Hugo's Manly Beach NSW

Hugos Manly on Urbanspoon
The popular tasting plate, with touches of Italian styled veal and pork meatballs; Mediterranean cheese, salmon belly carpaccio with a lime dressing and fennel salad; Aussie barbie calamari with rocket and aioli; and sheer raw Sydney Rock oysters with a twist of lemon.

For a capital city restaurant, Hugos at Manly Wharf has a perfect location, mostly perfect weather and the smell of the oceans wafting in. The staff are friendly and try hard, even on a busy afternoon leading up to the Christmas week. Colours surrounding our table were intense, deep hues of everything, mixed with a brightness and tropicalness anyone would want on a holiday trip.  Our trip was just on the commercial run Manly FastFerry, with a certain striking cleanliness and staff engagement not often found in the Government run services from Circular Quay in Sydney CBD.  The restaurant has tables mainly under a covered out deck, with access to the benign looking sandy beach already filled up with sun tanners, water soakers and people literally watching the world go by.  There were not too many sea  gulls around the day I last visited , perhaps they had flown off for their festive break.

There is a strong spectrum of beers , wines and spirits at the bar. Tables are mostly with long benches, casual, but provided with the frills and whistles of fine dining, not too beach like but we had a terrific location with access to wooden pier walks, sea looking rails and the nearby Norfolk Pines of Manly Beach beckoning us to another time, another place.  Hugos here is  terrific place to watch sunrise, or just the ferries and other sea going vehicles arriving into the calm bay.  The restaurant is surrounded by a myriad of other retail choices and it can be fun taking a walk or dipping your toes into the sand or water.  You can arrive there also by public bus or private vehicle.  Hugo's menu epitomises the best of the South Pacific, the traditions of Italian cuisine  and the farms of mainland Australia.  The key item is fish - this is logical as Pete Evans is one for the brothers behind this business.  I would recommend the pork belly and for pizzas, the veg version, or the one with chocolate and hazelnut.

Grilled barramundi served with a carefully made potato mush bath of peas in gravy.

There are related lounge and pizza bars in Sydney CBD, and also at Bondi Beach and in Melbourne, but to me this Manly site is my preferred outlet. Melbournians wanting a change from the alley way chic in their city would find a refreshing blast of fresh ocean breeze here.  I return for the angel hair pasta with tuna,capers, Parmesan and chill; pan fired ocean trout with a warm salad mix that includes quail egg; fresh fig salad with proscuitto and buffalo mozzarella; and there beetroot and baby heirloom carrot salad with goats curd, sour cherries and walnuts in an orange dressing.

Crispy polenta chips are also available with truffled Parmesan. A lighter option would be the rocket with pear and Parmesan.

Two of the owners of the Hugos Group are chefs themselves. Kids are made to feel welcome and busy with coloured pencils.  The staff are generally cheerful but the crowds can provide a noisy background.  Pizzas are a celebratory item here, but you can understand why when you realise that many football club fans, surfs, twenty somethings and easy going DINKs hang around and congregate here to relax. An innovative concept at Hugos Manly is there afternoon deck menu, available from 3pm top 6pm.  Their cheese board and dessert wines are worth checking out, with offerings of French Le Coutances, Irish Crozier Blue and Victorian Maffra Cheddar.