The fancy glass charger plates, white gloves and hushed service of Pier have been replaced with a loud, bustling stretch of white, yellow and turquoise where the plates don’t match and the waiters are dressed in rolled-up chinos and kicks.
The design is very yachty. The long, slender glass-walled room is lined with bright banquettes covered in throw cushions. The buttercup-yellow metal chairs and tiny white tables up the back in the restaurant proper are crammed in with well-heeled Rose Bay regulars – thick heads of grey hair rub cashmere shoulders with those in upturned Polo collars and printed silk kaftans.
If we had society writers like American William Norwich in Sydney (the menu even quotes his intro to ’60s jet-set snapper Slim Aarons’ book) they’d be right here alongside all that sun-kissed skin, pen in hand, eavesdropping ears at the ready. “Bronzage,” he wrote, “was the ultimate jet-set souvenir.”
No matter how you feel about well-endowed wallets and pastels, the Sailors Club is the most exciting that this space has been in a long time. The restaurant’s alive and the staff are feeling it. Sitting at the long bench overlooking the bay we watch as the floor staff go full tilt, running food, seating the waves of customers coming through the door and cleaning up as the odd glass smashes. People are having fun.
There may be boat shoes and casually slung cashmere, but the menu’s far from resort food. It’s a breezy drop-in-and-drop-out-all-day menu and includes some exciting-looking breakfast options. You can even order a half of a ruby red grapefruit. We’re keen to go back for the Campari crepes Suzette. Nothing says the weekend like breakfast dessert. With booze.
But we’re here for dinner and staring down the barrel of a simple golden chicken broth with pearl barley, shreds of chicken and a slow-cooked egg. Break the egg, let the yolk infuse the broth and insert your ‘chicken and egg situation’ joke here. We just wish we were given a soup spoon to eat it with. Eating soup with dessert cutlery is like drinking a can of Coke with a hole in the straw.
The wine list is toned down from the tome it used to be in the Pier days, but for this style of restaurant, it’s pitched just right. An Amontillado sherry to go with the chicken broth would’ve been great had it have turned up at the beginning of the entrée. Instead it arrives well after the plates have been cleared, but to be fair, the food comes out really, really fast and staff are really, really busy.
A note to anyone designing a menu in the future: if you’re going to thank Puma for the "Puma shoes our staff are wearing", you might want to make sure they’re all wearing the shoes. We could swear we just spied a Nike swoosh, and there goes a pair of Converse. And is that a kung fu slipper?
Still, everything’s reasonably priced, gets to the table in a timely fashion and hey – there are three cuts of meat (hangar, ribs and rump) in chef Steve Skelly’s burger which has also been Aussified with a decent helping of beetroot relish. Plus there’s a side of house-made crisps. Crisps! We’re digging that tender minute steak with a pat of red wine batter and a peppering of mustard leaves, too.
But maybe you’re just going to float in, order some raw fish, a Bloody Mary and kick back for a chat. You can do that here, where the clattering of plates and clinking of glasses is only drowned out by the sound of heels clunking over the floor boards and the occasional ship horn.
Bottoms up, tops off.