Watsons Bay Boutique Hotel
Stripy umbrellas, schoolyard benches and tres cute Breton-striped waitstaff add to the beachside charm.
Everyone deserves a little nip-tuck; it is, after all, the eastern suburbs, darling.
The Watsons Bay Boutique Hotel has been an east Sydney icon for over 180 years, and here it makes its maiden voyage after a venue reno and menu shake-up. The historic facade now Miami mint green, and the makeover is marked with an old-world seaside charm. Stripy umbrellas, schoolyard benches and tres cute Breton-striped waitstaff add to the retro styling.
The Beach Club is a place that serves up the kind of beachy-cool-baby thing that Sydney should do so well but doesn't always get so right. With sprawling outdoor seating, a fresh-not-fancy menu and a view so palm-tree perfect it could be a postcard, the revamped hotel just exudes easy elegance.
And the food? Fantastic. Think seaside classics with a Mediterranean twist. The duck liver pate ($18) comes with caramelised onions, cornichons and plenty of toast; the bistro classic is well-executed and luscious. It is a generous serving, making it a good starter to share. The sirloin steak ($29) is pub-precise: resplendent with Portobello mushrooms and a cool shard of truffle porcini butter, with cherry tomatoes, roasted to sweetness and chips to complete the dish.
But with all that sea surrounding, you may hanker for something similarly salty. The pot of steamed mussels ($26) alone is worth the winding down South Head Road. In a slightly spicy, garlic-spiked tomato sauce and served with ciabatta bread, it is marvellous. There are a few light desserts on offer: a lemon gelato with limoncello and biscotti ($12) would pop on the palate rather nicely on a balmy evening. A selection of local wines and the usual beer suspects line the bar – though regulars will be pleased to see the cocktail carafes (from $25) have stayed on.
At its heart the place is a pub, and that's what works so well. There's lots of mismatched tables, the order-and-pick-up-at-the-bar thing clicks and the crowd is cruisey. It's fun but not too flash, with enough pearly whites around to know you're kicking it with the cool kids.