When The Port is full, it’s going to be full-on. It fits 1050 people; only 250 will have a seat. It’s the newest venue from the Oscars Hotel Group. As the owner of various venues – including Pepe’s in Wollongong and the Annandale Hotel here – it’s no stranger to big openings, but stylistically this is something different for it. The theme is French coastal. “We wanted to give a different offering to what the rest of Darling Harbour has,” says group executive chef Michael Cook. Rather than set-price deals or sit-down dinners there are bar snacks and share plates. He says the dishes will reflect the theme. “There'll be a lot of fresh seafood and influences from French cooking methods as well.”
The seafood focus reflects current trends. There’s a raw and cured section with kingfish sashimi. And gin-cured salmon with pomegranate molasses. The French influence is most apparent in the mains; steaks are dressed with béarnaise, and mussels are stewed in a saffron broth with white wine and tomato. There are also a few off-theme curiosities, such as the Szechuan-battered prawns and a trio of sourdough flat breads, which are topped with combinations such as chilli prawns, tomato, pineapple and mozzarella. “We didn't want it to be hearty and buttery. We just wanted it to flow with the venue,” Cook says.
As the menu indicates, the theme is a bit vague. The design reflects it by being sunny, pastel-coloured and timber-dominated. The massive space itself has four main sections: a lounge with semi-closed-off booths; a dining area; eight bookable outdoor cabanas; and an open space (which will host DJs and events in the future) with a bar.
From the latter the offering is cocktails focused with a brief and Australian-dominated wine list. “We wanted it to be bright and colourful. We'll be doing things like blood-orange Mojitos,” says venue manager, James Setter.
2–10 Darling Drive, Darling Harbour
(02) 8029 8999
Sun to Thu 10am–2am
Fri & Sat 10am–4am