Sydney Cove Oyster Bar, Circular Quay

It’s no secret that one of the most scenic sidewalks in Sydney is the harbourside promenade leading from the station and wharves at Circular Quay to the iconic Opera House. We also all know that there are many eateries dotted along the way, but how often have you actually stopped to soak up the views and dine at one of them?

As locals, we have had preconceived ideas about these places being overpriced tourist traps (sometimes with good reason), but it turns out we have been missing out big time on the Sydney Cove Oyster Bar which has been serving up premium seafood for 25 years now. This gem of a restaurant is located on the waterfront across the sidewalk from the Dendy cinema. We have walked past it many times, but the signage is so inconspicuous that we have never stopped to check it out.

This all changed on one slightly cloudy Sunday, when we ventured over to Sydney Cove Oyster Bar to enjoy a preview of their inaugural “Harbourside Beach Barbie” event, which will be running on each Saturday lunchtime in October for Good Food Month. The weather did not look too promising as we headed out, but by the time we arrived the sun was peeking out from behind the clouds and it shaped up to be a glorious spring day for a waterfront BBQ!

The restaurant is entirely outdoors (apart from its kitchen), but it still manages to be polished in its table presentation and their service. They make the most of their enviable location on the waterfront with giant umbrellas shielding their patrons from the sunshine, but not from the picturesque views of the Harbour Bridge and sparkling harbour. It’s a great spot to sip on a cool drink or two…like a chilled 2012 Rose from the range of Wines by Simon Gilbert or the Glamarama Summer Ale and Sydney Cider by the Sydney Brewery served from ice-chilled eskies for the event.

2012 Rose, Wines by Simon Gilbert, $9 per glass

Glamarama Summer Ale $9, Sydney Cider, $8

Sydney Cove Oyster Bar is usually on the pricier end of the market for its seafood, but for their debut at Good Food Month they are giving patrons a chance to sample a range of their fine seafood in a more relaxed Aussie barbecue setting for $55 a head (excluding drinks). Chef Rhys Ward has put together a gourmet menu for a luxe twist on the usual beach barbie starting with freshly shucked oysters. We are treated to a choice of 2 types of oysters – the Sydney Rock oysters from Pambula on the NSW south coast and Pacific oysters from Coffin Bay in South Australia. The Sydney Rock Oysters are smaller, but I prefer their creamier flavour. Both types of oysters are very fresh, plump and succulent, complemented wonderfully by the merlot chardonnay red wine vinaigrette which accompanied the platter.

Sydney Rock oyster and Pacific oyster platter

Next up, we watched the chef showcasing his skills on the barbie as he cooked the Salt and Pepper Barbecued King Prawns. Now we have had king prawns at other restaurants, but nothing quite like the king prawns that the Sydney Cove Oyster Bar serves up – these were huge!  I was surprised to hear that these prawns were sourced locally because they were practically the size of scampi. As expected from their size, the prawns had plenty of juicy meat which had soaked up just enough of the chargrilled aroma from its time on the BBQ. The flavour of the prawns was enhanced by dipping them into the trio of sauces on offer – we liked the subtle pesto and the spicy chipotle mayo!

Salt and pepper barbecued king prawns

We took a break from the seafood with the next course, which featured tender chargrilled Lamb Skewers drizzled with a yoghurt sauce. These skewers were simple enough, with generously sized cubes of soft, succulent lamb alternating with cherry tomatoes. But the chef did a fantastic job in cooking the lamb so that it was still pink in the middle, creating a tender morsel of meaty goodness.

Chargrilled lamb skewers

Last but not least, a zingy marinated octopus salad was served to finish off the main courses. This is not your run of the mill salad; the delicious pieces of octopus have been cooked sous vide to create a tenderised texture that still manages to retain some chewiness. There’s also sweet chunks of pineapple tossed in for a taste of summer amongst an Asian inspired medley of bean sprouts, mint, coriander, shallots and red onions to create one tasty salad.

Marinated octopus salad

After polishing off the salad, we capped off the meal on a sweet note with a refreshing lemon sorbet gelato cone as we soaked up the sunshine by the sea.

Lemon gelato cones

All in all, we were impressed by the quality of the seafood and the sublime experience of dining on the waterfront on a lovely spring afternoon. It’s a sensational way to spend an afternoon enjoying what Sydney has to offer on all levels – best shared with a group of friends!

The Harbourside Beach Barbie is part of the 2013 Good Food Month and will be held October 5th, 12th, 19th and 26th. To book, please call the Sydney Cove Oyster Bar.

Sydney Cove Oyster Bar
Lot 1 Circular Quay East, Sydney NSW 2000 ‎
Phone: (02) 9247 2937


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