Living in a city where restaurants come and go in the blink of an eye, it’s hard not to find it impressive that Doyles on Sydney’s Watsons Bay has been going since 1885! This famous seafood restaurant that has been run by over five generations of the same family is understandably somewhat of an institution in Sydney, so we felt compelled to try it.
Getting to Doyles is in itself a memorable experience; although you can take the bus or drive there, the best way is to get a 40-minute ferry from Circular Quay, sit on the top deck and take in the gorgeous views, including both the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House.
When you arrive in Watson’s Bay, ignore the first Doyles you see right on the pier and head for the old cream and green building right on the beach. Since we were told they couldn’t give us a reservation at lunchtime, we had to queue briefly before being shown to our table in the historic building, quickly ordering a bottle of refreshing rosé and attempting to narrow down the huge menu.
We started with a plate of Doyles own jumbo prawns, filled with bacon, sultanas, egg, spinach, leeks and pine nuts and then beer-battered and fried. These were just all kinds of wonderful – crunchy, buttery, savoury and sweet all at once. It’s a pity I had to share them.
The salt and pepper calamari was also excellent, the batter just crispy enough without being too heavy. The crunchy tentacles are my favourite and thankfully there were plenty to go around.
My favourite of the starters, however, were the Dover Tasmania mussels, steamed in a white wine, cream, garlic and chilli broth. The mussels were wonderfully fresh and plump, whilst the broth was heavenly. Note: this dish does not automatically come with bread, so make sure you order some to mop up this glorious broth.
I would never wish to insult the five generations of Doyles by not ordering Doyles’ famous fish & chips. You are given a selection of five or so fish to choose from, of which we chose the Ulladulla flathead fillets. These were up there amongst some of the better fish and chips I’ve had, with a nice crunchy batter. Instead of tartare sauce, you get Alice Doyle’s chilli plum sauce, which adds an interesting sweetness to the equation. One word of advice: no matter how hungry you may be, do not try to tackle this dish alone.
Doyles’ fisherman’s paella is different to paella as we know it, in that the rice is served separately to the seafood. This took us by surprise at first, but actually worked out to be quite an effective way of filling up on all the delicious seafood, cooked in its rich tomato-based sauce, as opposed to eating too much rice. The menu suggests to share this dish between two, but I think it would feed at least three.
I think we could have done without the Tasmanian Atlantic salmon fillet. Although I did enjoy the crispy salmon skin and the sautéed ginger and greens, the salmon itself wasn’t particularly exciting.
All this food and another bottle of rosé later left us barely able to move, so dessert was not even an option. Perhaps we should have not ordered the salmon and tried the ‘very fruity pavlova’ instead.
Dessert or no dessert, however, our meal at Doyles was definitely an enjoyable one and we’re glad we got to experience dining at such an institution. No doubt prices have gone up multiple times since 1885, as Doyles certainly isn’t cheap – our lunch for four came close to AUD350 (around HKD2200) – but, yet again, I find myself wondering if you could get this same standard and quantity of food and wine in such a beautiful setting for any less here in Hong Kong. Frankly, I doubt it.
Doyles on the Beach
11 Marine Parade
Tel: +61 2 9337 2007