If lounging by the water at sun-kissed tables doesn’t lure you into Manly’s The Tropic, one whiff of its woodfired bread will. You won’t be passing it by.
The Tropic, emerging six months ago from the $5 million renovation of the Manly Wharf Hotel, is bright, modern and relaxing, making the decision where to sit a somewhat frivolous dilemma, as there’s not a bad seat in the house.
Inside the Alexander & Co design, with its exposed concrete floors and industrial finishes somehow giving off a tropical vibe, water views can be enjoyed from high-terrazzo tables, or low ones, and if you get tired of them, check out the action in the open kitchen. Of course you can get closer to the wharf-side action on one of those five long tables with their plush seating, but be warned, you won’t want to budge, particularly on lazy Sunday afternoons when gentle live music helps the cocktails go down.
Experienced in Michelin-starred restaurants in France and after being lured across from Woollahra’s Chiswick, Fairlight local Francois Poulard is behind the Mediterranean-inspired menu. Raised in a Bretagne fishing village, it’s no surprise the Executive Chef’s focus is predominately on seafood, but I’m happy to say carnivores, like me, are not forgotten.
But, before we get to the food, let’s talk cocktails. Armed with my own personal Cocktail Queen, the 23-year-old daughter, we sampled a few. The Tropic, (coconut Tequila, peach liqueur, lemon and mint) was my favourite, just the right hint of fruity sweetness softening the Tequila kick, while the Spiced Pineapple Margarita provided that perfect beachy vibe. Apparently, according to the expert, the Expresso Martini was also excellent.
But… what about the food?
Aaah, of course. Perfect setting, warm sunshine, delicious cocktails… who needs food? But this is where The Tropic evolves effortlessly from a fabulous waterside cocktail bar into a classy restaurant, open for lunch and dinner, and boasting a varied menu ranging from light to substantial.
Small plates, starting at $9, include pumpkin hummus, grilled scallops, or Wagyu Bresaola, while mains from $28 include grilled snapper fillet, baked eggplant, or Franky’s dry-aged Angus with raclette cheese double cheeseburger. There are also sharing menus at $75 and $100
But, who knew I could happily have gone home after an exquisite melt-in-the-mouth sensation from the herb-infused woodfired bread? Instead, I complemented it with the Burrata, new to me, but not to the Cocktail Queen, who described it as pillowy soft, with its creamy goodness oozing perfectly when popped. The salami picante was the right blend of spice and heat, however the olives were a little underwhelming. They were just olives… served cold in a dish.
We bypassed the seafood platter, but caught a glimpse of the chilled tiger prawns, scallop ceviche kingfish tartare, freshly shucked oysters and spanner crab salad as it passed, along with the Steak Frites, an overwhelming sizzling 1.2 kg Tomahawk. Rumour has it the lobster frites and more simple crispy fish sandwich are also huge hits.
We settled for flat iron steak served with mojo verde and rocket, it’s fine marbling perfectly cooked into the steak, tender with rich beefy flavours, and the butterflied King prawns, while tasty, required a little too much excavation for too little reward. However, the yellowfin seared tuna more than compensated. Served on top of an anchovy dressing with tomato salsa and lemon vinaigrette, its Mediterranean flavours popped.
The desserts are generous, the Chocolate and Hazelnut Cake perhaps a little too heavy following a large meal, (I’m thinking superb with just a coffee), while the Raspberry and Coconut Pav was zingy, dare I say tropical, and imaginatively served.
Whether you’re popping in for a wine and a snack, or settling in for a long lazy afternoon feast, you’ll enjoy The Tropic. Sensational location, great service and food. But don’t forget the bread.
Transparency check: This is a genuine food review; meals and reviewable beverages were provided free for the purposes of review, and we attended by invitation so it was not anonymous.
Read how The Tropic’s venue manager Steven Lebreuilly ended up in Manly here