I Tried Australia’s Best Surf ‘N Turf… And It Moved Me To Tears

Rare in more ways than one.

I Tried Australia’s Best Surf ‘N Turf… And It Moved Me To Tears

Image: Kingsleys Woolloomooloo

I arrived wearied from a week of work, wet from the rain, and wondering if anything could turn my day around. I left buoyant, speechless, and somewhere in the region of 2kg heavier… This is the story of my visit to Australia’s best surf ‘n turf and their show-stopping steaks that are as vast as they are delicious.

At DMARGE, we’re no strangers to the many wonderful eateries that Sydney has to offer, and in particular, we can’t deny that we’ve always been partial to a good steak. Especially when we’re measuring it by the kilo.

In the same breath, we’re also acutely aware that even some of the coolest spots in town can sometimes take a turn for the worse, leaving you feeling a little worse for wear than when you arrived…

So when Kingsleys Woolloomooloo invited me to come and try out their world-beating steaks, which recently ranked the 31st best on the planet (outdoing a number of iconic Sydney spots including Bistecca, Porteno, and The Gidley) – I accepted the offer eagerly but with a measure of caution.

Kingsleys sits unsuspectingly at the far end of the Finger Wharf, a spot that’s so saturated with great restaurants, luxury yachts, and equally luxury apartments that it would be easy for one of its many gems to become hidden, lost amongst the clamour of this jampacked marina of high-end pleasures.

Despite its world-leading credentials, I’m ashamed to admit that I’d not actually heard of Kingsleys before, being a relatively recent arrival to Australia myself. However, I can say with certainty that it will be a long time before I forget about it…

The team at Kingsleys is committed to quality and sustainability. Image: Steve Woodburn

Kingsleys’ kitchen is headed up by chefs Jason Roberson and Leonardo Rachid Militão, who have recently given the restaurant’s menu an autumn refresh, building up a new offer focused on premium quality steaks reared in Australia, as well as fresh, locally sourced seafood.

The meat and seafood are hand-selected from ethical and sustainable producers and everything on the menu can be traced back to farm or fisherman, with some of the nation’s greatest agricultural names on their roster, including Riverine, Westholme, 2GR and O’Connor.

In short, Kingsleys had a lot going for it on paper, but would the lived experience match up to everything I’d read about the establishment prior to my arrival? After a long week of work, mired by inclement weather and the prevailing feeling that the long hot glow of summer was finally leaving for good, I can’t deny that the restaurant had a pretty steep hill to climb in terms of turning my week around…

But from the moment I arrived, I knew their chances were strong. Greeted by their lovely venue manager Zoe, we were quickly shown to a waterside table before being given a tour de force overview of their glistening menu, before she recommended two of their standout cocktails to kick off proceedings…

I had the ‘Tommy Hawk’ (Don Julio Reposado Tequila + Chambord + Lime & Hibiscus Salt Rim), while my partner had the ‘Summer Spritz’ (Smirnoff Vodka + Elderflower Liqueur + Apple & Sparkling Wine). Though I’m not entirely convinced that hibiscus salt brings much to the table over good old-fashioned sodium chloride, the cocktails were otherwise a perfect beginning – the spritz was light and refreshing, while the Tommy was perfectly tart, stripping the pallet clean for everything that was to follow.

The Scallop Ceviche. Image: Steve Woodburn

When it came to food, we started by ordering a modest portion of the Hokkaido scallop ceviche, finished with avocado, sunrise lime, coriander and jalapeño. We opted for one piece each, anticipating a hefty main course to follow…

Zoe was having none of this. When she returned with our starter, we noticed she was carrying an additional plate: unbeknownst to us, she had decided that we couldn’t leave without trying the slow-cooked full-blood wagyu shin flatbreads… and on reflection, I wholeheartedly agree.

The ceviche tasted incredibly fresh and felt terribly refined. Served in the shell over a bed of ice, the lime and jalapeño cut through the scallop meat perfectly, while the avocado gave the dish a welcome mellowed end note.

The Life-Changing Wagyu Shin Flatbreads. Image: Steve Woodburn

The wagyu shin was an altogether different though no less delicious mouthful: taking all the basic elements of your everyday sandwich – meat, mayo, bread – but elevating it all to unprecedented heights, the amount of flavour in such a simple dish was a marvel. It may be cliche, but the meat actually did melt in my mouth while the delicate truffle mayo showed how a talented chef can always make new a much-overdone flavour.

When it was time to order our main, we handed over the reins to Zoe, who was quick to recommend the dry-aged T-bone from the aptly named ‘Big Cuts’ segment of their menu. For sides, we went with duck fat potatoes, served with rosemary and confit garlic, alongside the iceberg salad with Persian feta, spiced walnuts, and watermelon radish – a welcome addition for my long-suffering arteries.

Kingsleys on the iconic Finger Wharf. Image: Steve Woodburn

Whilst we waited for the mains, Zoe brought us two wine tasters to choose from as our accompaniment: one Shiraz and one Malbec. Apparently, the Kingsleys staff are split down the middle on which is the ultimate pairing with their steaks. Half go for the lighter, fruitier Malbec, while others believe in the fuller, bold, Shiraz.

Both were tasty, but for us, the Rusden ‘Good Shepherd’ Malbec from the Barossa Valley took the day. Shortly after two large glasses of that arrived at our table, so did our duck fat potatoes, leafy salad, and the largest piece of meat I’ve ever laid eyes on…

It really was a thing to behold. Over a kilogram of perfectly cooked medium-rare steak, cut from but served alongside its gargantuan bone, surrounded by a small army of divine dips and sauces. The potatoes were piled high, glistening crispy shells combined with a rosemary and garlic aroma, and the salad added a much-needed splash of green to the tapestry.

Just as the meal was set down, fireworks began launching above the nearby harbour. We took a momentary pause of a “pinch me” moment, before diving into our feast…

As well as being ample, the steak was delectable. Perfectly cooked, unbelievably tender, and with a lightly charred outside that gave it a depth of flavour I didn’t believe a steak to be capable of… As well as crispy, bubbling, fatty end-bits that I kept sneaking when judgemental eyes were averted. My eyes, on the other hand, threatened to well with tears of joy…

The T-Bone, all 1.1kg of it. Image Steve Woodburn

The potatoes were bursting with flavour too: crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, just as God intended, but with a lasting duck fat and garlic confit undertone that felt significantly more devilish. The salad was light and delicate, providing a perfect counterpoint to the richness of the meat and potatoes. The crunch of the walnut and sweet bursts were highlights that rounded out the overall profile of the main.

Eating the entirety of the steak would have been a mission impossible, but I can confidently say I gave it a bloody good go. When it came to clearing the main, I was convinced this would be the endpoint of the meal; time to tap out and let the meat sweats pass. And yet…

Zoe had left for the evening and we were left in the equally capable and affable hands of her assistant manager Jen, who had ambitions for a third and final course.

Again, the staff were split on what best to recommend, with the burnt Basque cheesecake and Weiss dark chocolate fondant both being put forward for consideration. After much deliberation, I opted for the fondant because… Why on earth not?

Though the fondant – tastefully decorated with edible (I hope…) flowers and finished with a sweet vanilla ice cream – was perfectly lovely, it was the accompanying dessert wine that really brought our meal to a perfect close. The Vasse Felix “Filius” from the Margaret River was thick, sweet, mellow, and gently tipped me over the edge from very full to tipsy, content, and quietly amazed at everything that had come to pass.

The chocolate fondant… because the meal wasn’t rich enough already. Image: Steve Woodburn

All in all, Kingsleys was the perfect end to a long week and the perfect start to a much-needed weekend. However, I could just as easily see it being the perfect bottomless-brunch spot on a Saturday morning, the perfect Sunday roast replacement, or the perfect weeknight pick-me-up…

You may think I’ve just left my dictionary at home, but the repetition was very much deliberate: my time at Kingsleys was pretty much perfect, and it’s not hard to see why it’s up there with the very best in the world.

Surf ‘n turf, reef ‘n beef, whatever you want to call it – it used to be something of a punchline but Kingsleys proves that with a bit of imagination (and a whole lot of duck fat) you can turn a profoundly middle-class concept into something that’s worthy of kings and queens. It’s superlative, stupendous, utterly scrumptious… I didn’t forget my thesaurus.

Find out more and book a table at Kingsleys Wooloomooloo here.