Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Watsons Bay Beach Club, Sydney

During my recent trip to Sydney, a friend offered to pick Ojan and I up and take us out of the city, to enjoy lunch near the water at Watsons Bay.  Given the forecast for 80+ degrees and sunshine, we eagerly accepted.

Of course, we could have taken the ferry to Watsons Bay, but it was actually nice to drive there, and get to see some of the other suburbs.  Let's just say, there are some people with very big, very nice houses near the waterfront!

Anyway, we arrived at our destination, to be met with a big challenge: parking.  Sigh.  It seemed as if everyone had the same idea as us, and every parking lot and every side street was completely full.  We circled forever, and eventually managed to snag a spot.
Seating.
But then we met an even bigger challenge: seating.

Watsons Bay Beach Club is absolutely huge, with most seating outdoors along several decks.  But every table was taken, and the ones that weren't all had reserved signs on them.  Protip: call ahead and reserve!  It also seems to be a venue of choice for large birthday parties, wedding parties, bachelorette parties ... there were tons of groups all with reserved sections and large group catering.

Next up, ordering.  This is a very casual place, so all orders are done at a bar, where you pay and receive a buzzer, then go back to wait at your table.  The pickup location is on the other side of the massive space, near the kitchen.  Silverware is in buckets on the tables, self-service, yet seemed to be constantly running out, so everyone was stealing silverware from each other's tables.  Someone does come around to bus tables eventually, but other than that, there is no service.

If you can't tell, the whole place is a bit chaotic.  It is loud, it is crowded, and it really just feels like a big beach party.  Which is perfectly fine on a hot summer day, but don't come here expecting a relaxing beachfront setting to catch up with friends, which is somehow what I was picturing.
Busy Open Kitchen, Small Counter Dining.
As for the food, the menu is mostly seafood, fitting for the location.  They have chilled seafood platters, but fish & chips seemed to be the most common order.  The food wasn't very good, but the cocktail list was extensive, and the drinks seemed to be free flowing, which is all most people seemed to care about.  Ice cold beer or pitchers of cocktails on a hot summer day certainly have their place!
Grapefruit Margarita. $16.
"A summery twist on the classic, served with tequila, cointreau and pink grapefruit".

A hot summer day warrants a cool cocktail, right?  Watson Bay Beach Club had a bunch of cocktails, but most seemed very fruity, and not quite what I was wanting, as I was desiring something refreshing.  In fact, I mentioning one that sounded appealing to my tablemates, and said I hoped it wasn't too sweet, and a server overheard me and told me it was very sweet.  I'm glad she did, otherwise I would have been quite disappointed.  I wanted something refreshing!

My pick of the grapefruit margarita was perfect, fairly refreshing, the tart grapefruit wasn't sickeningly sweet.  I appreciated the chunks of grapefruit inside that I was able to eat once my drink was gone.  I didn't actually taste any tequila, which I did want to taste, but I uh, sure, felt it, so I know it was in there somewhere.

Overall, a fine drink, good for the hot weather.
Kids Fish & Chips.  $10.
I joined the masses and got the fish & chips.  I ordered the child's size, which was a single filet of fish.  It turned out to be a better deal than I expected, as the regular size is $24.50, and includes two pieces of fish instead of one, and possibly a slightly larger pile of fries, but not significant.  Yet it is more than 2x the cost ...
There was one problem however, that I didn't foresee: the regular portion is served with a cup of tartar sauce, but the child's size is not.  The real appeal of fish and chips for me IS the tartar sauce, so this was a big deal.  I quickly went to the counter to ask for some, and it was quickly handed over, so, crisis averted.

The batter on the fish was fine, but it was all a bit too greasy and oily for my liking, and the breading fell off easily.  The fish was flaky white fish, I'm not sure what kind, but moist enough and not fishy.

The fries were very generic; not particularly crispy, not flavorful, not anything.  The tartar was equally unremarkable; as a sauce girl, I certainly needed it, but this wasn't a great version.

Overall, highly mediocre.  The kid's size portion was fine for me, and a good deal for $10, particularly compared to the full size version.
Finger Licking Sticky Lamb Ribs / honey hoisen glaze / old bay fries / slaw.  $29.
Ojan went for the lamb ribs, since he likes lamb, and we never get it in the US.  I encouraged this order, because I had my eyes on the slaw that came with it.

The slaw was interesting in that it was a bit spicy, but otherwise, it was just slaw, and was very overdressed.

Since I hate lamb, I wasn't planning to try to the ribs, but Ojan said I might like them, due to the honey hoisen sauce they were slathered in.  He said they were basically candy.  And I'm trying to get myself to like lamb, so I figured if I was going to like it anywhere, Sydney would be it, and smothered in sweet sauce was more likely to make it succeed.

He was right, in that I liked the sauce.  I ended up dipping a bunch of my fries in the ribs sauce once my tartar sauce ran out.  But the ribs?  Um, still lamb, so I didn't like them, but he polished them off and continued to rave about them for the rest of the trip.

The fries were totally unnecessary though, as he was too busy with the ribs to care about them, and everyone had piles of fries left over anyway.
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