of olive oil in a frypan over medium heat and toast half a cup of Panko breadcrumbs until golden brown. Tip the breadcrumbs into a small bowl. Add a little finely grated lemon zest and finely chopped parsley. Season with salt flakes and ground pepper.
Preheat the oven to 180°C.
Season the snapper with salt and pepper. Place on a baking tray lined with baking paper, drizzle with the olive oil, and cook in the oven for eight minutes.
For the sauce, sauté the garlic, olives and cherry tomatoes for four minutes in a medium saucepan. Add the capers, herbs and the white wine, sauté until the sauce has a thick consistency. Season with freshly ground black pepper and sea salt.
Plate the snapper and garnish with the sauce, herb-scented breadcrumbs and fresh herbs.