The Bistro at Manly Pavilion, Manly Wharf

Eat, Restaurants, Sydney / 9 August 2017

Is the new Bistro the answer to Manly Pavilion’s prayers?

It’s a lazy, sun drenched afternoon in Manly. It may be winter but no one’s paying attention, leaving jackets and scarves at the door and instead donning light tee-shirts and sandals. Is that someone in a bikini? With the sun creeping below the water’s edge, only then do you see people sheepishly rug up and return indoors. Not at Manly Pavilion though. It’s now 6:00pm and clusters of summer hungry folk are still comfortably seated on the huge wrap around balcony outside. How? Well it’s Manly, and the recently opened Bistro lends itself to such an indulgence, perched on the edge of such an iconic seascape.
What we see today is a far cry though from the empty shell of a building that sat quietly for three years, as the original Manly Pavilion was forced into liquidation. Its closure acted as a pertinent reminder of what can happen in the wake of changing consumer tastes and a rocky economic climate, as this Michelin Star restaurant faced insurmountable debts.
It’s not all doomsday though, with the end of one culinary dream making way for the birth of another. Paul Severino, Director of the new Manly Pavilion, jumped at the opportunity, purchasing the prized culinary real estate. With new life injected into what was for too long a desolate space, locals and Sydney foodies alike were suitably thrilled to see someone else give the Pav another lease on life.
manly pavilion
Entering the Bistro’s main dining area, the relaxed beachside vibe that defines this locale carries through with its interior design. Outside, a sweeping balcony floats above the mouth of Sydney harbour. Inside, the same breezy thematic continues with white washed walls, a white timber ceiling and vibrant green vines cascading down the walls. In a world where restaurants typically squeeze as many tables into a space as possible, it almost feels a little weird having so much room between us and the neighbouring table.
manly pavilion interior
With the ocean literally under your feet, it feels only natural that the food menu to has a strong seafood focus. Tuscan born Executive Chef Andrea Corsi had a clear vision when designing the new food offering, his Italian heritage also playing a key component. Dipping our toes in the metaphorical waters, we kickstart our meal with the seafood antipasto platter ($38 for 2). On a large share-style dish arrives a seafood smorgasbord. There’s everything from freshly shucked oysters to salmon tartare to a basket of salt and pepper calamari. Honest, fresh flavours carry through with each mouthful, the salt and pepper calamari teamed with freshly cut lemon rather than a rich pot of aioli. A part of me lets out a sad sigh. A small bowl of mussels floating in a rich tomato broth also makes an appearance. Alongside everything else, it feels a little clunky. As the juices spill over and seep into everything else on my plate, I yearn for a hunk of bread to mop everything up. Or perhaps its absence from the platter all together. Nonetheless, paired with a glass of crisp white wine, it makes for an extremely pleasant start to our meal.
More on the wine list, you’ll spot a carefully curated selection. There are local drops to keep the diehard aussie Sauv Blanc drinkers happy, plus a range of Italian varietals. We land on the Woodside Park Gruner Veltliner 2013, Adelaide Hills. With notable aromas of orange blossom and creamy pear, it makes for the ideal companion to the minerality and brininess of the seafood platter.
manly pavilion scallops
The marriage of scallops and roasted hazelnuts may not feel like an intuitive one, but in the dish that is to follow, it works well. Nestled between a generous serve of fibrous endive are well seared scallops, sitting atop a light smearing of artichoke puree ($24). Scrapping the plate clean, we only yearn for a little more sauce.
The underwater odyssey continues with the deep fried whole NZ blue cod ($48). Those typically adverse to whole fish shouldn’t snub their noses to the Bistro’s star dish. Filleted in such a way that it causes the flesh to curl outwards, it’s not only an accessible dish but downright delicious. Crispy on the outside with a tender inner flesh, these honest flavours are accentuated further by a well balanced lime, ginger and Tamari sauce. Garnished with a heavy dose of sliced spring onions and batons of ginger, you’ll only want to go back for more with each mouthful.
manly pavilion gnocchi
Less seafood centric and more reflective of Chef Andrea Corsi’s Italian heritage are dishes like the gnocchi ($27). In this instance, light clouds of potato mingle with a rich pork Ragu to create an incredibly comforting culinary experience. Small dollops of ricotta over the top are welcomed, cutting through some of the richness. With that in mind, this is definitely one meal that warrants wearing comfortable clothing.
With stomaches full to bursting, it would seem only appropriate not one, but two desserts. A dinner at the Pav is best ended with ‘The Manly Pav’ ($16), a take on the classic pavlova. The small baked meringue, which is a little cruncher than desired, is rescued by the Champagne cream, fresh raspberries and passionfruit curd. Adding a hint of luxe is a small gold leaf resting atop the sculptural creation.
manly pavilion
Accompanying this one of the Bistro’s dessert specials, profiteroles served with dark chocolate and raspberries. Carving our spoons into the well cooked choux pastry, you’ll quickly discover the hidden delight of extremely creamy custard. All former conversation comes to an abrupt halt as we indulge in such a naughty end to the night.
With a new talented team at the helm of the Bistro at Manly Pavilion, all signs for success and longevity look promising. If you’ve dined at Manly Pavilion when it was a Michelin Star restaurant, it’s important that you cast this memory aside, as the newest version takes on a completely different identify. This is a casual bistro done well; one that you could bring a hot date to but also the entire family for a long and leisurely lunch. With the days getting longer and suitably warmer, Manly Pavilion will no doubt mark an excellent summer distinction with those money-cant-buy views and friendly service.
The Manly Pavilion also offers an enticing Sunday brunch menu! You can also opt to make boozy with a round of mimosas or Bloody Marys (…who wouldn’t?).
The Bistro, Manly Pavilion 
West Esplanade, Manly Cove NSW 2095, (02) 9949 2255,
Open Tues 12.00pm – 10.00pm, Wed 12.00pm – 10.00pm, Thurs 12.00pm – 10.00pm, Fri 12.00pm – Till Late, Sat 12.00pm – Till late, Sun 10.00am – 5.00pm, Mon closed.