Cranky Fins Holidae Inn, Palm Beach

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.

Cranky Fins Holidae Inn

Cranky Fins Holidae Inn

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?’

‘Can’t remember’.

‘It’s a big long name, isn’t it?’

‘Something of a mouthful’, I said.

Live music also plays on weekends

Live music also plays on weekends

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.

A very bright entrance

A very bright entrance

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 bar stools on the verandah looking across to the water

The bar stools on the verandah looking across to the water

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.

The restaurant has been beautifully styled

The restaurant has been beautifully styled – love the doggy!

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.

The entrance is beside the surfboard

The entrance is beside the surfboard

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.

Spiced Chickpeas - $5.00

Spiced Chickpeas – $5.00

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.

Guacamole, Salsa and Corn Chips -  $14.00

Guacamole, Salsa and Corn Chips – $14.00

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.

Crispy School Prawns with Aioli and Lemon - $16.00

Crispy School Prawns with Aioli and Lemon – $16.00

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.

Shepherds Style Pork Tacos - 2 for $15.00

Shepherds Style Pork Tacos – 2 for $15.00

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.

Spiced Fish Taco - 2 for $15.00

Spiced Fish Taco – 2 for $15.00

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.

Haloumi Tacos - 2 for $12

Haloumi Tacos – 2 for $12

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.

Summer berry and passion fruit mascarpone pavlova jar - $8.00

Summer berry and passion fruit mascarpone pavlova jar – $8.00

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.

Chocolate & Peanut butter fudge ice-cream sundae - $12.00

Chocolate & Peanut butter fudge ice-cream sundae – $12.00

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.

Arriving early, we managed the corner booth

Arriving early, we managed the corner booth

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.

The bar.  Where can I get me some of those portholes?

The bar. Where can I get me some of those portholes?

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.


Love the lady on the wall - so like me

Love the lady on the wall – so like me!

Cranky Fins Holidae Inn:  1 Beach Road, Palm Beach NSW 2107

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  1. I was doing all right up until dessert. The tacos do sound good but seriously, ‘Sweet Toof’? Lovely review, Charlie Louie – it was like I was there myself.

  2. Well it seems like some of the things on the menu were sort of hit or miss…but the tacos did look awesome and well worth the trip over there!

  3. Good honest review.

  4. What a fun setting with those punches of color and appropriate art with the beachy vibe. And great food to boot. Sounds like a wonderful dining experience that I’d really enjoy about right now.

  5. I love the decor. It looks very beachy and fun. A great casual place to just hang out with friends. The tacos look fantastic too!!!

  6. This new place sounds ideal for Palmie. Definitely looks worth the trip for those prawns and the halloumi tacos, yum!

  7. Eh, the woman on the wall’s got nothing on you, Charlie! 😉 Those pork taco’s, OMgosh!! They look so good!! What is Haloumi?? Is it fish? It looks good… I have never had fish tacos so I don’t know if I would like those. That is one groovy dive! 😉 xo

  8. There were some pretty tasty dishes there. I’m curious how easy it is to eat out of the pavlova ‘jar’ though. Sometimes the cutesy presentation should give way to a more practical eating experience. All 3 tacos had some interesting elements to them. I’d like to do a fish taco one day though I’m more tempted by the battered and deep fried versions rather than the healthier baked ones. And the haloumi … who doesn’t like marinated and then grilled cheese though I’m not sure that’s what they did to the one you had. 🙂 I have a pork shoulder that I want to turn into pulled pork but tacos would be a great way to cook it too.


    PS I’m angry that this place brought shame to the name of roasted chickpeas.

  10. Fun looking restaurant and Mexican food is always a hit with us! Fish tacos are my favorite and I’m sure Tony would have eaten all of the prawns too. I’ve made crispy chickpeas before and I wasn’t impressed with them either. They just are missing that little “something” no matter how crispy and tasty you try to make them.

    Great review! 🙂

  11. The best taco you’ve ever had is a big call, but they do look delicious! If I was closer, I’d be going there tonight for dinner!

  12. Great reading Hotly Spiced! I’ve heard a bit about this place recently and have been keen to try it. Now I know what and what not to order on the menu.

  13. Hehe name really is something! I wondered if it was a surfing term or something. I asked hubby who surfs and it was lost on him 😛

  14. The tacos sounded gorgeous, and it sounds like a lovely, relaxed venue, will look it up!

  15. It sounds like a fun spot we dined at down in Florida! And those tacos sound amazing! How I’d love to dine beach side right about now 🙂
    PS…had to giggle at you comment about saving my white salad for a teeth cleaning day!

  16. Looks like a fun, colorful space!

  17. G’day Despite some hiccups in the dishes, overall it seemed kind of fun, Charlie, true!
    Salivating for tacos now thanks to your lovely review!
    Cheers! Joanne

  18. I love the decor and beach atmosphere – I think Australia needs more places like this that go beyond fish and chips kiosks but retain a low-key vibe! It sounds like the tortillas / tacos were excellent and that peanut butter ice cream sounds wonderful.

  19. Love places which are a little different, when I go next to Sydney for a holiday, I must go back through your blog and choose some must see places, actually maybe I should start doing it now, so I don’t spend hours rereading the blog lol. Have an awesome weekend 🙂

  20. Good honest review. Some of the prices seemed kind of odd and a little high but I agree the tacos looked beautiful. Sometimes the company and just not having to cook for the evening is a very good thing.

  21. What a great place to enjoy something scrumptious to eat with friends.
    🙂 Mandy xo

  22. Glad your experience was good, the food certainly looked good. I find $14 for guacamole steep, but anytime guacamole is on the menu here it is outrageously expensive for what it is (in my opinion). It looks like you had great weather too.

  23. Great review!
    The chickpeas even looked oily but everything else looks delicious!

  24. Sounds like a fun place Charlie, with lots of fun dishes indeed! I’m not a big fan of fish tacos, but the pork ones sound lovely xox

  25. This looks like a really fun place. I love the decor perfect for sharing meals and a few drinks. GG

  26. Great review, Charlie, and sounds like some good tacos can be found there…the halloumi is very different from any I’ve hear of before now. The prices sound high to me, but I’ve noticed that wherever I see prices for food quoted in Australia, it seems high relative to American dollars for the same sort of thing, except for the booze. I’ve never seen guacamole for more than $8.00 here, and that was hand made at your table in an expensive Mexican restaurant…usually it’s about $3.50.

  27. The tacos sound great! Tacos are wonderful eats, and you can do almost anything with them. Sounds like the sort of casual place with interesting food that I like. Great review — thanks.

  28. I’ll order the Chocolate & Peanut butter fudge ice-cream sundae, please!! xxx

  29. Looks like a seriously cool place to hang out! xx

  30. Mmmm the desserts alone seem worth a visit (shame about the store bought meringues though!) and I’d love to try those haloumi tacoes!

  31. Looks like a fun spot, and I love the name! I think I’d love those halloumi tacos too.

  32. I would love this spot! Mexican food – GOOD Mexican food – is near and dear to my heart and I haven’t experienced it here in Oz. I’m delighted to hear there is somewhere I can find it. 🙂

  33. Hi Charlie, popped in for a peek recently one Friday lunchtime and it was VERY noisy… was it in the evening too. But loud fun places are good too, not for heart to hearts though… the booze prices are stiff, but I’d be driving anyway so not a big deal. My mouth is watering … the peanut butter ice cream looks fab.

  34. What fun,creative Mexican food. I always think Mexican food doesn’t travel well in that it is hard to get really good Mexican food outside of Mexico. But this looks great! Looks like a fun place to eat as well.

  35. How about lunch there soon with Seana?

    I love the tacos too. That crackling in the pork is fab. I loved th fish ones as well and now want to try the haloumi. I couldn’t fit in dessert, but will make room for the Sundae on your recommendation, next time I am in. And you are right, us locals have been screaming out for something like this for years. Apparently the owner has a similar establishment in Bali.

  36. What a fun place! I am a big ‘taco lover’ and I think I’d love to try the halloumi! It sounds like you enjoyed the day with your friends, and in a fun, beachy atmosphere, it must have been very relaxing. I have found that guacamole is one of those things that is made so differently from one place to the next. And everyone has an opinion on what constitutes good guac. But if it isn’t a bit chunky and spicy, and with some lemon or lime, to me it’s just mashed avocado. Still good, but not the same thing. I’m now thinking I need Mexican food for lunch today. 🙂

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