All the action has moved south at Coogee Beach this week with Estate – a brand new mega-venue that’s opened under the recently refurbished Crowne Plaza.
Estate also has three dining options at the coveted beachfront space. Sure, there’s a 209-room hotel upstairs, but there’s nothing hotel restaurant-y about Kitchen, Taqueria and Terrace, which operate independently from the Crowne Plaza. At the helm is creative director and chef Matthew Butcher, who has been planning the ambitious project (and others similar to it in Melbourne, Canberra, and Washington DC) for the past three years.
Butcher’s passion for cooking started at a young age. He helped his parents run their takeaway shop in his hometown of Echuca, Victoria. When he was 18, Butcher walked into a restaurant in Melbourne’s inner-city suburb of Carlton and ordered a twice-cooked confit duck leg with red wine sauce. “I knew at that moment that I wanted to be a chef,” he says.
“I looked inside the kitchen and saw this little chef with long hair… and that chef was Shannon Bennett. A couple of years later I took my mum to Vue du Monde [Bennett’s award-winning fine-diner]. I had written Shannon a letter telling him how much he inspired me and he came out of the kitchen and sat down at our table. Within a month I was working in the restaurant.”
Butcher went on to work with other titans of the industry, including British chef Gordon Ramsay. In his latest venture, he continues to surround himself with excellent people, bringing on Scott Eddington from A1 Canteen to be executive chef; Michael Tran, from Randwick’s Clove Lane; and Joe Jones from Melbourne’s award-wining cocktail bar Romeo Lane to oversee the drinks.
Kitchen is the most sophisticated of the three venues, with Hamptons-inspired outdoor furniture, lush greenery and sweeping views of Coogee Beach. The menu is a celebration of Sydney’s finest seafood – dishes such as oysters with grapefruit and candied red chilli and a scampi risotto with a vibrant yellow hue (a dish that Broadsheet is coming back for).
There’s also grilled Murray cod cooked over charcoal and dressed at the table with sherry beurre blanc; and roasted pumpkin with clotted cream and a sprinkling of candied fennel seeds as an excellent sweet-and-savoury side. The desserts run fairly classic with some modern embellishments – the Bombe Alaska, for example, is cherry-ripe flavoured.
Then there is the more casual, neon-lit, Taqueria. The party-vibe is strong in this cantina-inspired bolthole, with 40 different tequilas behind the bar, soft tortilla tacos on the menu and a DJ on Friday and Saturday nights. There’s even a “Confessional” – a private karaoke room that accommodates up to 15 people. In a win for hungry beachgoers, a street-front window booth is slated to open next week so you can grab your taco to go and eat them across the road at the beach.
If Taqueria is the nightclub, and Kitchen the country club, think of Terrace as the beach club. Drawing inspiration from northern California, it’s a summery, beanbag-strewn, open-air space for a post-beach drink or snack. A so-shiny-it-hurts vintage Airstream serves as the bar, and hundreds of white and pink cushions line the tiered wooden benches. Also happening at Terrace are post-sunset screenings of old-school surf movies from an outdoor projector. They had us at Point Break.
Estate opens on Friday March 13.
Corner Arden and Carr Streets, Coogee Beach
(02) 9315 9179
Mon to Thu 5pm–late
Fri to Sun 12pm–late
Fri to Sun 12pm–10pm