1 Ocean Beach Road
|work hours||lunch wednesday sunday; Dinner Thursday and Saturday|
|Features||Accepts Reservations, Removals, Licensed|
|Payments||eftpos, Visa and Mastercard|
One of my fondest childhood dining memories is having a meal at the Ozone Hotel in Queenscliff. It was during a rare family holiday, and my mother insisted on having dinner in the imposing dining room. I had the porterhouse steak – probably the first – with pepper sauce. When the dish, which I ate under the high ceilings of the great old building, arrived, it seemed to me an incomparably extravagant. It was one of those moments that changed you, that makes you see the world and its food from a different perspective.
Ozone is now private apartments. Many of Australia’s most beautiful seaside hotels, once the heyday of Golden Age luxury, went the same way – converted into residences or sitting empty. At best, they’re caught up in an easy cadence like community bars: a little dagger, maybe some pokies, but much less luxurious than their sumptuous past.
The recent revival of some of this opulence has been exciting. Projects such as The Espy in St Kilda or Merivale’s restoration of The Newport Arms on Sydney’s northern shores have restored some of these massive old buildings to their former grandeur. That is certainly the point of the redevelopment of The Continental Sorrento, a 147-year-old bar that has been out of service since 2017.
The hotel reopened in March with multiple dining options and bars, as well as luxury accommodations. Chef Scott Beckett oversees all the food and is the man behind Smith St Bistro, Chancery Lane and Matilda 159 Domain.
Up a flight of stairs from the main bar is Audreyy’s, the hotel’s most ambitious and expensive venue. The room is decorated with a lot of mint-colored velvet, which is very beautiful, although I wish the designers would have leaned a little more on the history of the gilded era.
The Dusting Menu ($150 per person) focuses on seafood and consists of seven courses with a few optional extras. One such addition is the caviar service, with a great option to order just a “bump” of shiny sturgeon roe (from $16 for an osetra), a less expensive way to experience luxury (up to a 25-gram can of Beluga for $240).
If you skip the caviar, you start with bread and a variety of butter (cultured, miso and seaweed), then seafood snacks are served in quick succession: a personal little seafood tower holding clams with a finger of lime, impressively grilled abalone and chubby mussels . Also, a small (and slightly tough) bun topped with bolted crab and glazed eel on Melba toast.
Next comes a bowl of diced yellowfin tuna with white radish and shizu, with a decidedly fun and mysterious Japanese taste. In fact, all the food at Audrey’s can be described as enjoyable.
Most striking was a small bowl of ‘noodle’ made with locally caught squid, served with a delicious XO sauce made from shiitake mushrooms. It is a dish that shows great creativity and skill – most of the rest of the meal consists of really good ingredients that are well prepared: flathead with pine mushrooms and gnocchi; Extra duck breast ($40) perfectly cooked and lightly sweetened with golden plum.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about Audrey is its wine list, which is moderated by sommelier Andrew Murch. It’s tough to get such a big ambition on a menu, while also catering to people who might just want an easy-to-drink Shiraz salad or Shiraz.
Want to spend $1,500 on a Burgundy Grand Cru? Morch has you covered. In the middle is the cute place that has some fantastically amazing selections, many of which are in the under $150 range – not cheap, exactly, but there are deals to be found, and this is not the place to eat if savings is your preference.
For those of us visiting Sorrento, Audrey might just be the cherry on top of a weekend at the beach; For residents, that likely means a lot more than that. Outside the Sorrento and Portsea hotels, dinner options are oddly sparse for a city with so much wealth. There are a number of mid-range restaurants on the main Sorrento strip, but none come close to Audrey’s ambition.
Given that, this restaurant is probably exactly what it should be: a room suitable for special occasions with a killer wine list and a menu that will satisfy most people while not challenging anyone too much. It’s a great example of modern Australian dining, if not the most exciting version.
vibration: to brag
Go to plate: Squid Noodles With Shiitake XO
drinks: Speakeasy range cocktails and an impressive and extensive wine list
cost: $150 Dust Removal List
This review was originally published on good weekend magazine