A few weeks ago James, a friend of mine, and myself decided to head down for a nice lunch at Papi Chulo on Manly Wharf. Papi Chulo occupies the beautiful space that once belonged to the Phoenix Yum Cha venue. It has possibly the best view in Manly and is so easily accessible to anyone in Sydney as it is on the ferry wharf.
The interior is huge and the place seats a lot BUT you must make a reservation, we booked a table for a Sunday, opening time was 12pm, we got our table and by 1230 the place was completely full and buzzing, it isn’t difficult to see why, the venue, the view and atmosphere is just amazing, the epitome of pristine Manly dining and a much better utilisation of the space than Phoenix, opening up the front windows was a master stroke as you can literally bring that harbour inside.
The interior decor, with it’s plantation shutters, wooden fans and general designs elicits how I would imagine a Cuban style and a piano in the corner would bring it line with a modern day venue from Casablanca. The venue serves cafe styled modern Australian food with a mix of seafood, grill items and burgers. It is not a cheap venue but is a special treat venue, a place I would gladly visit once a year for a birthday dinner to truly have a blast. Of course if I was a wealthier person I would visit more regularly. Put it this way. For the two of us we had: One bottle of wine, two burgers, four oysters, guacamole and curly fries and it was $140- with tip. Not horrendous, work in the kitchen to pay it off meal, but also not a weekly affair on my budget.
Below was our table – yep, doesn’t get much better for seating and views. We started with a bottle of Pacha Mama Riesling Central Victoria, Vic for $40 – I would never order a Riesling but it was damned nice, it should also be known that for wine pricing this was the cheapest bottle on the menu, something that makes me cringe saying as I never order the absolute cheapest but, hey, I was on a budget and it emptied out quickly. :). Wine bottle prices are between $40 and $155 and the selection is impressive.
We then commenced with possibly the best oysters I have ever eaten. The oysters were $4 each and came with a granny smith apple granita. The luscious granita had such a delightful palate cleansing freshness to it that complimented the oysters better than anything I can think of and the oysters were mammoth in size and so fresh it tasted like they had been scraped off the bottom of the wharf. I will return for these oysters alone.
But then what was this, a guacamole, something I would never order unless on top of nachos or other Mexican delights, but nope, hands down best guacamole this ever increasing body has consumed. It was a Pea guacamole with tortilla chips for $15. While I loved the guac the tortilla chips weren’t good enough to match the guac, they need a much better chip of sorts to compliment, it was like serving caviar on Jatz.
And after everything so far, we haven’t even got to what I was there to eat………..BURGERS :). If you know me or Spooning, you may have worked out I have a penchant for the sandwich-like delights. I had read on The Fatties Burger Appreciation Society a few times the love that was there for the Papi Chulo Burger and Timeout Sydney listed it as one of their #3 burger in Sydney. Below is said burger – grain fed beef, bacon, american cheese, tomato, lettuce, pickles, soft bun for $20 or make it a double: double pattie, double bacon, double cheese for $26. I went the double and I enjoyed it, it does what a cheeseburger does, the patty was cooked beautifully and everything about the burger was great but, and sorry to say, not top ten for me, maybe top twenty. With every burger joint on the planet making their version of a cheeseburger for me it needs something to set it apart from the others, it was good but it was not a multiple foodgasm burger. However if you are a person that rarely eat burgers then get all over this – you will lose your shit. On FBAS scoring the Papi Chulo Burger is a 3.9/5.
However, the chicken burger, or chicken sandwich as Papi Chulo calls it, was next level. Both James and I preferred this one to the beef burger, and lucky for Papi Chulo, following on from just completing my Top Ten Burgers of Sydney, I am now only judging chicken burgers for a Top 10 Chicken Burger article and this will most definitely be on the list. The Hot Chicken Sandwich – crispy chicken thigh, cayenne, shredded iceberg, onion, comeback sauce, soft bun for $20 ticked every box. The cayenne pepper and comeback sauce matched with butter-like consistency chicken melted in your mouth and gave a wicked warmth to it that lightly lingered between bites. Freaking loved it. On FBAS scoring a 4.7/5.
And my new favourite fries are all curly – just loved them so much but you will need to request some sauces with them, we got a little dish of the Comeback Sauce and some aioli and even though my buttons popped off and I would require a wheelbarrow and a nap to get me home we did manage to finish these.
There is a lot more than burgers and what we ate. Items I will definitely have to eat in the future are:
- Malaysian chicken platter (kinda), charcol chicken, curry sauce, sambal belachan, cucumber & red onion salsa, soft tortillas, lettuce half $32 whole $45
- Swordfish ceviche, pineapple, young coconut, chilli, lime $22
- Charcoal rotisserie pork belly, Balinese curry paste $38
- Papi Chulo BBQ platter (serves 2-4) – Smoked lamb ribs, wagyu brisket, babi guling, lamb merguez served with coleslaw, soft rolls and BBQ sauce $86
- Moreton bay bugs, kombu butter $39 <<<<<DROOLING
The service was pretty good, it was incredibly attentive and for a venue this large they had a swarm of professionals taking care of everyone. The only gripe I can add is that we did feel a little rushed, we had a 12pm booking and they did tell us on the phone they wanted the table back for a 2pm, this was fine, we were gone by 120pm but the waiter was checking every few minutes if we wanted to order.
Also, telling us that “Riesling is always dry” is not completely accurate, especially when my guest is a sommelier. There is never absolutes and the Pacha Mama Riesling was not actually dry, it was off-dry bordering on Sweet Riesling and had the most awesome apple flavours, I got an entire lesson on rieslings at the table while we indulged.
The venue is fantastic and the food matches the venue, this is a place you want to have get togethers with the girls or boys or couples of all sexual orientation for special events and for me it is highly likely I will be having my birthday dinner here this year, there is no view like it and it makes the food taste so much better, but it will also cost you a little more to pay for the privilege.
Papi Chulo Deets:
Manly Wharf, 22-23 East Esparade, Manly, Sydney