Most tourists to Sydney make it to at least one of the city’s iconic stretches of sand and sea. At Bondi and Manly Beach they swim between the flags and snap selfies with postcard views. But very few make it to my local beach – Balmoral – even tough it’s only a few kilometres from the city. Balmoral Beach doesn’t boast the surf of Manly, nor the glamour of Bondi, but its natural beauty and peacefulness make it my secret Sydney spot. Here I’m covering my top pick for feasting at Balmoral Beach – Public Dining Room.
Public Dining Room sits on The Esplanade overlooking the beach. Here you can enjoy casual fine food, at breakfast, lunch and dinner, just a few steps from the sand. The restaurant’s name is linked to the history of the site – which housed Public Baths as early as the 1890s. Today the space is minimalist, with a Scandinavian feel that showcases raw and natural materials. From most of the tables you can gaze through the large floor to ceiling windows and admire the view across to Middle Head and Manly.
On my last visit to Public Dining Room I was lucky enough to sit on one of only a few tables on the outdoor patio – hence the views you see here.
Public Dining Room’s food philosophy hasn’t really changed since opening in 2009. The chefs embrace local fresh produce with many ingredients sourced from small farmers across Australia. This means that the menu regularly changes, much to the pleasure of locals who, like me, make an appearance at least once each season.
The menu opens with a selection of oysters and smaller bites, before going onto a wide selection of starters and mains. There’s more than enough choice for all preferences including plenty of vegetarian dishes. And after placing your order you’re offered complimentary (too good to decline) sourdough bread.
Over the course of many visits to Public Dining Room I’ve tried lots of smaller bites and starters – every visit something new usually catches my attention. Most recently it was the duck liver parfait. I often make liver pate at home and can never resist when I see it on a menu. Public Dining Room serves their parfait with gingerbread, lime gel, celery salad and lemon balm. The duck liver was as tasty and spread-able as I expected but it was the celery salad that was the unexpected surprise of this dish – celery sticks shaved into thin slivers…
Despite mixing up my choice of starters for main course feasting I always find it hard to look beyond the slow cooked lamb shoulder – it’s been a permanent dish on the menu for at least a few years and is perfect for just digging in and sharing. A big contrast to many of the more delicate main choices on offer.
The lamb has been lovingly slow cooked to perfection with meat that falls away from the bone. And on top of the slightly crispy skin you’ll see clever mint pearls. The lamb is served with equally delicious side dishes of heirloom baby carrots, salsa verde and potato puree. And not forgetting the lamb jus…..It’s one of those dishes you find yourself thinking about the next day – wishing you could enjoy it all over again.
And if you’re not a big fan of red meat note that the overall menu leans more to fish, with dishes like kingfish carpaccio, citrus cured ocean trout and spiced fish stew. And not forgetting the hearty beer battered fish with hand cut chips.
With my visit falling on a Winter Sunday afternoon I couldn’t resist a side of seasonal brussel sprouts. They come lovely and crispy with a walnut vinaigrette and lashings of pecorino. I’d happily eat this bowl of cheesy green goodness as a lunch in itself.
Another delicious side dish is the Darling Mills salad with radishes, lemon mustard vinaigrette. Darling Mills is one of those small local growers that Public Dining Room supports – with their salad leaves grown and hand-picked only an hour or so from the restaurant itself.
Public Dining Room is one of my local gems. You can visit for a casual lazy long lunch or a special dinner. Dress down or dress up. Bring the children or go for date night. And you can even end your feast with a barefoot walk along the beach.
- 2A The Esplanade, Mosman NSW 2088
- 02 9968 4880
- Bookings recommended but not essential
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