We always knew that the grand reopening of the Newport Arms under the Merivale banner was going to be a very big deal. They had already flexed some serious renovator’s muscle when they took over an old coastal pub in Coogee and turned it into a legitimate scene, but that was nothing compared to the makeover that has occurred at the vast watering hole up on Sydney’s northernmost peninsula.
First things first: do you have a crisp white shirt, a designer dog/child and great hair? Excellent. Bring the lot and you’ll fit right in on a Sunday. The new look Newport (they’ve dropped the arms from the name) is absolutely rammed with a parade of the beautiful people downing a crisp, dry French rosé and stalking a mythical empty table beneath the striped umbrellas and giant cacti now dotted around the venue.
It’s a famously huge venue and that hasn’t changed, but it’s looking like several million bucks what with the fresh juice cabana, the paddling pool for little humans, the raw bar dishing up Sydney rock oysters and buckets of prawns and the mesmerising twirl of the chickens, porchetta and a whole salmon in the rotisserie.
If you too are powerless to resist those golden, spinning, fragrant meats, you can order them at the Kiosk, which sits in front of a kids play area fitted out with ten pin bowling, ping pong tables and a mini basketball hoop. As you might expect the wait times for food can back up, especially if you want a whole chicken, so it’s worth seeing what looks ready before you order. This way you minimise your queuing time and maximise the time you spend eating tender juicy slices of rolled roast pork encircled by the kind of crunchy, sticky crackling that will haunt your dreams. A small serve is two thick slices, and it comes with lettuce leaves, fresh mini bap rolls and a herb and green chilli spiked coleslaw. Make it a picnic by sitting on the grassy knoll nearby, order up a long Island Iced Tea slushie on the side and live your best life.
We’re not going to lie. Your first visit here can be a little overwhelming – there is a map in the menu and you’ll probably need it. Our advice is get in early (especially for seats with water views out over Pittwater), make a base camp and then send smaller acquisition parties to bring back refreshments. Getting food is a whole other balancing act; seafood and rotisserie you wait to collect, pizzas you get a buzzer and for pub classics it’s a separate counter again. Sharing is a good strategy if you want everyone eating together.
And there’s no denying that access this coastal chic living, if only or an afternoon, is no small undertaking either. The L90 from Wynyard will take you just over an hour, but on the other hand, the parking competition is fierce – plus a $2.50 Opal fare on a Sunday is a lot cheaper than a parking ticket. If you’re already based on the Northern Beaches there’s also a courtesy bus on weekends that oscillates between Manly, Warriewood, Dee Why, Mona Vale and Avalon.
Is the Newport a big deal? You betcha. It’s a beautifully designed social hub that is making all your Hamptons dreams come true. The food is delicious, the drinks are fun and people are really, really into it. Sure, a venue this large can get a little unwieldy, but they haven’t skimped on staff who are all working at top speed. If it means another round of beers in the sunshine until snack time, that’s a price we will happily pay.