With some pleasant surprises and a new head chef, as well as the craft beer revolution coming upon Sydney in more ways than one, the hottest food and beer destination would have to be Murray's Brewery, Restaurant and Bar at Manly Beach.
It was not too long ago that Murray's became a brewery for all different craft beer varieties, rather than just being a restaurant and bar space. Find yourself at North Steyne, and if you choose to eat outside (like I did, on a perfect summer's night) you will have fantastic views of the beach.
The experience here is beautiful and graceful in more ways than one. Ladies, I can relate, I get that our palate for beer is not intense. Upon trying a glass (as opposed to a pint) of Whale Ale ($6.90), your perception of beer can change forever. This particular beer has a light taste, with a smooth texture and fruity flavour. The Murray's craft beer sensation also includes Angry Man Pale Ale; Rude Boy Pilsner; Punch and Judy's and Libertine French Ale to name a few. With everything going according to plan, customers will be able to buy some quality craft beer on the brewery premises to take away, and the same could go for their surprisingly good food real soon.
This establishment is the first Sydney based venue for the Murray's Craft Brewing Company, which has been recognised as Australia's Brewer of The Year. Eight of their beers have been recognised in this year's Critic's Choice Top 100 Beers list. That and new head chef of London and Sydney fame, Ryan Smith, combined with Murray and Ashleigh Howe's passion for food, wine and beer, make their food and beers worth checking out.
Similar to what Chris Badenoch of ex-MasterChef fame does; this establishment has made it an art and has mastered the use of beer as an ingredient in their food, and this even includes their scrumptious, original and surprisingly creative desserts.
For starters, the salmon salad with grapefruit, coconut and soft herbs ($25 - normal serving) was surprisingly good. I was expecting some pieces of raw salmon, however I received some beautiful, soft and chunky salmon pieces that were cooked even better than expected. The grapefruit pieces added some sweetness to the dish, and therefore no salad dressing was required. Someone sitting nearby me liked the look of it so much, she ordered it for dinner.
About to tuck into the marinated spatchcock with salad
The chicken pieces were tender and just right. If you love grilled chicken, you will absolutely love the marinated spatchcock with a mint and parsley slaw and toasted pistachios ($27 - normal serving). It is similar to the salmon salad, except that instead of the salmon, you're receiving some grilled chicken pieces. Quite a filling dish, you will leave here satisfied. What you can see in the picture is around half the normal serving size.
Next stop, the pan fried snapper with lemon buerre blanc and parsley salad ($28) was tastefully presented. Completely different to what I was expecting once again. The fish was cooked to perfection, and the plate was well executed and presented. A bed of salad sat on top, and a few pieces were buried within the fish. The lemony flavour was just right. I was expecting a lemon wedge to squeeze the desired amount of lemon onto my fish, yet Murray's have surprised me again. Some small beautiful pieces of lemon were spread throughout the dish. The capers also added to the delicious flavour that was already there. Beautifully presented.
You will appreciate every piece of the porter pie. Yum.
Now it was time to taste Murray's signature dish, the awesome Porter Pie with homemade gravy and kale ($28), and if you really know how much love goes into this dish, you will appreciate this awesome dish some more. This (for me) was at the top of the list out of all of the non-sweet dishes tasted at Murray's. It takes five hours to cook the meat filling, and there are two different types of pastry used at the top of and on the side of this pie. It's rather filling. Amazing value is received for something that takes around eight hours to cook and prepare before it lands on your table. The gravy is quite thin, yet not runny. The kale has a bit of a salt like flavour.
The lemon and lime, and Punch & Judy's chilli sorbet.
Now that leaves room for dessert, and it shows that both ice cream and the creme brulee really go great with beer and chilli.
The trio of sorbets: lemon and lime, big Wednesday and passion fruit as well as wait for it, Punch and Judy's chilli sorbet ($12.50) is clearly handmade, and what a pleasant surprise. That together with a priceless view, you can (easily) be forgiven for thinking that you're spoilt in Manly paradise. I had the taste of beer on my palate after tasting the lemon and lime sorbet. I thought I was going mad until I realised that a subtle amount of beer was used as an ingredient in this sorbet. The chilli was full of flavour. One scoop of sorbet now equates to a thai food dish, while the passion fruit sorbet was smack bang full of flavour. The latter comprised of a tropical fruity sensation without being super sweet. Genius.
That left the creme brulee ($14) and oh yes, great attention to detail was paid. The custard did look a bit dark, yet the creme brulee was warm at first and well cooked. If you had said that this dessert also includes a bit of finely brewed Murray's craft beer, then bingo you're spot on the money.
If it feels like I might have ruined a few surprises for you, there is (absolutely) nothing to worry about. This is one amazing restaurant with a unique beer experience, and as the owners are passionate about asking for input on future menu dishes from their kitchen staff; this has to mean that kitchen staff morale hits an all time high. Expect new menu items here, and with a pleasant twist too. Murray's aims to educate people on craft beer, and that you do not have to be a beer lover to enjoy some quality food with a bit of craft beer. They want you to have a good time more than anything. Okay then, did I really have a great time at Murray's Brewery, Restaurant and Bar at Manly Beach recently? I sure did. Five plus stars all round.