I’m not going to lie; in terms of eating, the area down by the waterfront tends to be pretty average. The majority of it is over-priced, crowded and terrible value for money. The sport loving gal that I am means that over time I have worked my way around a fair few of the restaurants down by the stadium / TSB arena. Some are definitely better than others and I have attempted to refine my thoughts in the piece below.
The best of the bunch is Dockside. Essentially fine-dining with incredible scenic views, Dockside serves food that is actually worth the price. It is a great venue for functions and afternoon drinks; its set-up means that if the sun is shining, Dockside will do its best to capture that heat. On my most recent occasion there I ordered a dish that I was a little unsure about. It was comprised of a Maryland chicken, served on spaghetti with walnuts, bacon and rocket. Individually, all of these ingredients sound absolutely divine, but I wasn’t sure if the meal as a whole was going to actually go together, in that the chicken wouldn’t actually be mixed through the pasta in any way. When it came out though, I laughed at myself for even doubting Dockside’s ability to put something together that wasn’t top quality. The entire meal was divine, and we polished off every last mouthful.
My next recommendation would be The Crab Shack. Just along the way from Dockside, this place also gets a pocketful of sunshine and therefore makes for a popular lunch/afternoon drink destination. It has a relaxed vibe; think apple cider and fried calamari. It’s definitely a couple of notches more casual than Dockside; reflected in the menu and just the general decor. The Crab Shack serves up loads of seafood, amongst other goodies and has a menu for the kids. I always notice the music there; definitely decent and recognizable tunes. When possible I would recommend sitting outside because you can get pretty close to the waters edge, but on a cooler day sitting indoors is a good option too.
For a few drinks or a bit of fun, both Bin44 and Munchen probably meet the bill. I think the main reason these places survive is because of their prime location to the CBD and waterfront. Munchen is certainly the more festive of the two – classic German, the staff are all dress accordingly and serving up schnitzel and sausages by the plateful. The portions are massive, but unfortunately the generosity on quantity has resulted in a compromise in quality and the food just makes for stock standard bar food. Bin44 is much the same – serving Western food, the pizza and burgers definitely promote a family friendly restaurant at prices not quite as hefty as some of its neighbours.
The Long Bar on Brandon is one of the few Malaysian restaurants in the area, and thankfully it does it well. The food is cheap, and the service is outstandingly quick – so it makes for a perfect dinner destination if you are off to the Westpac Stadium for the rugby or a concert. The reason for its name becomes evident almost immediately, located on Brandon Street, it is a very skinny restaurant, and very, very long! The peanut sauce and roti are extremely tasty – every time I go, these make up part of my order.
Sticking with Asian cuisine, PappaRich was a welcome addition to the relatively limited selection of food available in the CBD. Malaysian too, which is always exciting. The restaurant is big, bustling and smells delicious. When I went the first time we had to wait for a table; but it is a pretty quick turnover and we weren’t waiting long. The waitress explained to us how the menu operated; once we decided what we wanted to order, we had to fill out the order form with our table number, meal code and any special requests and then ring the buzzer for a waitress to come and collect it. The service is quick; it never takes long for meals to arrive, and my gosh, they are tasty. The roti is extremely flaky – almost like pastry, and the beef rendang is extremely flavoursome and tender. The drinks menu is lengthy: a huge range of teas, juices and milk-based drinks make for a a difficult choice! It’s priced well; perhaps a little more expensive then your stereotypical Ghuznee Street Malaysian, but quality food that I would happily pay a couple of dollars extra for.
Saving the best until last, Annam absolutely takes the cake in terms of best restaurant in the area. Not quite on the waterfront, but barely removed, Annam is serving French influenced Vietnamese cuisine. The owner is great; he speaks with this wonderful French accent that I could just listen to all day long. The menu is fresh, healthy (feeling) and extensive. This is a place that slides under most people’s radars, but is definitely one of the better spots in the Lambton area.