Flanagans Dining Room, Thirroul Beach

Just one hour from Sydney in the small and quiet coastal town of Thirroul is a totally unexpected fine-dining restaurant that takes you completely by surprise.   Flanagan’s Dining Room is in the heritage-listed building that was originally the Thirroul Beach Kiosk situated on the Promenade.  Being heritage-listed the building’s character, charm and soul from the 1940′s still exists.  The restaurant’s bi-fold windows open to take the diner almost onto the sand and while enjoying a drink or the degustation menu you are so close to the water’s edge you can not only hear the waves but see them crashing on the sand.

The view from a table at Flanagans

The view from a table at Flanagans

Thirroul is a very easy one-hour drive from Sydney yet these two areas of Australia’s eastern seaboard are worlds apart.  In just over an hour we transported ourselves from the stress, haste and congestion of Sydney to an idyllic little town that nostalgically takes you back to a bygone era.  

Flanagans

Flanagans

Irish-born John Connolly arrived in Australia in 1994 with a background in the food and hospitality industry.  He settled in the town of Thirroul and opened Flanagans Fish Cafe in a small shopfront on the main road.  In 2008 John moved the shop to the its current position and opened Thirroul Beach Kiosk.  However he wanted to take the business to another level and contacted his Turkish friend and chef, Arman, who used to work at Efendy in Balmain.  Charmed by the town, Arman joined forces with John and created a restaurant placing emphasis on supporting local businesses for all their produce and began growing their own vegetables, herbs and edible flowers.  Recently the business changed its name to Flanagans Dining Room and undertook a renovation.

IMG_1696

The Promenade

Lunch is available five days a week and has a menu that changes daily depending on what’s available.  On Friday and Saturday nights Flanagans Dining Room hosts a seven-course degustation menu that changes every week and this can be enjoyed with matching wines.

The interior of Flanagans

A warming fire

Carl and I were very much looking forward to the Flanagans experience and being able to sit by an open window overlooking the beach and watch the waves pound onto the shore.  However, on the night we were there it was raining cats and dogs.  The restaurant windows were snapped shut and the driving rain drowned out any chance of being able to hear the surf, however, what we lost in terms of openness and a view was made up for by a warming gas fire creating a cosy and intimate dining experience.

With the weather being so dastardly, I was thinking we might be the only ones venturing out on such an awful night and so I was quite surprised when we arrived at Flanagans to find every table occupied and just one table-for-two remaining.  We sat at the one remaining table that was in a quiet corner of the room where on a good day, the bi-fold windows would be open – never mind!

Flanagans is extremely accommodating.  Despite having a small kitchen there’s effort made to accommodate personal preferences and allergies.  When I booked the degustation menu, I asked for a non-seafood option and as soon as we were seated at our table the waitress remembered my request and let me know the chef had prepared different courses for me.  On other occasions they have happily created a gluten-free or vegetarian degustation option.

Billowing sails and retro bulbed lighting

Billowing sails and retro bulbed lighting

The restaurant is small, seating between 30 and 50 depending on the configuration of tables.  The decor is stylish, minimalist and elegant with polished timber floors, billowing sailcloth ceiling, globe lights hanging from varying heights, trestle tables, Bentwood chairs, banquettes, paper tablecloths and a touch of blue in the linen napkins and water glasses – you know how I love my blue! Our meal began with a selection of warmed and thickly sliced sourdough bread from the Berry Woodfired Sourdough Bakery that we smothered in butter and enjoyed with a glass of sparkling mineral water.

Warmed sourdough bread

Warmed sourdough bread

It doesn’t take long for the food to arrive and we notice everyone in the restaurant is being served at the same time.  The first course was Clyde River Oysters that are locally sourced with white balsamic and pink shallots.  Carl loved these and said they were ‘awesome’.  He said the balsamic and shallots were a flavour sensation with the extremely fresh oysters.

Clyde River Oysters with White Balsamic and Pink Shallots

Clyde River Oysters with White Balsamic and Pink Shallots

The oysters were paired with a French Champagne from the Burgundy region.  The champagne was very dry and delicately flavoured so worked very well with the oysters drizzled with white balsamic.

Varichon et Clerc Blanc de Blanc, Burgundy

Varichon et Clerc Blanc de Blanc, Burgundy

I had goat’s fetta coated in a cornflour batter that was gluten-free with mint, cherry tomatoes and a drizzle of balsamic reduction.  I love goat’s fetta with mint and this is a dish I would love to try and recreate at home.  Cheese and champagne are always a beautiful pairing.

Goat's fetta with mint and cherry tomatoes

Goat’s fetta with mint and cherry tomatoes

The second course was scallops with chilli, ginger and soy.  Carl said these were ‘ridiculously good’.  After eating the scallop he picked up the shell and drank the dressing.

Scallops with chilli, ginger and soy

Scallops with chilli, ginger and soy

The scallops were paired with a d’Arenberg Stump Jump Riesling.  I’ve been a fan of d’Arenberg Wines since visiting their winery just over a year ago.  I’m also quite a fan of Riesling as I think that over recent years I’ve had more glasses of Sauvignon Blanc than I’d care to count and so I consider a Riesling to be a refreshing change.  The wine was crisp and refreshing and I can see myself enjoying this as the sun goes down on a beautiful day (but not this day!)

The Riesling

The Riesling

I had a Thai vegetable curry.  The vegetables still had some crunch which contrasted well with the smooth curry sauce and the sauce had some warming heat but not enough to prevent me from tasting the rest of the night’s meal.

Vegetable Thai Curry

Thai Vegetable Curry

The third course was squid with paprika, oregano and baby cos.  Now Carl is a huge fan of squid and he said this squid cut like butter and was the best and most tender squid he had ever eaten and there was no chewiness to speak of.

Squid with paprika, oregano and baby cos

Squid with paprika, oregano and baby cos

The squid was paired with a Cuttaway Hill Estate Chardonnay from the Southern Highlands and being a cool-climate wine it had hints of melon and peach with just a trace of oak.  This is a Chardonnay that works very well with seafood.

Cuttaway Hill Estate Chardonnay

Cuttaway Hill Estate Chardonnay

I had marinated chicken thighs with a cauliflower puree.  Although the chicken was moist and very tender I thought it was a little bland and perhaps some extra seasoning with some lemon juice would have given the dish a lift.

Marinated Chicken Thighs with Cauliflower Puree

Marinated Chicken Thighs with Cauliflower Puree

The fourth course was calf liver with Spanish onion, sumac and parsley.  I do like liver but I normally have it in moderation and not as an entire dish.  While I thought the Spanish onion gave great crunch to the texture of the liver, this was probably a little too much liver for me.

Calf liver with Spanish onion, sumac and parsley

Calf liver with Spanish onion, sumac and parsley

The calf liver was paired with Ingram Road Pinot Noir.  I do love pinot!  This is a darker-coloured pinot but still very subtle in flavour and a lovely light red wine to contrast the depth of flavour in the liver.

Ingram Road Pinot Noir

Ingram Road Pinot Noir

The fifth course was salmon with tahini, walnut and pomegranate.  This dish is served neither hot nor cold, just warm and looked very pretty on the plate.  Carl said it was ‘unbelievable’ and he just loved the combination of tahini and pomegranates.  As ‘awesome’ as the other seafood dishes were, this was Carl’s favourite.

Salmon with tahini, walnut and pomegranate

Salmon with tahini, walnut and pomegranate

The salmon was paired with a Monkey Place Creek Rose.  It’s good to see Rose wine back on the table.  It’s been a long time.  I do remember them being very big in the 70′s but they were more like lolly-wine whereas today they’re a lot more sophisticated.  Served cool and being a light wine, it went very well with the salmon.

Monkey Place Creek Rose

Monkey Place Creek Rose

I had marinated beef fillet with shoestring fries, garlic yoghurt and jus.  This was sensational.  The beef was soft, tender and melt-in-the-mouth.  The fries were the thinnest I have ever seen and so light and crispy.  The yoghurt and jus were plentiful and I always love it when there’s more sauce than you need and this is exactly how it was with this dish.

Marinated beef fillet with shoestring fries, garlic yoghurt and jus

Marinated beef fillet with shoestring fries, garlic yoghurt and jus

The sixth course was a loin of lamb with chickpea, chard and rosemary jus.  One of my most favourite parts of lamb is the loin.  The loin was lovely and pink, well rested and cut with little resistance.  The delicate rosemary jus worked beautifully with the lamb.

Lamb loin

Lamb loin

The lamb was paired with a Crooked River Black Top Shiraz.  This wine is grown locally in the Gerringong Region.  While the wine did have hints of blackberries, pepper and spice, it was also more sweet than I was expecting.  I think a less-sweet shiraz would have worked better with the lamb.

Crooked River Black Top Shiraz

Crooked River Black Top Shiraz

The final course was Creme Brulee with mastic, vanilla and fresh strawberries.  There was a lovely cracking sound as the back of my spoon hit the brulee and the fresh strawberries added a little tartness to the sweetness of the toffee.  This was a very smooth brulee that wasn’t overly sweet and light enough to be a refreshing finale to an incredible meal.

Creme brulee with mastic, vanilla and fresh strawberries

Creme brulee with mastic, vanilla and fresh strawberries

The Creme Brulee was paired with a Longview Epitome Late Harvest Riesling.  This is a wonderful dessert wine that has notes of apricot and honey and isn’t incredibly sweet.  I loved how both the dessert wine and the champagne were served in chilled glasses.

Longview Epitome late harvest riesling

Longview Epitome late harvest riesling

We didn’t have coffee.  We just couldn’t fit another thing in.  And my advice to anyone heading to Flanagans for the degustation meal (which you must rush out and do), is hold the bread, there are plenty of courses to come.  We had a lot of questions for our waitress who was very knowledgeable and if there was anything she didn’t know she went back out to the kitchen and came back with the information we needed.  There were two waitresses on the night who were certainly kept busy yet no table ever went unnoticed; the service seemed to be extremely smooth.

Action shot!

Action shot!

Although there is plenty of free parking in the beach car park (yes, that’s right, there’s FREE parking), you’ll be pleased to hear we didn’t drive home.  We had accommodation just a five-minute level walk away and were able to walk (stumble) back to our room.  As we walked home we talked about the evening and we agreed that the Flanagans dining experience with the ease of parking (that always gets me stressed in Sydney), the stunning view, the varied, interesting and well executed cuisine and the ease and tranquility that comes from being in a place that moves at a slower pace, is very, very therapeutic.  You must try it!

Kitchen action

The heat in the kitchen

Verdict:  An unexpected and totally fabulous surprise where the setting and the food exceed expectations.

Degustation Evening:  $80PP or $125PP with matched wines.

Flanagans Dining Room:  The Esplanade, Thirroul NSW 2515 Ph:  02 4268 1598 IMG_1696Hotly Spiced and Carl dined as guests of Flanagans Dining Room.

If you liked this post, you’re welcome to share it!

Comments

  1. I’d love to have someone treat me to that exquisite meal with our without matching wines. With the latter, I’d DEFINITELY be stumbling back to my hotel room or a waiting cab to go home. :)

  2. This place looks wonderful, a great seaside deco building full of warmth and character. The food looks fabulous too. GG

  3. Wow, sounds like a foodie’s paradise! A ton of top notch options…I can see why you were stuffed to the gills :)

  4. I knew there would be oopses having to move file by file. It shouldn’t be long before hotlyspiced.com is as good as new. Saying goodbye to your old webhost must feel good – no more, this site has reached its limit of resources.

    I’d love to visit Flanagans. That’s my kind of spot.

  5. The seafood there is lovely and I really like Arman’s food philosophy :) So glad to see that your site is up and running! :D

  6. Sounds fantastic, Charlie, but none of the pictures came up for me…I never had any problems before.

  7. Wow, sounds like you had quite an evening! That’s a lot of food!! Sounds like my kind of place! ;) xo

  8. I am so delighted to hear of this place!! It is everything I treasure in a restaurant. Like you, I am always happy when there’s “too much” sauce. :-)

  9. The beach, free parking and great food – can’t get better than that! Love the kitchen shot

  10. Very glad you had a lovely meal. Woolongong and the south coast is such a a wonderful place to go now. What a great review and a fabulous night away

  11. What a gorgeous setting – and indeed, a gorgeous place all up. I’m so glad Flanagan’s was enjoyable as places like this deserve celebration and they are few and far between!

  12. I so love degustation menus Charlie, and it sounds like they really did a great job substituting for the seafood too. Definitely worth going back for another try in the warm weather indeed! Xox

  13. What a wonderful evening full of drinks and great food!! Some of your other restaurant reviews had not done so quite well, so what a treat to get good service and fabulous food! I love the atmosphere – the little fire is just right. And with the paring of spirits, I’d be stumbling home too!

  14. So glad to hear you didn’t have to drive home after such a splendid meal! And I just love that stormy shot of the seafront – very brooding.

  15. Wow. Everything looks delicious!

  16. You had me there all along, I was dying to taste each dish and the wines caught my eye the way you’ve photographed them. What an amazing restaurant! Now I’d love to read about where you stayed:)

  17. Charlie what is going on? I think that’s three amazing meals in a row?! Glad to hear it wasn’t permanent bad meal syndrome. I love Carl’s descriptions of the dishes. Sounds just like Will. It looks like a really generous meal especially for the price and how nice that they could change so many dishes for you. Shame about the weather.

  18. That is a beautiful setting for a restaurant, Charlie. I’d go there just because parking is available. I’m so tired of cabbing it to a restaurant or, worse yet, circling looking for a spot. Your dinner sounds fantastic — and at a very reasonable price. You were served quite a bit of food and all beautifully presented. What a great night out!

  19. I’m so glad you had some great food this time. It really looks good. The whole restaurant seems very quaint and perfect seaside location.

  20. What an epic meal and I love that action shot at the end :) I don’t know what I like more the Salmon tahini or the creme brulee dessert ~ Glad you had a good time! I love the view too!

  21. My goodness sounds wonderful – no wonder you didn’t have coffee I wouldn’t have been able to fit it in either – however at one stage I did wonder who was going to be driving home! What a great little spot.

  22. amazing food and amazing place!!!

  23. How I wish I lived a bit closer to be able to enjoy such fabulous meals out.
    Fabulous review Charlie.
    :-) Mandy xo

  24. Oh my. That is quite the beautiful meal! With each dish you mentioned, my stomach growled more and more!

  25. FINALLY! I’m so very happy that you had SUCH an amazing experience Charlie. The food looks incredible and despite it being a rainy dark night the photography is wonderful! I would have had everything on this menu and then had to be rolled back to our room! I’ve had wine pairings once and because I am unable to drink dark reds and sweet wines it wasn’t as enjoyable, but the chef did make allowances and served me different wines (I get very bad migraines because of the tannins and sweetness).
    I’m so glad you had such an enjoyable evening despite the weather. It’s been rather cold and rainy here too but it’s winter so it’s not a shock. We were in Illinois on the weekend and had our very first tornado warning, not pleasant at all. I can hardly wait to hear of your lodging experience.

  26. How nice of them to accommodate you so well! I’d forgotten that you didn’t eat seafood, I’m so sorry to have ordered the fish yesterday! xx

  27. Those are pretty hefty portions for a degustation menu, and the price is pretty good – super value here! And sounds like a terrific place. Great review – thanks.

  28. wow, sounds lovely, all the food looks great. What an amazing meal and wines.

  29. I love the idea of a degustation menu–and this one looks fantastic. Lovely-sounding wines as well. The Australian dining scene fascinates and amazes me every time I read one of these reviews. You just have so much available–and it is so innovative and well done.

  30. Wow, looks like a great meal! What a cozy little place.

  31. I must say I wondered if you were going to divulge the expense and I’m so glad you did. I think that was a really good value for what you were served! And the ambience of the location would sell me for sure. Stormy weather oceanside is fine by me! The photo with the dramatic sky is really beautiful. And good for you for thinking ahead to have a place to land! I really enjoyed the story of the proprietor. :-)

  32. Carl’s descriptions of the seafood dishes has me craving them – and I’m not even a huge seafood fan!

  33. Bahahahaha! Totally love the “action shot”. LOL! The Thai curry looks lovely (now I am craving!) and everything looks great here. Love the cozy, clean, warm atmosphere too!

  34. What value for a fabulous night. Thanks for taking me fine dining for 15 minutes. What a great find. I really love and trust the way you review a restaurant.
    Shame about the weather but no one has control over that one.

    Carolyn

Trackbacks

  1. […] promised to tell you more about our visit to the tiny coastal town of Thirroul where we dined at Flanagans Dining Room.  DH Lawrence stayed in the town of Thirroul while writing his novel, Kangaroo and the following […]

Speak Your Mind

*