I am a freelance writer and photographer from Sydney who has now had five books published on fishing. I also write for the NSW Fishing Monthly, Visit the Shire, Fisho App & Tackle Tactics.
I also like to travel and experience new things to do.
Published December 25th 2014
Test your taste buds out while taking in some history
History behind The Old Library Restaurant.
The Old Library Restaurant building was originally built by the Methodist Church back in 1908 and the style was inspired on Federation Gothic. The building back then compromised a main nave and bell tower, which was later demolished. There was a small rectory attached to the south. It is a masonry building with polychrome brick banding, wall buttresses marking the structural bays, pointed arched windows between buttresses with stained glass, with a gabled tiled roof and two stained glass wheel windows to gable. The interiors are slatted timber ceiling and plastered walls.
The opening service was held on the 8th November, 1908 with the President of the Conference, the Reverend Benjamin Danks officiating.
In 1955 it was decided by Council to open a branch library at Cronulla. A portion of the School of Arts building (built in 1912) in Surf Road was leased for this purpose. The Library was officially opened by Councillor O'Brien on the 30th April. It consisted of 12 squares which had originally been two shops. Half was the main adult section and the other half was the junior section, counter reference and study area and staffroom. By 1962 the premises were considered to be inadequate.
In early 1963 the Methodist Church building was put up for sale. The council did consider buying the building as a community hall and Library in 1964, but for various reasons it was not until 1968 that Council gave consideration to a proposal to use part of the church premises for a separate children's library. This eventually happened in 1969 and it was converted into the Library in the early 1970's.
Mario Kalpou Brilliant Idea Comes About.
Mario Kalpou bought the building in 2009 and, in two years, transformed it into what it is today. Even though the building is not heritage listed Mario want the restaurant to remain as close to the original design as possible, but with a new look while still keeping its history as a library. Finally the re-build of Cronulla's iconic old library building is complete and it opened for business next Thursday the 24th November 2011.
The floor to ceiling windows let in so much light to the restaurant
The restaurant is divided into four sections. You have the area that is at the front of the building that is separated by a glass partition that does not extend up to the high church like ceilings. This area can be set up to accommodate large groups or small groups. On the night we were there 2 groups of ten, 1 group of seven and 2 groups of four.
Moving from here you will find the centre piece bar and bar stools for the casual drink or two with a number of tables that would accommodate smaller groups or couples. Towards the rear of the building you have an area that can be set up for a group or for a number of other combinations.
The last, but by no means the least is the kitchen where all the absolutely delicious food is prepared by the hand-picked chefs. Over the last year I had heard so much about this restaurant that when it was decided that our group of friends would dine in the Sutherland Shire for our Christmas get together I had my wife show me where it was.
I couldn't believe when Leanne showed me the front of the building as we walked pass it on our way up to the mall to have our usual fruit drink after walking along the esplanade. I had been passed this magnificent Restaurant/Building I don't know how many times before.
One the night we were there the floor staff were extremely busy as The Old Library Restaurant was almost full and the waitress and the rest of the staff who we had made sure that we were well looked after throughout the night. Even to the point where I managed to knock my fork onto the floor and it was immediately replace with a new one, before I had a chance to put it back on the table.
Another of couple of things that I did notice during the night was that before our entrees, main meal and desert were served the napkins and cutlery were replaced with new ones. Also the staff who brought out our meals didn't have to ask us who had what? They knew exactly where each meal had to go.
What I did like was the menu list was just a one sided piece of paper, rather than a folder. This was in keeping with the old theme of the library and it made it so easy when it came to changing the menu throughout the year.
Being a lover of food in generally, especially seafood I once again had the hard choice of choosing between the Calamari fritta and gremolata, Seared scallops, peas, nasturtium and roe or the Cured ocean trout carpaccio, sea greens and grapes for an entree. I went with the seared scallops and I wasn't disappointed as they just melted in my mouth.
For the main meal I went straight for the Braised and pressed Junee lamb shoulder, goat's cheese, broad beans, witlof and fig vin cotto. I have heard the saying, "You eat with your eyes". Not only did this dish look extremely inviting, the lamb was so tender that the juices danced all over my tongue. The dish was constructed in the form of four small towers of braised Junee lamb with the goat's cheese sitting on top in what looked to me like an open boat that was made from the witlof.
When it came to desert there were five dishes to pick from, and all five were picked by our group. Which gave me a chance to look at each of the dishes and when they all arrived it definitely put a doubt in my mind whether I had chosen the right dish.
There was no doubt in my mind when my spoon sliced through the desert and the insides just oozed out and I could smell the aroma. The taste was sensational. Now I am not saying that the other deserts wouldn't have been just as good, but by the comments of, "How good is this?" or "You should try this" coming from our group, you can work it out for yourself.
While there I did find that at times the noise levels from others dining at The Old Library was quite high and this would be expected as the walls were rendered or made of glass and the ceiling were quite high as you would expect in an old church. What I did notice was that the noise level dropped dramatically when everyone in the other 5 groups in the area where we were sitting. They too were enjoying tucking into their meals as much as we were.
To keep with the theme of the building once being used as a Library, you will find book shelves that have been painted onto the wall with a whitewashed interior. There are pale American oak tables and comfortable cushion-scattered linen lounges throughout the restaurant. One thing that did impress me as we walked up the front stairs, were the floor to ceiling front windows that can be opened up to the summer breeze. You will find reading lamps and ceramic deer heads throughout.
The bill when it arrived was placed in an old book, once again the attention to detail that the Restaurant is reference to the Old Library. It was a pleasant surprise to find out that the cost of the meal it worked out at a little over a $100 per person and foe this we had fresh baked bread and dipping oil, 3 entrees, 7 main meals, 6 deserts, 6 beers, 2 mixed spirits, 4 cocktails, 5 coffees and one bottle of champagne. I would say that we definitely got plenty of value for money.
Keeping with the theme of The Old Library at Cronulla
I would like to congratulate Mario Kalpou, noted Chef Danny Russo, Co-chef David McGill and the rest of the staff at The Old Library Restaurant for creating a place in Cronulla that you can go to day or night to enjoy exquisite fine dining while smelling that fresh salt air.