Dining Manly Beach Sydney - Northern Beaches Restaurant Reviews Our Manly
Sugar Lounge Restaurant Review Manly Beach
Beach Bar & Island Grill at Sugar Lounge, Manly Beach
where: 42 North Steyne, Manly Beachfront
when: Drinks, Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
why: Cool Vibes, Warm Service, Spicy Rum
bookings: (02) 9977 7135
Reviewer - Danny 'Taste-Bud' Gray
They say change is as good as a holiday and for those who can't get away from the rat race, Manly's tropical themed Sugar Lounge is a perfect substitute. The beach front venue is certainly no stranger to change so it's of no surprise that my latest visit to the tiki paradise greeted me with an updated menu and well trimmed cocktail list. Don't worry though it's still the same Sugar Lounge you've grown to know and love.
They've really trimmed the fat at Sugar Lounge and I'm not talking about the steaks. The menu is concise and the previous cocktail list which rivalled a Tolstoy novel in length has been reduced to a single page. I have to admire this move in a society which demands an ever-growing amount of complexity in it's dining, the decision to simplify the menus is a bold one but as I will discuss it's a very good move.
Beachfront Dining, Manly
The layout hasn't changed, nor should it, just a perfect compliment of comfy cane couches, lounges and dining tables. By night the venue is seductively lit with torches and candles. The front of the restaurant is comprised of movable glass panels allowing the fine aromas from the kitchen to spill out toward the ocean creating an al fresco ambience. The area is so well heated that the doors can remain open throughout winter. The bar, as always resembling something Ernest Hemingway may have propped himself up against during his Cuban years, bulges with liquor, though I was informed that the rum selection has declined from well over 100 varieties to a mere 85! But who's counting?
Exciting Cocktails Menu
If choosing from a library of rum isn't your thing I can recommend picking up the cocktail list. As mentioned earlier it has been trimmed down to a selection of classics and signatures. Rest assured the beloved Zombie remains in all it's flaming glory and if you haven't tried it then you haven't been to Sugar Lounge! Be warned you may feel ok after one or two, but this beast boasting 7 rums, passionfruit and flaming Bacardi 151 gets you drunk from the legs up! All the other classics are there including the Mojito which is $10 everyday, a great value!
I decided to warm up the taste buds with a Mexican beer, Pacifico, with a bit more body and flavour than it's cousin Corona. The selection of beer and wine at Sugar Lounge is short and sweet. There is no tap beer anymore, maybe they got rid of the kegs to make room for more rum. Either way its no big deal, you can still get a good drop and the prices are fairly reasonable. The beer went down well as I watched the light fade over the ocean and the horizon merge into a dark abyss.
New Old Fashioned?
With my beer bottle well and truly drained of it's sweet nectar I needed to upgrade to something stronger.
A cocktail that has really worked it's way back into the mainstream is the Old Fashioned. Simple and elegant it's a drink that highlights the flavours of it's constituent spirit rather than mask it.
Predominantly made with whiskey, Thomas the manager assured me his rum based Old Fashioned would impress and I was intrigued.
Using Ron Zacapa 23 year old rum the Old Fashioned arrived in a sturdy glass and as you would expect served short with a twist of orange. The balance was spot on, plenty of sweetness with a hint of spice, definitely one of the best Old Fashioned's I've had the pleasure of sipping although it's almost cheating using a rum as fine as the Zacapa. You won't find it on the cocktail menu but as with most drinks if you can describe it I'm sure the team behind the bar can make it, especially if it has rum in it!
Classic Mai Tai
Another cocktail worthy of a mention is the Mai Tai, a classic of the tropics. The Mai Tai can vary depending on where you drink it but the team here have absolutely nailed it. Too often a bartender can be a bit heavy handed with the amaretto and the almond flavour overpowers the others but the balance served up at Sugar Lounge deserves praise. This drink really transported me back to my time in Hawaii.
Sugar Lounge Menu
Small Plates, Pizzas, Main Dishes
While my palette revelled in the taste sensations pouring past it, my stomach demanded food. Menu in hand I perused the food on offer, simple and concise there's no foie gras or emulsions here, just fundamental food favourites... with a twist. There are a number small nibble plates on offer for the not so hungry drinker including pork crackling, olives and sweet 'n salty popcorn. The menu then works its way up from small plates to pizzas to the more generously sized main dishes.
The small dish that caught my attention were the oysters served with a Mai Tai granita or Mignonette. I already knew how good the Mai Tai was so I needed to see how this dish worked. I'm also a sucker for Zucchini Flowers which came stuffed with a herbed goats curd and accompanied with a sticky chilli jam.
Since the new menu revolves around the basics we decided to order the most basic mains of the the lot, the steak and the schnitzel. I wish I could've tried the pizzas since there are some interesting choices on offer including the 'Pepperoni Pig' topped with slow cooked chilli pulled pork, bocconcini and roasted pineapple and 'Reggae Chicken' adorned with spicy chicken, red peppers, sauteed onions, bocconcini and reggae chilli sauce.
The zucchini flowers and oysters came out promptly and well presented, I have to say the oysters topped with the mai tai granita were weird and wonderful - a flavour and texture sensation. The mignonette offers a more traditional vinegar based dressing and with a possible hint of raspberry is quite tasty.
The zucchini flowers sealed in a golden jacket of tempura goodness were excellent. Upon breaching the crunchy batter the goat's curd just oozed out. The creamy saltiness of the curd is perfectly counter balanced by the sticky sweet and smokey chilli jam. A perfect share plate or starter, I'm beginning to see this ordinary menu is not so ordinary.
With our starters done I was left with time to sit back and soak up the atmosphere. The music is a modern blend of deep house, hip-hop and chillout, cool and relaxing typical bar grooves. Young couples huddle near the candles and look over the menus, racked with indecision as they discuss diplomatically the best way to satisfy their gastronomic cravings. Sugar Lounge seems to be taking a step away from the late-night party venue and heading towards a more laid-back and seductive vibe.
Sugar Lounge Schnitzel
The mains arrived and the serving sizes are almost big enough to warrant them being wheeled out on a trolley. The schnitzel was an entire breast which had been flattened and fried to perfection coated with panko breadcrumbs. You'd be forgiven for expecting a t-shirt for finishing this monster schnitzel but what really sets it apart from the common pub schnitty is the quality and the unique flavours.
Accompanying the chicken is a lightly dressed rocket salad and a potato salad, swimming in a rich mayonnaise and littered with flecks of crispy bacon. It's a most welcome and indulgent change to the standard chips. The sauce for the dish isn't a gravy or mushroom variety but a house-made chipotle aioli. Smokey and spicy it blends effortlessly with the chicken and pepperiness of the rocket.
Dry Aged Black Angus Filet Steak
The 350 gram dry aged black angus filet steak came served with chips and a leaf salad on a wooden chopping board, the way any good steak should be served. The meat is well cooked and maybe a little thinner than I'm used to but most importantly it tastes great and is so tender I can cut it with a butter knife.
The star of the dish is the house sauce, a kind of mutated love child of HP, red wine jus, pepper and diane sauces. It's like every steak sauce you've had before and like no sauce you've ever had, both familiar and foreign at the same time. The verdict though is that it works so well with the steak that there is no need to even offer an option of sauces. The chips are thick cut and crispy best eaten with that amazing sauce!
Sugar Lounge Desserts
Rum and Dark Chocolate Mousse and Orange and Malibu Coconut Cake
My dining partner and I were thoroughly defeated by our main courses, neither one of us could finish them. Would I say that the serving sizes are too big? No, but I would recommend a healthy appetite if you want to get through it all. Unable to entertain the thought of more food I persevere and gaze obligingly at the desserts.
They all look great with the rum theme even spilling into the desserts with rum and dark chocolate mousse and orange and Malibu coconut cake plus a white chocolate and macadamia brownie which as far as I know doesn't contain booze.
Faced with another decision I decided to embrace gluttony and ordered the dessert platter which is a half serving of the three desserts.
I needed some liquid courage to face my final course, time for another cocktail.
In a truly predictable fashion I went for the Colombian which is a twisted espresso Martini utilizing a coffee infused rum, vanilla sugar and fresh espresso. Meanwhile my counterpart ordered the Fool's Gold a tall and tropical blend of El Dorado 3 year old, Licor 43, house tiki syrup, pineapple juice and house spiced rum.
The drinks are promptly delivered, the espresso looks great and tastes better, not too bitter but strong and captivating. The Fool's Gold is sweet and refreshing, a perfect summer sipper which does bring me to my next point. There's no denying the skill of the bar staff so what I'd love to see is a more seasonal approach to cocktail specials suited to the season. Don't get me wrong, I love a Mojitio as much as the next bloke but in winter it's more for those people who are in some kind of cold weather denial, clinging desperately to their summer memories of board shorts and sunburn. With such a vast selection of rums I'm sure the guys would have no trouble whipping up a few drinks to warm the soul, and I'd love to try them.
The dessert arrived after a much needed intermission. It looked so good for a moment I forgot how full I was. The mousse was thick and dense, a departure from the usual light and fluffy consistency. It almost resembled a ganache, the flavour redeemed it though, decadent rich dark chocolate paired with a good kick of rum. The espresso cocktail pairs beautifully with the mousse so keep that in mind if you're inclined to order either one. The orange and Malibu coconut cake was tasty, reminiscent of a coconut slice it was complimented well by the accompanying ice cream. The brownie possessing a similar texture to the cake was great and the macadamias really add a satisfying crunchiness. I suppose the fact that we very nearly finished the dessert platter is a testament in itself to the overall great flavours of the desserts.
So my dining experience at Sugar Lounge and their new menu is coming to a close and I'm happy with what I've eaten. I've enjoyed the new initiative taken on by Sugar Lounge offering up not only kick ass cocktails but a breakfast, lunch and dinner that can rival any other restaurant in the postcode. You're not going to go broke eating or drinking here and if you take advantage of their daily promotions there is some seriously good value to be had. There's something for everyone here and that's just the way they want it.
The Good – New concise menu with familiar favourites and exciting new flavours. Cool vibes and warm service. Great drinks with a focus on rum. Excellent value for your money.
The Bad – A bigger focus on seasonality with cocktail and food menu specials.
WEEKLY SPECIALS AT SUGAR LOUNGE
◦ Monday 'Social Madness' 40% off your food and drink when you check into Sugar Lounge on Facebook and 'Like' them. From 4pm.
◦ Tuesday 2 for 1 Pizza and Wine all day
◦ Wednesday Island Grill Burger and Beer $15
◦ Thursday 'Out of this World' 2 for 1 Tiki Cocktails (excluding the $10 Mojito)
◦ Friday 'Sugar's Famous Five' $5 Pizzas/Beers/Spirits 5-10pm
◦ Saturday/Sunday 'Winter Warmer' 2 for 1 Mains and Beer 4-8pm
More About Manly's Sugar Lounge
Martini Recipe – Shaken Right, Will Stir You
Mojito Recipe - A Cuban Classic
Pomegranate Martini Recipe – Northern Beaches Pick-Me-Up
Bartender Kieran Bailey, Sugar Lounge, Manly Beach Bar
Where’s the Party? Manly Beach Bar Hotspot Sugar Lounge. Read more!
Further Northern Beaches Restaurant Reviews on Our Manly
Miss Marleys Review - A Discrete Belgrave Street Dining Destination
Best Breakfast Manly Beach - Ocean Views, Morning Mocktails & the Best Eggs Benedict
Mexican Restaurant Manly? - Cantina style Tacos and Botanas now dining on the Northern Beaches
Harlem Manly - Glam Contemporary American Southern-street-culture-snacks and cocktails
Circular Quay Restaurants - Luncheon at Wildfire Restaurant on Sydney Harbour
Mexican Restaurant Sydney - Mexicano Narrabeen Review
>> Home Restaurants Manly - Restaurants Northern Beaches