The fine dining institution remains a jewel in the crown that is Sydney Harbour's dazzling waterfront dining offering.
Concrete Playground and Gary Brun
Published on October 01, 2023
Updated on November 03, 2023


There aren't many restaurants in Sydney quite like Catalina. A waterside institution of almost three decades, this award-winning destination from the McMahon family, led by Judy McMahon, offers diners a heady combination of peerless harbour views and some of the city's most impeccable service.

While the pressed white table cloths, elegant service and well-heeled clientele reflect the upper level of hospitality, there's none of the stuffiness of some traditional dining institutions here. It runs with a perpetual buzz and lack of formality among the patrons — perhaps it's the proximity to the water and the sea breeze that naturally lends itself to the sense of being on summer holiday, regardless of the time of year you visit.

The views bring in guests from all over Sydney and Australia (and beyond) but it is the food that brings people back for return visits. Executive Chef Mark Axisa and Head Chef Alan O'Keeffe execute beautifully rendered dishes that showcase the highest quality produce in a menu where contemporary meets classical and brings fresh Australian seafood very much to the foreground.

Before you advance to the a la carte menu ($140 for three courses, $110 for two courses from Monday to Thursday), start with the freshest Sydney rock oysters, beautiful buckwheat crumpets topped with hand picked spanner crab, or go full luxury with the caviar service. For main courses, evergreen classics like the pan fried snapper, Glacier 51 toothfish and the roast suckling pig are permanently installed on the menu, unlikely to ever leave.

The drinks program is ever impressive, consistently earning a Three Glass Wine Rating from Gourmet Traveller Wine and features some 50 pages of wines sourced from around the world. Connoisseurs will be thrilled, while non-experts can put their palates in the safe hands of Catalina's sommelier team. There's also a lengthy cocktail offering that includes martinis, an entire page of margaritas, and mocktails for the alcohol-free.

With seaplanes bobbing gently or taking off in a flurry of noise and excitement to your right, the greens and blues of the harbour in front of you, it's impossible not to enjoy yourself.

Image credit: Steven Woodburn


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