A long lunch on a sunny day at Woolloomooloo Wharf is never a bad idea. You are never short of fine dining options either with anything from Indian at Aki’s to Italian at Otto, Asian at China Doll or perhaps a good hearty steak at Kingsley’s. The wharf has a stellar line up of some of Sydney’s best restaurants and situated in the middle is the seafood focused Manta Restaurant and Bar.
Take a seat outside and play “which one would I choose” with the immaculate boats lining the harbour and let the experienced (and long-standing) team get you settled. Start your lunch with a glass of French Champagne and fresh Sydney rock oysters while you peruse the thick, leather-bound menu.
There are pages upon pages of wine to choose from but when you have an experienced and excitable sommelier like Lyndon Stenning at your disposal you’d be silly to waste time reading. He has worked in top restaurants around the world, created wine especially for Manta and is one of the restaurants greatest assets. Together with Head Chef Daniel Hughes he brings the menu to life with some brilliant wine match recommendations.
Like the wine list, the menu is plentiful so the tasting menu is a great option for those who’d rather bask in the sun than make decisions. That said some dishes are significantly better than others. The fried calamari is lightly battered and served with some delicious pickled fennel and the heirloom tomatoes are lovely and fresh served with a creamy Italian buffalo mozzarella.
The pumpkin, pine nut and goats cheese arancini is dry and lacks flavour but the seared Atlantic scallops, pressed pork shoulder with green apple and vanilla purée is a well balanced dish and my pick of the menu.
Technically the King George whiting, king prawns and eye fillet are cooked to perfection but it all feels too safe. The same can be said for the dessert tasting platter. But the Manta ‘angel’ chips with truffle oil and parmesan are ridiculously moreish and I could easily sit here all afternoon with a bucket full and a bottle of rose.
Despite feeling a little dated, (the interiors could use a spruce and the food more of a challenge) Manta is still a beautiful place to dine and a great place to bring corporate clients or ou-of-town guests. The staff are fantastic with most of them working here for over five years, some since it opened nine years ago.
If you’re lucky enough to own one of those boats in the harbour you can head off in to the sunset. For those still dreaming (myself included) there’s a taxi rank at the end of the wharf with your name on it.