“Continuing our series of no-expense-spared-extravaganzas, we’ll be presenting a fabulous 7 course dinner expertly matched with the great iconic wines from Brokenwood at one of Australia’s waterside institutions.”
This was one invite I couldn’t resist. The venue? Rose Bay’s Catalina.
I’ve been tempted to visit many times. But only in 2014, as Catalina celebrates its 20th birthday, did I finally make it to this Sydney icon. What spurred me on was the invitation above from Kemenys (my favourite fine wine merchant). 7 courses of Catalina’s finest food matched with some of the Hunter Valley’s most awarded wine from Brokenwood. I was the envy of the office.
Catalina has always been a family business. In 1994 it was opened by Michael and Judy McMahon and 20 years on the second generation of McMahons, James and Kate, run the show.
Catalina occupies a prime spot on the eastern foreshore of Sydney Harbour. It’s a mere hop, skip and jump away from Rose Bay wharf. Many of Sydney’s harbour side restaurants have only a handful of tables with a jaw dropping view. This is where Catalina differs – the cleverly curved design and floor to ceiling windows mean you’ll be unlucky to land a table without a view.
In Sydney’s dining world Catalina is almost as famous as the celebrities who drop by for lunch or dinner. Over recent months Katy Perry, Charlize Theron, Naomi Watts, Bono, Al Pacino, Hugh Hackman and Beyoncé and Jay Z have all enjoyed a Catalina fix. Catalina’s chefs hatted menu takes inspiration from French, Italian and Spanish cuisine, with a focus on the careful sourcing of produce. And, with a 3 goblet rating in the 2013 Australia’s wine list of the year awards, Catalina is a dream for wine lovers.
With this background in mind the fine dining price tag shouldn’t be a surprise (entrees are $22 to $36 and mains $42 to $52). So, if you’re considering Catalina go for a special occasion. One when you’ll really go to town without thinking about the dent on your credit card.
Brokenwood, well known for its ‘Cricket Pitch’ range of wines, is a Hunter Valley winery with a reputation for producing some of Australia’s best Semillon and Shiraz. It’s consistently rated by James Halliday as a 5 star winery. In addition to the Cricket Pitch range Brokenwood also boasts outstanding single vineyard wines from the Hunter, Beechworth, McLaren Vale and Orange. All are produced under the experience of Iain Riggs, Chief Winemaker since 1991.
Too many Riedel glasses to count
The tables (around 15 of them) had clearly been carefully set up. Each guest placing came with a name badge, a full menu with wine matchings, detailed wine tasting notes, lots of Riedel glasses and, of course, a wine order form. The Riedel glasses were great to see – there’s no better way to taste wines than in a Riedel glass.
And onto the 7 course feast
1. Canapés on arrival – Sydney rock oysters, tuna & salmon sushi
The oysters were freshly shucked and the sushi prepared by the expert hands of Yoshi Fuchigami, Catalina’s Master Sushi Chef. The sushi was a combination of salmon and tuna, with a dressing that had an obvious but not overpowering kick of wasabi.
Seafood doesn’t get much better especially when you’ve got a glass of 2013 Brokenwood Canberra Riesling in your hand.
2. Catalina house smoked salmon with soft boiled duck egg, truffle mayonnaise & brioche
Smoked salmon and duck egg – they’d certainly make for a fancy breakfast. At Catalina, with the addition of the truffle mayo, these ingredients packed a flavour punch as a fine dining entree. Despite being a generous portion my plate was somehow empty before I’d even finished one of the wines.
Three Semillons (2006, 2007, 2013) accompanied the house smoked salmon. The views on my table were mixed as to the superior of the 2006 and 2007 vintage. Being a fan of aged Semillon I’d happily drink a bottle of either.
3. Lobster & seafood risotto, mussels, cuttlefish & snapper with shellfish oil
Even before the first mouthful I knew this dish was a winner. In fact it looked so good I tucked in after taking only one photo (and only realised when writing this post how terrible that photo was – see above). The mix of fish infused through the risotto created a texture and flavour that probably takes years of rissotto experience to master. It was unique and creative and I knew this was the course I’d remember the night for.
The wine pairing? Beechworth Pinot Gris 2013, Indigo Vineyard Chardonnay 2013, and Beechworth/Cowra Chardonnay 2013. I loved the latter (and it wasn’t the most expensive of the three).
The risotto was always going to be a tough act to follow. But the beef didn’t disappoint. It was beautifully char-grilled with very well considered sides. By this point we were onto the reds – lots of them. Five glasses of red were matched with the beef. A Sangiovese, a Nebbiolo, two styles of Pinot noir and a Shiraz. All but the Shiraz were perhaps a touch too light for the boldness of the steak.
5. White chocolate parfait with raspberry sorbet & strawberry coulis
My unwavering dessert preferences were possibly genetically inherited from my mother. I’m talking caramel, coffee, hazelnut, dark chocolate, macadamia. So I wasn’t sure about a white chocolate parfait with berries (matched with Brokenwood’s Sticky Wicket 2008). But I absolutely loved this dish. So much so that I’ll actually now consider desserts outside of my genetic predisposition.
6. Palate cleanser lemon granita
The sixth course was a palate cleanser of lemon granita. But by this point my mind was moving onwards and upwards to the cheese and shiraz….
7. Cheese selection with walnut bread, quince paste, muscatels, and fruit
The cheese plate was as good as you’d expect from a restaurant like Catalina. I forgot to ask if the cheese was Australian, because by this point the serious reds had been poured. Yes I’m talking Shiraz. The highlight of the three was Brokenwood’s Graveyard Shiraz.
Brokenwood’s Graveyard Shiraz
The 2011 vintage is the 28th release of this wine. It’s known as Brokenwood’s flagship wine, the jewel in their crown. The fruit for this wine is all hand picked and it’s barrelled in French oak. James Halliday himself gave is 97 points. Selling at around $150 a bottle some would say this wine is a great value buy (well considering that a bottle of the 2013 Penfolds Grange will set you back upwards of $700).
It was almost midnight when the dinner finished with petit fours with tea and coffee. By this point I’d enjoyed five hours of Catalina’s finest food and Brokenwood’s finest wines – feasting doesn’t get much better than that.
- Catalina is open from midday until late, with the full menu available. So you’re not restrcited to conventional lunch or dinner seating times.
- From Wednesday to Sunday you can order sushi and sashimi prepared by sushi chef Yoshi Fuchigami.
- Consider lunch to enjoy the spectacular harbour views. Because the view disappears with the sun set.
- Arrive in style with Sydney Seaplanes – you can orbit the Opera House and Harbour Bridge before landing on the water outside Catalina.
- Catalina isn’t a board shorts and thongs kind of restaurant. So don’t even think about going casual. Get your best togs out and dress up.
By Feast Wisely
- Lyne Park, Rose Bay, Sydney NSW 2029
- 02 9371 0555
- book online at dimmi.com.au
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