At Manly Wine, two east coasts meet. With its newly renovated restaurant, the beloved wine bar brings a bit of East Hamptons chic to Sydney's summer beach scene. The white slated and tiled walls, wicker chair seating and tasteful ocean decor transform the space into a posh beach house by the sea. Ceiling fans circulate Manly's warm breeze, as fabulously dressed patrons relax in breakfast nook-style booths that look out through the open-air entryway. The staff is casually dressed in a Canadian tuxedo uniform, while the pastel-clad brunch crowd sips floral cocktails.
While the impressive redesign is certainly a welcome change to the Manly esplanade, it is only a complement to head chef Joel Robinson's new menu; it is his combination of rustic American flavours and Sydney's local produce and seafood that truly sets the seaside vibe.
The raw bar, including a shucked-to-order oyster list ($21 for half dozen) is the menu's star(fish). Joel's lovingly chosen ingredients are impeccably fresh and plated in contrasting colour motifs. In the scallop ceviche ($16), the soft white molluscs have an all green accompaniment, including a slightly pickled jalapeno that heats up the dish. The black kingfish and yellow fin tuna ($18 each) are combined with bright mandarin, ruby grapefruit and juicy pomegranate seeds, the bursting fruits matching the freshness of the seafood. At first glance, the tuna even resembles cubed watermelon, one of many playful nods on the menu. Luckily, the menu is geared for sharing, so you won't have to choose just one of these delectable dishes.
In case you never learnt to share, the mains are no less impressive and speak more to the American-style cooking that is at the menu's core — dishes include seafood gumbo ($32) and spatchcock jerk with old-fashioned Johnny cakes ($31). The daily fish and chips ($24) is served in cardboard takeaway boxes, another playful hint of beachside dining.
Regardless of your sharing preference, the soft shell crab Po' boy ($14) is not to be missed. The dish, Joel's homage to southern American cooking with an Aussie seafood twist, is unbelievably delicate despite it being battered and fried.
The vibrant, strong cocktails maintain the fresh consistency of the menu. An aspiring gin bar, Manly Wine will serve a monthly gin and tonic special ($13) using organic tonic water and house made syrup. The oversized garnishes add a lavish element, especially in the Giggly Rose ($17), which acts as vase to a short-stemmed pink rose. Of course, the all-Australian wine list cannot be forgotten, and is well paired with the seafood menu.
The beachy theme prevails, but this is certainly more of a dress-to-impress affair than a post-beach meal. For beach-goers disinclined to hit the sand.