The concrete is still pouring at Barangaroo, but that "next CBD entertainment hub" feeling is flooding Hickson Road as the Lotus Dumpling Bar team open their second Walsh Bay restaurant, Seawall. Waterfront, trattoria style, it serves up Mediterranean dishes with a seafood bent and plenty of sunshine. The place screams Aperol in the sun — potentially as a self-reward for finally coming through on that harbourfront walk with your parents — and their house twist on this classic spritz, the Walsh Cinnamon Spritz ($19), comes packed with cinnamon for a winter months' edge.
Restaurant openings have a way of angering the gods and inviting all kinds of, and I mean Pandora's Box level, spanners into your life. For these guys it was losing opening head chef James Watson to personal circumstances, which means ex-Bondi Hardware-ian and part owner Dion Green has been called in to rattle the pans and will unleash his new menu in two weeks. But we are assured it will be more of a refocus than a revamp: a few vegetarian and coeliac-friendly options will come in to fill out his exclusively seafood menu. So, let's have a look at the seafood.
Oysters. Always appropriate, particularly at $3.50 each, these freshly shucked Sydney Rocks are served up with an equally affable mignonette vinaigrette, though conventions-be-damned enthusiasts can opt for the ponzu and chilli dressing. The yellowfin tuna carpaccio ($15) was not super up my alley — a little thick and free flowing with the olive oil.
Seared scallops with cauliflower, BBQ corn, golden raisins, capers and lemon ($21); snapper with pumpkin puree, waldorf and gremolata ($28); and a towering bowl of Caprese salad rounded out our afternoon in the sun. It is not award-winning food, but it hits more than a few high notes — the caper and raisins harmonise delicately with the scallops and the staff are fantastic. Attentive service that manages to not become overbearing is incredibly underrated and dealt up in spades at Seawall.
Hold up, I have forgotten desert. Don't you forget dessert. Get the mascarpone and berry pavlova ($14); hell, get a glass of the Punt Road Botrytis Semillon ($13) too. This ostentatious '80s-style steeple of meringue, berry compote and mascarpone cream will have you lamenting why trifles had to go out of fashion and keep you in that afternoon sunshine just a little longer.
Wine wise, if you are going by the glass, stick with the 2013 Rolf Binder Riesling ($10 a glass/$47 a bottle); it will move easily between your seafood dishes and your shot at staying conscious through your nearby Sydney Theatre Company outing exponentially improves without bottles of wine. Crazy, huh? Then again, they do stock Burgenland's favourite rosé (I can't back that up) 2012 Pittnauer ($53), and for special occasions stay pink with Billecart-Salmon Rosé ($260).
All round this is a delightful little Sydney sun trap to add to your Sunday options for the impending winter (or the odd sneaky business lunch) and a definite frontrunner in Walsh Bay's ongoing race for pre-show restaurant of choice.