Whalebridge, a French restaurant in Circular Quay with some of Sydney’s most extraordinary views
Sydney has no shortage of waterside restaurants. But it often feels like we’re not using the port to its full potential; this is especially true when it comes to Circular Quay. It may be a cultural center and home to many high-end restaurants, but attracting locals for occasional visits to enjoy the harbor and views has been more difficult.
Today, the French-style Whalebridge takes up residence in a converted heritage amenity block that was for decades an oyster bar and cafe, on the harbor side of Circular Quay promenade. The new restaurant lets the view do the talking, while hitting hard in the kitchen. This is the latest arrival for The Sydney Collective, which boasts popular venues such as Watsons Bay Hotel, The Morrison and [The Imperial] https://www.broadsheet.com.au/sydney/erskineville/bars/imperial-hotel) in its listing. It offers casual and adaptable fine dining that runs the gamut from pre-theatre snacks to afternoon aperitifs and big-budget lobster and champagne dinners.
Although the place sings on a sunny day, it’s just as lovely to visit on a crisp, clear evening, and an excuse for locals to enjoy Circular Quay in a way we don’t often do. Literally perched on the water’s edge, it’s positioned so that almost every table offers views of the Harbor Bridge and Sydney Opera House. It evokes that canal-side Venetian-style feel of being so close to the water that you’re worried about dropping your phone in the sea. It’s an entirely open-air venue, so try to book on a whim weather can be a risk – but it’s worth it.
“Sydney has a number of amazing French bistros – what we’ve done to stand out is working with our surroundings on Sydney Harbor and the history of the site,” said executive chef Will Elliot (ex- St John London, Restaurant Hubert) Large format. “Other locations already do the sexy, dimly lit Parisian vibe so well, while we want to evoke the sunny French Mediterranean seaside.”
The product-focused menu is broad and invites diners to choose their own adventure. Dishes like duck parfait, a parfait of duck liver with foie gras butter and brioche, are creamy and rich. The bicuit county soufflé is light on the palate but punchy in flavor. Some of the big names, like the generous Bouillabaisse de Marseille, brimming with prawns, langoustines and white fish, make the most of fresh seafood caught from the sea.
A plate of light crudités and a selection of charcuterie associated with the Parisian Negroni (based on Citadelle gin, Pampelle Ruby and Lillet Rouge) prepare you pleasantly for afternoon tea. Or order the wonderfully crispy yet juicy fish fries, with breaded whole whiting with endive and celery remoulade, for a casual seaside fish’n’chips experience.
“The menu is designed to encourage variety for our customers and a variety of dining experiences. Whether they choose to focus on one section or try a bit of each, I wanted it to be interpretable for each experience,” says Elliot.
The build-your-own seafood tower is a highlight. The team can help you whip it up from a range of chilled ocean delicacies: whole or half lobster, remarkable scallop served with an almond butter base, mussel escabeche with marinated carrot, oysters and caviar. And fougasse (a provincial olive oil, leaf-shaped bread) with onion dip might be one of the best bread and dip dishes of the year.
Open your drinks list for a wide and intuitive selection of cocktails and wines, including excellent French drops mixed with local hits.
If you needed an excuse to be a tourist in your own town, or to enjoy Circular Quay again in a new way, this is your place Elliot says.
“We want to attract both visitors to Sydney, for whom we can be an example of the quality of our city’s dining scene, and Sydneysiders who have so many choices to dine out that it will drive us to always improve. .”
8 & 10 East Circular Quay, Sydney
(02) 9000 7709
Monday to Thursday from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m., from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
From Fri to Sun from 12 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
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