Situated on Sydney Harbour’s eastern bank, Catalina perches on the waterfront of an Australian landmark, Rose Bay. In 1957, on the site of the country’s first airport, the restaurant was built as Caprice. This hot 1950s nightclub was a favorite of Sydney-siders for decades.
Owners Michael and Judy McMahon acquired the restaurant in 1994 and renamed it Catalina, after the flying boats that “ruled the skies” of Rose Bay in the late 1930s. After renovations, the space now offers patrons sweeping views of the Harbour at water level and an expanded outdoor bar, but the McMahons were careful to keep the restaurant’s original atmosphere.
Catalina is now synonymous with Sydney-style fine dining. Its culinary team certainly has the creds to back up the hype. Executive Chef Mark Axisa started at the restaurant as a cookery apprentice and during the course of 12 years moved through the ranks to his current role as executive chef, which he accepted in 2015. He has a sincere passion for creating new and exciting dishes. Head Chef Alan O’Keeffe studied hospitality and tourism in his hometown of Dublin, Ireland, and completed his cookery apprenticeship at the five-star Merrion Hotel. He then joined the Catalina team and has spent the last seven years creating Catalina’s delectable dishes with his signature flair for traditional French cuisine. Head Pastry Chef Berny Osorio is known for her seasonal, modern desserts that pay homage to tradition. Her favorite recommendation is the caramelized fig with bitter caramel mousse, brik pastry and sugared pistachio. Head Sommelier Andrew de Vries trained at Catalina for many years, becoming assistant Sommelier in 2011. He has personally cultivated Catalina’s exceptional wine list, which includes more than 800 Old and New World wines. From 2008 to present, the list has received a three goblets rating (the highest possible) in Australia’s Wine list awards.
And what’s on the menu at Catalina? For starters, enjoy the Sydney rock oysters with lime, chili and tobiko. The house-smoked salmon with Persian feta on toasted sourdough, Jamon Iberico with tomato bruschetta, and selections from the cheese lists also are must-try items. From grass-fed beef tenderloin to roasted suckling pig, the list of mains will have your mouth watering.
Let’s not forget about the cocktails. Catalina recently introduced an all new bar menu. The succulent sips include lychee and mango martinis, peach Bellinis, passion fruit margaritas and of course a classic or two, cue the Pimms and Champagne. The sun-soaked bar is the perfect place to enjoy cocktails before your meal, or after…or both.
Catalina is open seven days a week. Lunch service begins at noon and dinner service begins at 6 p.m. Monday to Saturday. Catalina’s kitchen stays open late — it’s one of the few spots in Sydney offering this. The restaurant does take reservations. If you fancy, you can reach Catalina by ferry. The Rose Bay wharf pick up and drop off is located directly to the left of the restaurant.