The old Country Club Hotel on Shoal Bay Road has been revived, renewed and restored to its former 1950s glory. It’s a pastel-themed technicolour dream inspired by the decade that gave us rock and roll, Dad and Dave, and the model for Double Helix DNA (just to name a few).
Renamed the Shoal Bay Country Club or SBCC for short – personally I like the name, the “Shoalsy” – the sprawling two-storey venue is complete with green plant life, white lattice work on the walls, ice-cream coloured basins in the bathroom and, if you’re lucky, the occasional retro-styled pin-up beauty.
Just metres from the beach and up a quick flight of terracotta coloured stairs you’ll find the restaurant buzzing with couples, families, locals and out-of-towners soaking up the rays, gazing out across the blue waters while eating and drinking their way through the extensive SBCC lunch and dinner menu.
Speaking of, there’s flat bread, antipasto and a trio of dips to start, then select either oysters, king prawns, salmon and squid “from the ocean”; pork ribs, chicken and beef “from the paddock”, plus salads, sides and a range of traditional and contemporary pizzas made fresh then cooked in the kitchen’s own wood-fired pizza oven.
Sun shades and parasols, lounge chairs and throw pillows decorate the outside. Everything is splashed with a palette of ’50s pastel and soft timber colours. It’s inviting and relaxing and works perfectly in conjunction with the gorgeous bay views.
Drinks are ordered from the nearby bar. Bubbles, rosé, white and red wine, plus cocktails and beers are all here, as well as soft drinks and juices for the kids. There are a few local and not-so-local brews available on tap, plus more trapped in bottles in the fridge. Adult beverages can be bought from just about anywhere in the club and then brought into the restaurant.
Be sure to be hungry when heading here for lunch. Half a dozen freshly shucked oysters ($18) is served with a “Champagne” vinaigrette and won’t break the bank. Neither will an accompanying bowl of warmed, marinated olives ($6). The olives are drizzled with citrus zest and olive oil for that slick tangy sensation. The kitchen serves fish and chips ($26) and salt and pepper squid ($25 and can also whip up a bucket of king prawns ($35), Atlantic salmon ($32), and blue swimmer crab spaghetti ($30). However, nothing is defined as being particularly local, so who knows where the fish, oysters, prawns and crab actually comes from; I’d like to think, given the restaurant’s proximity to the sea, that it’s at least from within the area, but I don’t actually know because the staff didn’t either. Nonetheless, the blue swimmer crab spaghetti is a pretty little thing, and tasty too; with fine little white chunks of crab flesh mixed among strands of al dente spaghetti pasta, soft cherry tomatoes and purple and green edible flowers and leaves.
A side of beer battered chips ($7) satisfies until the wood-fired pizza arrives. Simple, salty, crunchy and delicious. The wood-fired pizza oven runs red hot all day and night. The US classics are there but look to the Italian inspired pies for that little taste of Naples. Margherita ($19); Diavola ($23) and Quattro Formaggi ($22). Try the tartufo pizza with prosciutto di Parma, buffalo mozzarella, goats cheese, mushroom, tomatoes, rocket and shaved parmesan drizzled with olive oil ($23).
The Toboggan Hill Park notwithstanding, there aren’t many better ways to spend a Sunday in the Bay. The SBCC has definitely upped the area’s casual dining game.
- What: Shoal Bay Country Club
- Where: 35/45 Shoal Bay Rd, Shoal Bay, NSW
- Owner: Andrew Lazarus
- Drinks: Standard fare… Wine, Beer, Cocktails, Soft Drinks etc.
- Hours: 7 Days from 10am
- Vegetarian: Yes.
- Bottom Line: $80 for two (incl. drinks)
- Wheelchair Access: Yes (take the lift)
- Do Try: Blue Swimmer Crab Spaghetti