It’s a mystery why a number of restaurants have failed in this exceptional heritage listed building overlooking the sparkling waters of Manly, with different iterations of the former bathing pavilion over the past couple of years not quite sticking the landing. Though it’s tempting to place a fine dining establishment in this stunning space, perhaps ambition was the problem all along, which is why it seems the new owners have got things just right. It’s not exactly pared back to the point of cheap pub-style meals, but now Manly Pavilion boasts The Bistro, making complete use of the dramatic panoramic water views, spacious dining room, and lush outdoor area, albeit with food that’s much more accessible, and arguably just as – if not more – delicious.
There’s a clear push towards providing a more casual atmosphere within this historical surrounds; there’s ample seating near the bar for those who want to just stop by a grab a few drinks (don’t leave without trying their mezcal negroni) but still take advantage of that million dollar panoramic view.
Like all waterside eateries in Manly, there’s a clear focus on fresh seafood used in various ways, which is why it’s probably best to order up one of their Seafood Antipasto ($38 for 2 people; $56 for 4 people) boards as soon as you sit down. Though they’ve got a more traditional antipasto board on the menu, with beautiful thinly sliced cured meats and marinated vegetables, the seafood one is the way to go with a sampling of salmon tartare, octopus, oysters, mussels and calamari.
The Seared Scallops ($24) are a safe bet too, very light and delicate with a refreshing Jerusalem artichoke puree underneath and hazelnuts plus a light drizzle of prawn oil on top. Though the highlight from the starters would have to be, surprisingly, a hearty serving of Braised Octopus ($23) serving in a stew-like dish with potato, baby capers and cherry tomato. You’ve got some crusty focaccia bread to dip in the intensely rich mixture while there’s a generous amount of chewy octopus, plenty for sharing between two people.
Seeing as Tuscan-born chef Andrea Corsi (ex-Pilu at Freshwater) is leading the kitchen, pasta lovers will take right to the Potato Gnocchi ($27) with pork ragu and ricotta, a large serving that – for the hungrier groups – would be ideal for sharing between two or three people, especially with other mains on the table like the crispy Ora King Salmon ($35) served with asparagus, potato & saffron salad and pancetta, or the Pork Belly ($32) with Jerusalem artichoke puree, braised fennel and silver beet. Mains here are presented beautifully and obviously held to a high standard, matching both volume and quality with the price point.
The elegant Mediterranean look and feel of this Federation Point perspective has been channeled into Manly Pavilion’s dining experience, an alignment that this beautiful building has needed for a long time. Evidently locals and visitors are finally starting to edge back towards this side of Manly’s harbour beach, offering a very viable alternative to just sticking around the dense wharf scene and experiencing something far more peaceful and in-line with Manly’s true spirit.
Address: West Esplanade, Manly NSW 2095
Contact: (02) 9949 2255
Hours: Tues-Thurs 12pm-10pm; Fri-Sat 12pm-late; Sun 12pm-10pm
Feature image supplied.