Bathers’ Cafe, Balmoral Beach

My sister is out from LA for a one-week business trip and in between meetings we squeezed in lunch at Bathers’ Cafe.

The entrance from the street

The entrance from the street

The iconic building has a lot of history.  It was commissioned by Mosman Council in 1928 and was essentially built as a large changing shed known as Bathers’ Pavilion.  It was opened in 1929 and considered a stunning and imposing building right on Balmoral Beach.  It was a two-storey building with living quarters for the caretaker, a first aid room and the north end was the women’s change rooms and the south end the men’s.  Trunks and woollen bathing suits were available for hire.

The restaurant from the Esplanade

Part of the restaurant from the Esplanade

The building continued on as planned until 1967 when there was a decline in people using the facilities.  It was then leased to Mr Kanaef who turned it into Mischa’s Restaurant.  That’s where my husband enters the story.  When he was Archie’s age he took a job as a waiter at Mischa’s Restaurant.  It was always busy and brunch was an institution for every local.  Carl didn’t work there terribly long as one of the managers took a liking to Carl and used to pinch his bottom every time he walked by.

A very inviting interior

A very inviting interior

Moving forward a generation, the premises are now owned by chef, Serge Dansereau who has changed the name back to Bathers’ Pavilion.  At the northern end is the restaurant and the southern end houses the cafe.  This is where Archie enters the story.  Like father, like son, Archie is working as a waiter at Bathers’ Cafe.  So far no one has pinched his bottom.

While you wait for a table you can have a drink at the bar

While you wait for a table you can have a drink at the bar

This is where Archie spent Christmas and a couple of days before that event, in walked Keith, Nicole and the two girls.  Now the rule is that if you see a public figure you’re not allowed to engage with them in any way other than by just doing your job.  But you know my Archie and you know he doesn’t always play by the rules and it is a fact that some time before, through a couple of degrees of separation, Mr Urban had organised two tickets for Archie to one of his Sydney concerts.  Archie was just bursting to have the opportunity to personally thank Keith for those tickets and so there’s every chance he did.  Carl has no such interesting stories from his days at Mischa’s.

You can purchase books but I love how the merchandising isn't blatant

You can purchase books but I love how the merchandising isn’t blatant

As today was the last day of summer I couldn’t think of a better place to head for lunch and so Em and I organised to meet in the cafe for lunch.  The weather wasn’t the best.  Probably the coldest and wettest final day of summer I can remember.  Never mind; the view is fabulous whatever the weather.

The view on a dreary day is still pretty awesome

The view on a dreary day is still pretty awesome

The waiters are all smartly dressed in black pants with pressed blue shirts and aprons (we’ve given Archie some ironing lessons), and one of the smartly dressed crew showed us to a table at the very rear of the cafe with a domed ceiling above us and tall windows opening out onto the view.

Bathers' Cafe

Bathers’ Cafe

There is a range of seating options including Parisian-looking cafe tables for two or benches for groups or wooden tables with cane chairs or banquettes of cushions in the corners.  The floor is polished concrete and as this is a venue that is always busy there is some noise but not enough to have to ask people to repeat themselves.  The room is open and bright with artworks of local beach scenes on the walls.

A table with a view

A table with a view

One thing that’s starting to annoy me about a lot of places is that there never seems to be anywhere to put your bag so we have to put ours down on the floor and hope no one trips over them.

An iconic building in Sydney

An iconic building in Sydney

The menu has many choices divided into categories such as light meals, pastas, wood-fired pizzas, meat, seafood and salads.  Having walked to the cafe, I’m ravenous so I ordered the confit duck.  It was everything I was hoping for and I enjoyed it so much that the only thing left on my plate was the bone.  The skin on the duck was well seasoned and beautifully crisp while the meat came away from the bone with just a nudge.  The polenta was buttery soft and the fig helped cut through the richness of the duck.  The only thing I thought this dish was missing was a little bit of sauce.

Soft polenta with confit duck leg, figs and wilted watercress $34.00

Soft polenta with confit duck leg, figs and wilted watercress $34.00

Em ordered the Spanish mackerel which can be served on a bed of potatoes or risotto and she chose the risotto.  She just loved this and said the fish was moist and beautifully cooked while the risotto was glossy, full of colour with that wanted, creamy consistency.

Fresh selected fish of the day with lemon and oil and risotto $35.00

Fresh selected fish of the day with lemon and oil and risotto $35.00

You can order sides however we were advised our mains probably didn’t need them but regardless, we decided to order the baby spinach.  It was just wilted so still vibrantly green and not swimming in a pool of liquid which was nice.

Spinach

Wilted baby spinach with barely any oil or butter $12.00

For dessert Em ordered the Rhubarb Floating Island with vanilla anglaise, fresh strawberries and rhubarb sorbet.  I’ve had this before and the presentation alone gets you excited.  I just loved the look of the palm tree biscuit standing on the ‘island’.  The meringue was soft and not overpoweringly sweet while the sorbet and anglaise compliment with their creaminess and sharpness working together well.  The desserts all cost $18.50 which isn’t cheap but if you’re going to order any dessert, this would be the one.

Rhubarb floating island with vanilla anglaise, fresh strawberries and rhubarb sorbet $18.00

Rhubarb floating island with vanilla anglaise, fresh strawberries and rhubarb sorbet $18.00

I ordered the lime brulee with coconut tulles which certainly didn’t have the visual impact of the floating island dessert.  But, the brulee was everything you’d expect with the crack of toffee on the top and the creamy custard beneath.  The lime flavour was subtle but present.  I loved the coconut tulles and the combination of flavours in this dessert reminded me of summer holidays.

Lime creme brulee with coconut $18.00

Lime creme brulee with coconut $18.00

Bathers’ Cafe is a place you have to visit at least once in your lifetime.  As for being a ‘cafe’ the prices are certainly more than what you’d pay at a cafe but this cafe is not your typical cafe.  There’s the priceless view, the heritage-listed building and the renowned chef all to be considered.  And as a bonus, you might even spot a celebrity or be served by Archie.  Which would you prefer?

 

The proximity to the sand is pretty good

The proximity to the sand is pretty good

Bathers’ Cafe:  The Esplanade, Balmoral Beach NSW 2088

Ph:  (02) 9969 5050

The cafe does not take bookings.

The entrance from the street

The entrance from the street

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Comments

  1. Ha ha, brilliant story! It would have been a tad rude if Archie had not thanked Keith for the tickets, no?! What a great place to work and I love that son has followed in father’s footsteps. The food in the cafe looks great and I would definitely go there next time (have been to the restaurant many years ago for a special occasion) and would look forward to being served by Archie, forget the celebs, we ‘civilians’ want a place like that to ourselves!

  2. What a wonderful cafe. I really love when historical buildings are turned over to good use -and what better use than this! I love the family connections and Nicole and Keith spotting links too. If they’er visiting, it must be good!

  3. That is one beautiful and memorable building and setting. And the food sounds/looks equally as enticing.

  4. I’d love to meet Archie or Keith, either would be wonderful!! That baby spinach looks wonderful! I can almost taste it… That building is gorgeous, I’d love to visit it some day! I must visit Australia , it’s on my bucketlist!!

  5. That view is gorgeous – inspite of the clouds. As I am such a dessert freak, I had to use all my willpower to not lick the screen when I saw that rhubarb floating island with vanilla anglaise, fresh strawberries and rhubarb sorbet!

  6. Sounds like a great cafe!! What a view!!

  7. What an elegant restaurant and to have two of your guys working there as waiters practically makes it like an institution. I wonder if the littlest one will make it a three-peat? :) Glad there are no pinched bottoms though.

    I love the duck confit though at that price I’ll keep making it at home. The polenta and the fig are lovely accompaniments.

  8. Bring served by Archie ofcourse! I hope your sister has a bit of down time so you can catch up. I love a restaurant with a story.

  9. Love this architecture, just love it. And I love the look of the duck leg with figs on polenta–lovely idea.

  10. I know I’m the wrong gender but I think I’d have pinched Carl’s bottom too back then. :)

    I’ve driven past this place but I have never gone in. What a wonderful spot for lunch.

  11. Wait, your sister lives in LA?

    1) I’m half an hour from LA right now; and
    2) Is she hiring?

    • That would be fantastic if you could work together but unfortunately she’s not hiring at the moment. Are you intending on moving to LA or are you going to live in Toronto indefinitely?

  12. G’day! love the architecture too!
    When next in that region, looks like a wonderful place to dine Charlie!
    Cheers! Joanne

  13. I’m willing to bet Archie would be FAR more entertaining than any celeb that walked through the door! My pick is Archie.

  14. What a lovely place to dine. I think I would eat dessert first!

  15. My daughter and son-in-law have been there while on business and said the food was amazing. I have Serge’s cookbook called “The bathers pavilion”, although I have cooked nothing from it ….maybe it should come down off the bookshelf. I would be very happy to be served by Archie!!

  16. I would love to have the chance to enjoy a meal and to simply have a nice, leisurely time at such a beautiful place. That it is filled with a fascinating history is a delightful bonus. Can’t you just imagine the bathers lined up to rent their woolen suits? Such a by-gone era. I would imagine that Archie and his dad have enjoyed some story swapping. And I hope that Archie did indeed have a moment with Keith. How fun is that!

  17. Wow! What a gorgeous cafe! That view makes up for the high food prices…hehehe. And I totally want to try that lime creme brulee…mmmmm

  18. I’m glad that Archie didn’t get the same treatment as Carl! We used to live just up the road from Bather’s! You’ve brought back some memories there :)

  19. What a gorgeous building my friend, it looks so classy!
    And the food is equally as delicious :D

    Cheers
    Choc Chip Uru

  20. What a chic spot to dine! Your food selections look amazing. Hope you had a lovely visit with your sister!

  21. I would definitely prefer to be served by Archie :) I got to see a lot of famous people going to school in central London. In fact, we had one of The Beatles kids in our school and one of Mick Jaggers many children.
    This is a gorgeous restaurant and I love the architecture and the view. Stunning.

  22. LOL good on Archie, I would have to say getting served by Archie would be pretty good, and he is a celeb in his own right with this blog, see so you get the best of both meeting a blog celeb and being served by Archie :)

  23. Another great review of a fabulous place Charlie.
    Have a super week ahead.
    :-) Mandy xo

  24. Well, isn’t that just exciting meeting Keith and Nicole! A friend of ours took an elevator in Vegas with Nicole and she winked at him.. apparently he was staring because he couldn’t figure out if it really was her:) I’d love to have dinner there, esp that floating island dessert. I think if it’s your last day of summer that means it should start warming up here? So why hasn’t it?? Aaargh!!

  25. I’ve always wanted to brunch there Charlie, and you certainly made it look gorgeous indeed. I’m not into celebrity watching, so I’d much rather be served by Archie- that way at least I could claim ‘ I pinched the bottom of that famous star’ in a year or two when his career really takes off :) xox

  26. What a great place to meet a friend for lunch!!!

  27. What a great cafe and it has a lovely view!!! It does seem a little overpriced for a cafe but the food looks fancier than a normal cafe :) I totally resonate with you when you say there’s no where to put your bag and have to put it on the floor it’s so damn annoying!!!!

    How come there’s no picture of you and your sister? hehe

  28. I have taken plenty of overseas business people there. They always want to go back on the next visit. One Pom told me once “The convicts were lucky, just did not know it at the time”

  29. Bathers’ Cafe, Balmoral Beach is worth visiting for its historical heritage and its foods!

  30. Of course I’d love to be served by (and meet) Archie!!! I love the view – it must be gorgeous when the weather is nice! Lime creme brulee sounds good and new to me. I think I’d like the citrus flavor in creme brulee.

Trackbacks

  1. […] is back at uni and on the days he’s not there he’s working at Bathers’ Cafe and also fitting in dance classes with the Sydney Dance Company.   Plans are underway for his 21st […]

  2. […] hopefully just enough time to arrive home, shower or at least spray my armpits before heading to Bather’s Pavilion for a special lunch launching Gary Mehigan’s new cookbook, […]

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