As far as beachside locations around Sydney, Bondi has the lion’s share of quality restaurants and bars. Though Coogee has a long way to go as a competitor the neighbouring eastern suburb certainly veered onto the right track in these past few years, emerging as one of the better by-the-beach drinking and dining destinations with options like Merivale’s undeniable Coogee Pavilion and the recently opened Sugarcane. Now Crowne Plaza Coogee Beach have thrown their hat into the ring by adding a fresh coat of paint to their own little beach hangout, Oceans Drinking & Dining. Along with the look, which replaces patches of white and yellow with aquatic pops up blue, the food and cocktails have been reworked – not entirely but just enough to warrant a “relaunch” – to focus more on what has been working with those who regularly flow right off the beach into this charming escape, one that doesn’t feel like it’s part of one of the area’s most popular hotels.
While still very much looking like a pub from the outside, the inside is a colourful, smart space with various seating options including cosy little pockets formed by lounges facing each other. It’s very much a space designed for social gatherings, particularly the impressively large courtyard which is simple enough to let those Coogee views take care of the atmosphere.
Cocktails have had a tighter focus, with summer-minded bartenders mixing up the likes of Break of Dawn, the stand-out mix on the list with a “sweet but not too sweet” layering of vodka, passionfruit lemonade, homemade chamomile, honey syrup, and blackberry liquor. Some may find the thick, syrupy honey that floods the front palate a bit off-putting, but most will quickly warm to this as the burst of flavour splashes the finish and the chamomile soothes the vodka.
Trendy share plates dominate the menu, with seafood an obvious anchor to touch with the venue’s location. For larger groups the Chef’s Cold Seafood Selection ($96) is the best bet, presenting a beautiful display of lobster, king prawns, oysters, balmain bugs, blue swimmer crab, and house made salmon gravelax. It’s the second largest seafood platter on the menu (the largest being the $145 Hot & Cold Seafood Selection) but it should easily be enough for a group of 4-5.
Salads here focus on nice, refreshing flavours like the juicy Fig Salad ($14) with charred asparagus, proscuitto, wild rocket and goat’s cheese, filling a table nicely alongside the Baked Mushrooms ($14 for 1 person; $24 for 2; $34 for 3; and $46 for 4) which come folded with Persian feta and pine nuts. The prices listed for the baked mushrooms apply to all shared plates, making dining much more adaptable for groups of all sizes (even if it just means a solo diner).
Other shared plates worth a shot include the Wagyu Sausage Roll which has a nice, thick shell and is helped along by Spanish spices and house made tomato relish; the pub-standard Salt & Pepper Calamari which is thin and lightly battered with lime and aoili on the side; and the Lamb Backstrap which draws its flavour from being marinated in mint pesto, pumpkin puree, pomegranate and saffron yogurt. These are fine examples of the share plates, though there are a few average choices such as the Grilled Sardine Fillets with charred lemon, herbs and chilli.
Desserts like the The Chocolate Caramel Tart ($15) and Eaton Mess ($15) are light, fluffy and summer-ready options to end any dining experience at Oceans.
Oceans Dining & Drinks
Address: Crowne Plaza Coogee Beach, Cnr of Arden & Carr Street, Coogee Beach NSW
Contact: (02) 9315 9178
Hours: Mon-Thurs 3pm-12am; Fri-Sun 11am-late