A seaplane departure lounge may not be your first port of call when you’re looking to book in a long lunch in Sydney’s east – but then again, Quay sits above Circular Quay’s Overseas Passenger Terminal so why shouldn’t Lyne Park’s Empire Lounge be a lunch spot worth its salt, too? For views out over the glittering waters of Rose Bay (without the yikes price-tag of its wharf front neighbour Catalina), this glass-walled eatery jutting out over the water affords you fresh seafood, expansive views, and a certain smugness (or sense of low-level guilt, depending on your inclinations) as you watch kayakers and SUP boarders in the water, knowing that the only thing being asked of you on solid ground is to sip your rose and occasionally ‘ooh’ and ‘ahh’ at a seaplane circling overhead.
It just makes sense to slurp Appellation Oysters when you’re sitting so close to lapping water – they’re served with a citrusy mignonette spiked with yuzu and a horseradish emulsion. Seafood of all kinds is naturally strongly represented on the menu, and the calamari is a smoky, spice-rubbed standout, especially dipped into its accompanying nam jim, which errs on the sweeter side.
Otherwise, try the kingfish crudo scattered with microherbs, or the crunchy tostadas topped with a swell of creamy avo and yellowfin tuna. Now your appetite has well and truly been whet, it might be time for something a little heartier. Tuck into a bowl of tagliatelle pasta which comes dressed to impress in a tomatoey, spicy sauce (courtesy of generously sprinkled red chilli), or try the T-Bone steak to share between two to three people, with a veal jus and your choice of side.
Really into sharing? There’s a whole lobster on the menu, smothered in black garlic butter and spritzed with finger lime (and it can be on your plate if you’re willing to fork out for it). It’s the kind of meal you want to have waiting for you as you emerge from a sweeping, scenic seaplane flight around the Harbour, hair artfully tousled – you can book in for 15 or 30 minutes of high-flying fun, or ditch the lobster in favour of al fresco snacks and ride a seaplane all the way to Shark Island for a picnic (prices here).
For a more laid back option, you can also do brunch at the Empire Lounge, which, of course, is more of an affair than just eating a meal in the mid-morning. Sit back and take in the view on a weekend morning with a platterful of warm sourdough, freshly baked pastries, salty olives, haloumi chips, spiced tomato shakshuka, and oozing honeycomb, and more – it’s one hell of a deal at $30, and you’ll still have a front-row seat to the waterfront drama you really came for.