Dining style: modern Australian
Perfect for: casual waterside dining with friends, a loved one or family. For a special treat, arrive by seaplane – Empire Lounge doubles as the departure/arrival lounge for Sydney Seaplanes
Catering for: couples, friends, families and furbabies (pets are welcome to join you on the terrace)
Dish to dine for: I’m torn between the Burnt Brussel Sprouts or the Rum Baba…have both!
Price range: $$ – reasonably priced and the portions are generous
If only… the lighting was a little lower in the main restaurant in the evening
When it’s National Oyster Day (and I’d be happy if that was every day), it really would be rude not to indulge, and Empire Lounge offers the perfect setting to enjoy the finest from Australia’s Oyster Coast – a collective of oyster growers across 13 estuaries along the unspoilt East Coast of NSW, together with local seasonal produce and fresh caught seafood.
The sun has just set as we arrive at Empire Lounge, perched over the water adjacent to Rose Bay Wharf, making it easily accessible from the CBD by ferry, taxi or public transport. It’s mid-winter, yet the outdoor heaters on the terrace bathe the surrounding water with a golden glow, creating a warm welcome. We head inside and are shown to our table in the main dining room. On warmer evenings, you can dine waterside, with the sound of the water lapping beneath.
Named after the flying boats of the 1930’s, and owned by Sydney Seaplanes, Empire Lounge rocks a casual ‘beachside’ dining vibe, light and airy, wooden floors, and a Hamptons feel with a nautical blue and white theme. A white tiled and semi-open kitchen allows glimpses into the heart of the restaurant, soft globes hang from a tangle of rose gold wires from the ceiling, and a centrepiece sit-up bar creates mixologist magic. Wrap around windows afford diners an epic view of Sydney Harbour and during the day the take off and landing of the seaplanes.
Empire serves Appellation oysters from Australia’s Oyster Coast, and today’s are flown in by seaplane from Merimbula, fresh from the waters of Millingandi and Bald Hills Creeks, according to the tasting notes offered alongside them. With a bold mineral zing and a rich creamy finish, they’re delicious.
Alongside the oysters, we enjoy a very generous portion of fresh calamari char-grilled to perfection, served with ‘nam jim’ – a tangy Thai dipping sauce, and wafer thin, crisp tostadas, loaded with yellowfin tuna, ponzu, avocado and chipotle, giving them just a hint of spice.
Wagyu sirloin is my dining companion’s main of choice, served on a bed of polenta chips, turnip and jerusalem artichoke. Perfectly rare, the steak is butter soft.
Staying on a seafood theme, my barramundi in yellow curry is equally delicious. The surprising hero of our mains is our side of brussels sprouts – the cause of many a Sunday lunch feud as a child…perhaps if they had been served ‘burnt’ with a sweet chilli glaze, as they are here, I may have been able to leave the table a little earlier back then.
I admit it, I read the menu online several days ago, so I’m very excited to reach dessert time, and know exactly what I’m choosing. I order the Rum Baba – brioche soaked in rum syrup, served with whipped cream and fresh strawberries. It’s a dessert that brings back memories of my home in the UK, and something I’ve rarely found on a menu here in Australia to date. It doesn’t disappoint.
Open from Friday-Sunday, Empire Lounge also offers a kids menu, weekend roast and weekend brunch feast, making this an ideal spot to relax, dine, and soak up that epic view, day or evening, with a loved one, friends or family.
Lyne Park, Rose Bay NSW 2029
Open Friday-Sunday for brunch, lunch and dinner
Find out more: empirelounge.com.au
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