Ever since the fine-dining restaurant, Beach Road, closed its doors, I have been eagerly waiting to see what new establishment would open in its place.
We were on our way to Palm Beach to have lunch with our good friends, Marcus and Lou. ’Where are we going?’ they asked.
‘That new restaurant in Palm Beach’.
‘What’s it called?’
‘It’s a big long name, isn’t it?’
‘Something of a mouthful’, I said.
It didn’t matter because we knew exactly where it was. We arrived right on noon and the restaurant was fairly empty however it quickly filled with a young, casually dressed and groovy crowd. Cranky Fins Holidae Inn is refreshingly different to the old establishment. Gone is the fine-dining vibe with it’s white chairs and starched linen and instead there are bright Sante Fe colours, rustic timber floors, a large bar, sea-blue banquettes and booths, and beach memorabilia with a sea-shanty vibe; totally appropriate for this suburb nestled beside one of Sydney’s most famous beaches.
Open for just a few months, this place is buzzing, especially at night. We chose a corner booth and looked around the room that appears spacious and on this summer’s day, is open to the verandah that runs around the restaurant. Everything you need from cutlery, napkins and sauces is in a bucket at the centre of the table. This is a share-plate restaurant where your dining plate is one of those white enamel plates with a blue edge.
The waitress brought over the menu that is laminated and in such fine print that anyone with anything less than 20/20 vision will find impossible to read. Reaching for my glasses I saw that the cuisine is Mexican with a few American and Aussie influences. Prices seem very reasonable however the menu is fairly limited. You quickly come to the conclusion that this is a place where you order food to accompany your drink rather than a drink to accompany your food.
Turning to the drinks menu we noticed a shift in pricing. There is one bottle of Italian sparkling wine on the menu for $45.00 and the rest are champagnes from France ranging in price from $35.00 for the Pommery Pop Piccolo 200ml bottle, to the Pommery Cuvee Louise 1999 for $340.00. We didn’t order it. Most wines are priced between $45.00 and $79.00 per bottle. A single glass of wine costs around $9.00.
Ordering is done at the bar where they take your credit card details and hand you a bar tab. If you don’t return the plastic bar tab there’s a $10.00 charge so don’t lose it! We started by ordering from the ‘Feeling Peckish’ menu and ordered Spiced Chickpeas for $5.00. These arrived in a plastic tub and had a smoky flavour and weren’t very spicy and were a bit oily and to be perfectly honest, I think I prefer peanuts.
We ordered the Guacamole, Salsa and Corn Chips for $14.00. The corn chips were thick and crunchy and there was a generous amount of guacamole however I found it to be a little under seasoned and would have liked some salt or lemon juice to give it a bit of a kick.
We also ordered the Crispy School Prawns with Aioli and Lemon for $16.00 and these were a big hit. Very crispy and crunchy with a lovely contrasting smooth aioli. Carl loves eating prawns where everything goes down the hatch including the head and the shell and so these were a huge success and I think he ate 75% of them.
There are three types of tacos on the menu that all come in soft tortillas and the soft tortillas are out-sourced. We ordered some of each and started with the Shepherds Style Pork with Pineapple, Crackling, Radish and Salsa Verde. These were amazing. The tortilla was lovely and soft, the pork beautifully tender and well flavoured with a lovely piece of light crackle to finish it off. We all could have ordered more of these.
The Spiced Fish with Pico de Gallo, avocado, fennel and chipotle mayo was considered the least impressive of the tacos however it was still very enjoyable with soft, flaky fish.
My favourite taco and also the waitress’s recommendation was the haloumi with zucchini, charred corn, avocado and tomato. This was excellent and a complete flavour sensation. Probably the best taco I’ve ever had and this and the pork taco would have me quite happily spend the one hour in the traffic to go back for a few more of each.
There are two desserts in the ‘Sweet Toof’ section of the menu and we ordered both to share. The first was the summer berry and passionfruit mascarpone pavlova jar that appeared very much like an Eton Mess. Overall it was a wonderful dessert however the meringues tasted very ‘store-bought’ which was disappointing as there is an enormous difference between a homemade meringue and one from the shops.
A total indulgence of a dessert was the chocolate and peanut butter fudge ice-cream sundae and again, it is well worth the drive for this sundae. The peanut butter ice cream is smooth and creamy and gives you a great hit of peanut butter flavour and the fudge is thick and rich. It’s a very generously portioned dessert and I didn’t think we could finish it all but Carl managed it. I asked if the ice cream was made in-house but was advised it’s out-sourced.
There’s a ‘Whippa Snapper’ menu for the kids with all meals costing $12.00 and if you look like you’re under 14 you can order one.
I can imagine this is a great place to meet up with friends and sit and chat with a margarita in one hand and a taco in the other. It’s very relaxed and casual with a friendly vibe and I think this is something the locals have been wanting for a very long time. And not just the locals. Can you believe I bumped into an old friend who’s now living in Manhattan and he had brought some overseas visitors from Switzerland with him. ’Showing them the sites’, he said, because the location is one of Sydney’s most famous.
We returned our plastic bar tab number and were given the bill for our very satisfying and filling lunch that included a bottle of Prosecco. It cost just under $125.00 and I thought that was quite good value.
Verdict: If they can just get everyone to remember the name, this place will do very, very well.
Cranky Fins Holidae Inn: 1 Beach Road, Palm Beach NSW 2107
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