November 2023 update: Manly Pavilion is under new ownership and management, and things are looking as good as the ocean does down below. The beautiful restaurant and bar now has a happy hour from 5-7pm weekdays, and DJs on the decks each Friday from 5-8pm. Come on down for "wow" views and some pretty great food and drinks, too.
Read on for our review of Manly Pavilion from 2020.
Combine panoramic water views (bonus points for additional city skyline), seafood, fresh pasta, a sunny deck and a cheeky bevvy and the result is the Platonic ideal of a perfect Sydney day. And it’s an accessible reality at Manly Pavilion. The dining room housed in the 1930’s bathing pavilion facing Manly Cove and looking out to the heads and all the way back to the CBD skyscrapers, could not be better located if it tried. It’s also one of the first places you pass if you’re trekking from the Spit along the coastal walk – we can think of worse places to refuel.
If you can swing it (and you’re sunscreened to the nines), aim for a seat out on the deck and draw in lungfuls of that sweet, salty sea air in between sips of vermentino while you peel fresh prawns and swipe them through a classic seafood sauce. Haven’t been able to refuse a scallop since ‘The Trip’? Us either, which is why a plate of five perfectly bronzed clams on a verdant green pea puree is a smart second order.
Heading up the kitchen here is the Florentine-born Alessio Rago, so fresh pasta is the order of the day. He’s making the malloreddus in house and then dressing the Sardinian pasta shapes with a zucchini sauce that is playing with your expectations of a pesto pasta. The vegetables are cored and baked in the oven with fresh herbs, olive oil and salt. They’re then pureed and mixed with more basil, extra virgin olive oil, parmesan, pine nuts, chilli, garlic and white wine. Sweetness is provided by wilted cherry tomatoes and plump prawns, creating a distinctly nostalgic flavour with a modern, up-market approach.
Rago mines more childhood memories for the accompaniments for a piece of grilled gold band snapper. He cooks carrots and blends them with one third of their weight in burnt butter – your inner child will be placated, as will your present-day self.
Manly’s famous surf beach (so big it has three names to help people navigate it) gets a lot of the attention when people are heading north of the Spit, but on the other side of the peninsula the waters are calmer and just as majestic. So if you prefer to be wined and dined rather than dunked and splashed, Manly Pavilion is a sweet spot to see out summer.
This is not a critical review. Time Out dined as a guest of Manly Pavilion.