Hidden away in the secluded inlets of Pittwater’s Church Point, The Waterfront General Store and Café is certainly a destination restaurant. Situated in the heart of the Northern Beaches, it’s surrounded by nature – water, sun, sky – and accessible only by a winding road or by boat. If you don’t know how special it is, you wouldn’t even think to make the trip.
But that’s what I’m here for. I’m here to tell you how amazing this place is, and to encourage you to go and experience one of Sydney’s best kept secrets for yourself.
Owned and run by Tony Macri and his wife Maria, The Waterfront is a family institution through and through. Maria’s mother Mary is at the helm, and her expertise helps keep everything running smoothly, which is especially helpful on weekends when the restaurant is incredibly busy.
The restaurant is beautifully decorated, with flowers and greenery in abundance. It’s rustic and natural, and complements, rather than detracts from, the stunning water views. It has a casual, friendly, welcoming ambience but serves high-quality, Italian-inspired, modern Australian food. It’s an adaptable venue – you could turn up in your swimmers and thongs or exercise gear. Equally you might like to dress up for the occasion. Either way you’re welcome: it’s suited to everyone.
The Waterfront is definitely a popular watering hole for locals, and offers takeaway as well as dine-in options. It’s also a heritage listed Post Office, liquor shop and General Store, servicing most of the suburbs around Church Point that are only accessible by boat. The general store has everything you might need and more, including gorgeous homewares, fresh flowers and a wall of candles. There’s also a café in the front that sells beautiful pastries, pies and sandwiches, as well as delicious coffee.
Redouane Belbaz is the head chef at The Waterfront. Of Moroccan and French heritage, Redouane has worked across multiple venues with Tony and his family since 2009. He’s a gentle, humble man, thankful to have been given the opportunity to have such wonderful people to work for. It’s obvious that this long-standing working relationship between chef and owner is one of the keys to The Waterfront’s success.
Their menu is based on organic, locally sourced seasonal products that mostly come direct from farmers markets. A lot of their seafood gets delivered daily, and in the summer they sell gorgeous fresh prawns by the bucket. The servings are generous, just like the people, and we were left wanting for nothing.
To start, the Tasting Plate for Two ($39): BBQ King prawns, Italian meatballs, arancini balls, salt & pepper squid and house made dipping sauces for each. It came with the best tartare sauce I’ve ever had! Usually the plate includes Sydney Rock oysters, but today they were substituted for fresh prawns. The BBQ prawns and the squid had a lovely smokey flavour to them, and the fresh prawns were mildly salty, sweet and delicious. The arancini were creamy, peppery, crispy balls of heaven, and the meatballs came infused with the rich, tangy tomato sauce they were cooked in.
Alongside that we sampled the Antipasto Board ($39). This came with prosciutto crudo, hot sopressa salami, olives, pepperonata, mozzarella di bufala, grana padano aged parmesan and crissini bread sticks. A stunning mix of flavours and textures, the selection of food on offer was extensive. Highlights included the soft, creamy mozzarella that just fell apart, the crumbly, nutty aged parmesan cheese and the salty olives.
Next came the mains, and despite the huge starters, we couldn’t stop eating! We had the Catch Of The Day ($30), selected daily from the Sydney Fish Market by Redouane (that day it was fresh ocean trout), a Beef Fillet ($34) and a Rack of Lamb ($34).
The lamb dish was deliciously decadent, with more of that beautiful creamy mozzarella sitting atop a sweet eggplant stack. The cutlets were perfectly cooked, and the Shiraz demi-glaze was clean and fresh. The trout came served on a bed of braised red cabbage and buttery broccolini, with a truffle hollandaise sauce. The sweetness of the cabbage cut through the richness of the trout perfectly, and the creamy sauce balanced it all out.
Finally, we got to the beef. Served on a bed of crunchy potato rosti and finished with a wild mushroom sauce, it was completely succulent and melt-in-your-mouth. The jus was so shiny I could see my reflection in it! It was obviously the product of a stock made over a long period of time, handled with a lot of love and care. The rosti was hearty and dense, just the way you’d want it, and soaked up all that yummy jus.
Although we didn’t have room for dessert, we still asked to see the menu (obviously!). This ‘menu’ is a definite novelty, because it’s 3D – all the desserts are brought out on a single wooden plank for you to peruse! We’re told that because the desserts come from a local Italian bakery, the menu changes daily, depending on what’s in store. They’re all freshly made that day, and the selection is varied and well-thought out, with a good amount of gluten free options. They also do have one or two house made desserts, too.
The Waterfront also have a newly renovated cocktail lounge upstairs above the restaurant. Aptly named The Top Room, it’s an intimate space, with both an outdoor and an indoor option. It comes equipped with a supplied bar, and on Friday nights a band sets up inside and plays the night away. The Top Room is also available for private hire, but you need to book well in advance!
“With food to delight the senses and music to soothe the soul”
On Sunday afternoons, The Co-Op Club takes over the old boat shed located within the restaurant. From 3pm-6pm it’s where local musicians and national artists alike come to play. Their tunes ring out across the water, and the restaurant is absolutely rammed. Often, people are seen dancing and enjoying themselves on the pier outside. The more the merrier!
Another point of difference is that The Waterfront stays open through the day. They don’t do separate lunch and dinner sittings, which just adds to its relaxed atmosphere. It’s the ideal place to have a long lunch, bring a book, soak up the beautiful surrounds and watch the comings and goings on the bustling waters of Pittwater. There’s always something happening – kayakers, locals coming to pick up some lunch, kids fishing off the end of the pier or dogs in lifejackets proudly captaining their ships.
The incredible staff at The Waterfront help maintain its high quality of service. They are attentive, generous and personable, and certainly leave an impression. Tony, Redouane, Maria, Mary and all involved at The Waterfront should be extremely proud of the product that they offer. If nothing I’ve said makes you want to go, then I don’t know what will. Tony and his family have created an incredible hidden gem that deserves to be discovered.
Tony and Redouane are currently collaborating on a new menu for Winter, and it should be out any day now. I’ll definitely be back to try it!
The Waterfront Café and General Store
1860 Pittwater Rd, Church Point, Sydney NSW
Phone: (02) 9979 6633
I Ate My Way Through dined as guests of The Waterfront General Store & Cafe