Classic French food isn’t necessarily the first thing that comes to mind when you’re at the beach. But Ryan Dawson reckons he can change that with Bistro Manly’s casual, French-inspired menu.

“It’s a combination of old and new-school French cooking,” says the executive head chef (ex-Cottage Point Inn) of the beachfront venue on the ground floor of the Novotel Manly Pacific. “And we’ve balanced that by using the finest local ingredients and taking a casual approach.”

Dawson is joined in the kitchen by sous chef Toshi Ishihara (ex-Macleay Street Bistro and Cottage Point Inn). Their lunch and dinner menus include prawn bisque with blue swimmer crab and rouille (a sauce with saffron and cayenne pepper); 120-day dry-aged beef sirloin with Café de Paris butter; confit duck leg with mushroom risotto; and a pork chop with roast vegetables and parsnip puree.

Seafood also features prominently on both menus. There’s yellowfin tuna niçoise, chilli prawn linguine, and snapper with a beurre blanc (white butter) and yuzu. “Because we’re by the ocean, we’re using a lot of fresh local seafood,” says Dawson.

The lunch menu also has a “light” section featuring French favourites, such as croque monsieur, Wagyu flank steak frites, and a steak sandwich with Gruyere. Dessert doesn’t stray too far from typical French bistro fare, either. There’s crème brûlée, apple tarte tatin and a vanilla pecan and strawberry bombe alaska.

Aperitif hour at Bistro Manly’s open-air courtyard is very civilised – perfect for snacking on charcuterie, cheese, crisp-fried school prawns and smoked-salmon pate. Much like the food, the wine list is a bit French and a bit Australian, ranging from a bottle of Dom Pérignon champagne to chardonnay from South Australia’s Shaw and Smith. A whisky cart can be rolled out if you’re after a nip.

The 90-seater is designed by Bianca Isgro from Isgro Studios, who worked on Daniel San (located underneath the Novotel Manly) and the Paddo Inn. The light-filled space has a statement marble-top island bar, hues of pinks and deep blue, retro furniture, and a floor-to-ceiling bifold window with premium views of Manly beach across the road.

Bistro Manly Bar
55 North Steyne, Manly

Mon to Fri 12pm–3pm, 6pm–10.30pm
Sat & Sun 12pm–3pm, 6pm–10.30pm

This article first appeared on Broadsheet on October 10, 2019. Menu items may have changed since publication.