Jonah’s Locally Famous for Mastercard
The seaside escape indulging our love affair with surf, sun and spectacular fine food.
Hypnotising. Breathtaking. Sublime. Words can describe but can’t quite capture the magnificence of the view from Jonah’s. Perched on a sliver of land between Whale Beach and Careel Bay, the restaurant overlooks surfers sliding across milky-white foam, dolphins leaping between waves and speedboats jetting across the horizon in an ever-changing visual feast. Glance further north and it’s open water to the cliffs of the Central Coast; look south and it’s lumps and bumps of land that bear striking resemblance to the outline of a whale. Of course, admiring the vista with a glass of champagne in your hand and the sun on your back, one thing becomes very clear: Jonah himself never had it this good.
The restaurant experience starts with the drive. An hour from the CBD, the road north swaps traffic snarls and suburban sprawl for golden cane palms, shady bungalows and dazzling flashes of blue on both sides. Founded as a roadhouse in 1928 by widow Constance Vidal, Jonah’s has lived through various incarnations (a nightclub in the ‘60s, Italian restaurant Villa Jonah al Mare in the ‘70s) until the 1990s when a multi-million dollar refurbishment – christened with the engagement party of Fergie’s sister (Jane Ferguson), no less – gave birth to the restaurant and 11-room boutique hotel of today.
Since then, the space has hosted everyone from Justin Bieber to Bono, Mick Jagger to Joan Collins – all entertained with the same luxury and that Sydneysiders get treated to every day.
“A lot of international stars come to dine, but that’s balanced with local fans too,” says Jonah’s marketing manager Kim Read. “This is the sixth year running we’ve been awarded a Good Food Guide hat, and that inspires foodies from all over to come and try the menu for themselves.”
Anything but ordinary
Read explains that the true Jonah’s experience spans the gamut from fabulously relaxed to fabulously OTT. Consider the restaurant’s Terrace & Bar area, which operates as a standalone space for guests to enjoy sans the formality of a three-course meal.
“It gives people the option to pop in and enjoy a glass of bubbly and a bite to eat in the sun, without having to commit to a long lunch,” Executive Head Chef Peter Ridland says of the more casual menu which features tasting plates (think freshly shucked Sydney Rock Oysters or tempura Hervey Bay Queensland King Prawns) that start from $9. “You can rock up in shorts and thongs and you still get that impeccable, fine-dining service without breaking the bank which, in Sydney, is a pretty unique option.”
On the other end of the spectrum, the Jonah’s Sydney Seaplanes experience spells luxury with a capital L. “We have people fly up twice a day,” says Read of the service which departs from Rose Bay and flies over the Northern Beaches on the way up, and swings past the Opera House and Harbour Bridge on the way back. “Often it’s a treat to celebrate an engagement, anniversary or proposal, but other times it’s just about indulgence or taking time out.”
Fresh food with a focus on seafood is a familiar theme in the Harbour City, but the Jonah’s difference involves fusing flavours and textures with knock-your-socks-off plating to deliver something that’s utterly unique.
“It’s about drawing from whatever culture you like – Italian, French, Asian,” says Ridland. “Then thinking about the balance of salty, sweet, sour flavours combine with different textures to give you that mouth feel.”
The 33-year-old chef highlights the Cone Bay Barramundi main and the Coconut Panna Cotta dessert as must-try dishes. “The Barramundi comes with a sweet pumpkin, then you have that crunchy walnut the fish is slightly salty and finally a twist of lemon that just adds a touch of acidity,” he notes. “For the dessert you’ll find the creamy pannacotta presented with mandarin sorbet and crisp tuille dehydrated cumquats and a hint of vanilla chargrilled quince. The contemporary element is in the plating which is a work of art in itself.”
Great food demands great wine to match and at Jonah’s you get great diversity too, with a wine list encompassing 1300 varieties handpicked by sommelier Christian Baeppler. “We have about 5000 bottles in the cellar,” confirms Read, noting that around 300 new options have been added in the last 12 months alone. “Certainly a lot of wine connoisseurs love to visit, and Christian really knows his stuff. Having such an extensive range means there are choices for every palate – and every budget as well.”
Budding mixologists aren’t forgotten either: the house made cocktails are just as imaginative (try the Bartender’s Elixir, $20, boasting The Kraken Spice Rum, Blood Orange juice, Saffron syrup, honey and egg white) and come in frosty oversized jars bursting with colour and garnishes you’ll enjoy once and remember forever. Much like that incredible view.
My thoughts on the story…
Champagne, sunshine and a spectacular view? Yep, it’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it. Truly, this advertorial for Mastercard featuring Jonah’s restaurant was a peek into a life of luxury with a capital L. Who knew that Sydney Sea Planes shuttles glitterati from Rose Bay to Whale Beach twice daily? Or that Jonah’s has over 5000 bottles in the cellar (the wine list comes in a leather-bound book that hits the table with all the gravitas of an Encyclopedia Britannica). Executive Chef Peter Ridland was ultra relaxed – but he assured me that the hushed chatter and gentle clinks of the dining room were a stark contrast to the controlled mayhem of the kitchen. Published in the Sydney Magazine October issue.