the pines

Seven of the best restaurants for fine dining in the Shire

We have scoured the Shire to find the best seats in the house at restaurants that have set the bar for fine dining. Here are the places you’ve got to try, special occasion or not…

The Pines, Cronulla 
Michelin-trained chef James Metcalfe cut his teeth at Justin North’s Becasse, and the Bellevue and, later, St George in Chippendale. And on a sunny day, there’s no better place to be than in the Hamptons-style dining room enjoying food made even more brilliant by the location overlooking the surf break known as ‘the alley’. Pedal down to The Pines via the shared bike path on the Esplanade so you can cut loose on a few cocktails. Start with roasted beetroot with whipped holy goat’s curd, followed by the pork jowl so loved by Good Food Guide critic Terry Durack or the bouillabaisse built for two. Hot tip: Those after something more casual can enjoy pizza and Pimms on the breezy Apres Beach patio.

Summer Salt Restaurant 
The ocean is regarded like a religion in Cronulla, with restaurants such as Summer Salt drawing droves of devotees who can’t spend enough time perched overlooking the sea. The spacious tables accommodate special occasions so you can, like Prince Harry famously did, bring your entourage if you please. Even just walking into this fine dining restaurant has wow factor thanks to the floor-length windows and polished staff. Go all out and order a dozen oysters followed by seared Queensland scallops and executive chef and owner Carl Jensen’s signature twice-cooked duck, with Dutch carrot puree, raspberry and blood orange jus.

Hot tip: Book a table for lunch to really capitalise on those coastal views.

Sealevel Restaurant 
Do you even live in the Sutherland Shire if you haven’t had a seafood platter from Sealevel? The Allouche family has operated this restaurant for the past 23 years with everything on the plate the product of executive chef Nathan Allouche’s imagination. The thing to do is to nab a spot near the see-and-be-seen window in the chic and elegant space, recently reimagined by local interior designer, Sonja Kritzler, of Kritzler+Link. What will give you pause here, apart from the generously proportioned seafood platter, is the view of sea and sky and passing parade of locals, who love to gawp at those lucky enough to be in the window seat.

Hot tip: Diners seeking a few spritzes by the sea should head next door to Next Door, also owned by the Allouches.

The Sutherland Shire has become somewhat of a showcase for the talents of executive chef Carl Jensen, who opened his first venture in Sylvania 30 years ago. Since then, Jensen has added a lot more strings to his bow, with Summer Salt, at the Eloeura Surf Club, the eponymously named Jensens in Kareela and Papa J’s, under the restored Hoyt’s complex completing the trifecta. The focus on Jensens is again to elevate the experience of dining out in the Shire, showcasing Australian ingredients with contemporary technique. Collapse in one of the huge comfortable banquettes at Jensens and stockpile dishes such as the chicken and kimchi dumplings, crispy skin pork belly and barramundi with yellow curry.

Hot tip: Do your shopping downstairs in Kareela Village, then meet the family for dinner on the adjacent al fresco terrace.

Mim’s Espresso & Eatery  
Coming together around a dinner table has never felt so good. So when Dominique Hill of Mim’s Espresso & Eatery recruited chef Richard Duff of Nola Smokehouse and Bar, Barangaroo, to curate a number of fine dining dinners during December, Shire foodies sat up and listened. The year 2020 marked Mims’ 10th anniversary, and with that milestone came a sleek new Scandi-style fit-out for the popular Burraneer Bay espresso bar by the team from Guru Projects (Bar Sopra, Casa Merida). The pop-up also means the café is well placed to fill a niche for more refined dining in the neighbourhood. Dominique (Mim) says she asked Duff to curate four different menus for the month of December due to demand from locals and plans to continue the concept after Australia Day. The set menu is $75 for three courses; $85 for four.

Hot tip: The weekend of December 17 and 18 will lean into a more festive theme.

Waterline by the Bay 
There’s a sense of coming home at Waterline by the Bay, not only because the restaurant is located under one of Cronulla’s newest apartment blocks, but because the contemporary bayside restaurant is exactly what the neighbourhood needs. Opened mid-2021, Waterline by the Bay already occupies an important place in Cronulla’s culinary landscape thanks to chef Joseph Spiteri’s modern interpretations of Maltese-style classics such as pan-roasted spring chicken with Tuscan-style gnocchi and pan-fried Humpty Doo barramundi with spicy puttanesca sauce. The settle-in vibe is integral to the experience, so prepare to stay for affogato and a few snifters of fortified wine.

Hot tip: Book a table pre-sunset to enjoy a few aperitivos while watching the sun set over the bay.

The aroma of baking dough greets guests at 1908, which is just a stone’s throw from South Cronulla Beach. The ivy-clad restaurant, which began life as a branch library in the ‘70s, was a game-changer when it was reconfigured about a decade ago and it holds its own as one of the finest representations of Cronulla’s cool-casual-contemporary vibe. Enter past the glorious ivy-clad façade, walk through the light, airy space and arrive at your table in the elegant dining room that has become entrenched in the local landscape. The menu is vast and multi-faceted, running from Italian starter staples such as arancini to good old-fashioned comfort food in the form of lentil curry with hand-stretched roti.

Hot tip: Book a table near the floor-to-ceiling windows so you can pose, spritzer in hand, in front of the post-surf crowd parading past.

Written by Carla Grossetti. Carla Grossetti is a freelance food and travel writer. Follow her adventures on Instagram. Visit

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