It’s just after 4pm at 8 at Trinity, on the scenic shores of Lake Macquarie. Lunch service was fully booked today, with 500 people served all up. In an hour-and-a-half, dinner service will start, and another 500 will come through the doors.

“Some people couldn’t imagine it would ever be this busy,” says Natalie Johnson, the venue’s managing director. “It didn’t happen overnight. We opened in November 2019 with no advertising and within a couple of months word-of-mouth got us up to 500 people a day. Then Covid hit. But after we reopened, we were busier than ever and built up to 1000 people a day.”

Despite its stunning setting and proximity to Sydney (a 90-minute drive away), Lake Macquarie has often been overlooked by the city’s holiday-makers and daytrippers. How, then, has 8 at Trinity found success? We caught up with Johnson to find out what it takes behind the scenes to create a true destination diner.

A fit-out like nowhere else
8 at Trinity’s striking architecture has been specifically designed to catch your eye. The dining room is housed within an enormous enclave of all-weather blinds built by superyacht makers, which extend from the seven-metre-high ceiling to the ground, inviting seamless movement from indoor to outdoors – and views of Lake Macquarie and the marina. Fused columns create a protective canopy over the deck, resulting in a clever structure offering outdoor dining without exposure to the elements, and a spectacular exterior facade.

“People love posting the restaurant on social media,” Johnson says. “Unless you build something here that you can’t get in Sydney, people won’t want to come – so we had to build something you cannot get anywhere else.”

Not many restaurants cost more than $8 million to build – especially when they’re technically just pop-ups. But 8 at Trinity is just a taste of what’s to come from the surrounding $600 million dollar Trinity Point Development, which will feature a 218-room five-star luxury hotel , 180 waterfront apartments, two 300-seat restaurants, a day spa and wellness centre, a 188-berth marina and more. The idea, says Johnson, is guests will be able to look out and feel like they’re in a cradle of luxury to rival anywhere in the world, without having to get on a plane.

An approachable, crowd-pleasing menu
“Something for everyone” is a cliché, but it’s a cliché for a reason. If you’re travelling a long way to dine, you’ll want to know in advance that the menu will cater to all kinds of diners – whether you’re going as a family, with a large friend group or for a business lunch. (This might be why 8 at Trinity offers guests the option to arrive by car, seaplane, helicopter or boat.)

It’s not a fine diner, but the broad menu here – with five different options for Wagyu steak alone – offers a diverse range of options, tastes, dietary preferences and price points for any occasion.

“We believe that food drives people, so we have a lot of different food under the same roof and cover a great deal of tastes,” Johnson says. She says this approach encourages diners to return and explore different dishes
They include its signature crab spagettini, pizza from a decadent gold-tiled Italian wood-fire oven, a decadent seafood platter, Singapore chilli prawns and a whole Hong Kong-style lobster to share. You can also push the boat out with beef from the grill – options include Wagyu Tomahawk and MBS 12+ Kagoshima Wagyu Scotch fillet.

There’s only one non-negotiable: leave room for dessert. The deluxe affogato – a mammoth combination of espresso, ice-cream, Frangelico, Baileys and Belgian chocolate – and the croissant bread-and-butter pudding with vanilla anglese and gelato are both standouts.

The same goes for drinks: there are 15 signature cocktails along with an array of classics, spritzers and non-alcoholic drinks to try, as well as a wine list populated with local and international drops. Plus, there’s a bottle shop, so you can stock up before you head home.

A destination worth the journey
A good destination diner plays a kind of trick on you. It needs to convey a sense of seclusion, but also be relatively hassle-free to get to. Although 8 at Trinity feels remote, it’s just a 90-minute drive from Sydney and an hour’s drive from Newcastle. There’s also a train station in Morisset, the nearest town, which links to both. Looking out over the lake, the urban hustle and bustle seems a world away.

At the end of the day, you can’t have a destination diner without a worthwhile destination, and Lake Macquarie delivers in spades. “It’s an amazing location: you’ve got water, transport, opportunity, lifestyle – Lake Macquarie offers so much,” Johnson says. “It’s just a matter of time before people discover it, and I hope people embrace what we’re trying to do here.”

Win a weekend away
8 at Trinity has proven itself worth the drive out, and worth the bill at the end of your meal. But one reader can win a $1000 dining package at the restaurant and two nights’ accommodation at the nearby Luxe Terrace, for up to six guests. The prize is valued at $2966.20 – making the trip over a little bit sweeter.

Enter the competition here.

This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with 8 at Trinity.