Public Dining Room
2A THE ESPLANADE, BALMORAL BEACH
(02) 9968 4880
In the late 19th century, it cost one penny to pass through the turnstile to visit the Public Baths at Balmoral. It was around then that Sydney’s glamorous beach culture was born, ushering in the drinking and dining scene that continues to this day. More than a hundred years later, this same turnstile welcomes visitors through its doors in this iconic building, renowned for its social, cultural and heritage significance.
Public Dining Room is positioned right on Balmoral Beach, with stunning views across to Middle Head and Manly. Owners and siblings, Monique and Mark McLoughlin, extensively renovated the space in 2009, calling on architects Hecker Guthrie to create a modern Scandinavian-inspired fit-out. The restaurant features raw and natural materials of American oak, marble, Belgian linen and blackened steel to complement the Italian lighting and iconic Charles Eames chairs – a far cry from its bathing past.
Monique and Mark are no strangers to hospitality – they were responsible for Castle Hill favourites Cafe Tropez and Trellini’s Bar and Restaurant. Public Dining Room is their third venture together; the focus is on casual, fine food using Australian produce from small farmers. They pride themselves on seeking out hard-to-find ingredients, sustainable seafood and heirloom varieties of vegetables.
They’ve enlisted Head Chef, Mark Knox, to convert these ingredients into mouth-watering dishes. Mark has trained with some of Australia’s best chefs and has worked overseas in two Michelin-starred establishments, most notably with Peter Doyle and Raymond Blanc.
Get started with crispy pork belly, served with jowl croquette, red cabbage puree, caramelised apple and puffed skin, or the indulgent twice-baked gruyere soufflé with hazelnuts, onion cream, bitter leaves and calvados apples.
Mains showcase the best of Australian produce with Tasmanian pasture-fed eye fillet, served with king brown mushrooms, caramelised onion puree and cavolo nero; and Huon Valley Tasmanian salmon with cucumber ketchup, pickled onion and ginger beurre blanc.
The dessert list is lengthy, and one you won’t want to miss out on. The peanut parfait is topped with salted caramel, chocolate mousse and rice bubble crispies; while the passionfruit crème brulee is served with seasonal fruit, coconut gel and yoghurt sorbet.
For a fine wine to accompany your meal, turn to sommelier Ben Howes, whose experience at Quay shows in his extensive knowledge of all things wine.
Public Dining Room isn’t only about lunch and dinner: you can also join the locals for breakfast on Balmoral Beach. For a decadent start, order the brioche French toast, with rhubarb, mascarpone and maple caramel. Savoury options include house-smoked ocean trout with poached eggs, shaved fennel, mint, tahini yoghurt and soy and linseed sourdough, or the full breakfast – pork chipolata, free-range bacon, slow-roasted tomato, spinach, Portobello mushroom, Boston-style baked beans and free-range eggs.
Your experience at Public Dining Room is framed by the floor-to-ceiling windows that open onto sweeping bay views. Although the view is the same as it was for the bathers of the 19th century, Public Dining Room bridges the site’s historic past with Balmoral’s future.