Award winning 4 Pines Brewing Co in Manly launches an Izakaya takeover – Japanese style largers, free gyoza nights and more…

Situated beach ball throw from Manly beach, 4 Pines has a loyal following of easy, breezy northern beaches fans. It’s the love child of a post-surf beer conversation between father and son and just like that…the brew pub in Manly was born!

Over the years I have rocked up for beers n’ burgers in it’s busy upstairs bar and never noticed it’s downstairs hideaway escape, called Block Bar.

Japanese executive chef, Joji Shikama has been at the helm for a number of years so we wonder why it’s taken so long for an izakaya popup to ‘pop up’. The runaway success of their recent Japanese style larger is the reason – so, let the celebrations begin. Hurrah!

Blocks Bar downstairs

We arrive on a busy evening as armbands are being handed out by the door for a group celebration who take up a few high tables towards the seaside end of the restaurant. The vibe is immediately welcoming – buzzy, but not ear-shatteringly so.

We plonk ourselves down in a very comfortable padded booth. The izakaya is inspired by Shinjuku’s Golden Gai alleys, bars and towering skyline. The ceiling is decorated with red and white Chinese lanterns with the main bar on the far side decorated with a dangerous number of taps and a range of standup tables and high chairs dotted across the room which is filling up quickly.

Gimme more of these gyoza’s!

The first thing that I notice is the service. There are warm smiles, eye contact and throughout our meal, the boys are zipping in and out of tables, constantly checking in; “You guys want another beer?’, “How were the gyoza?”, “Yep! I can definitely recommend a sake”. Sounds strange to say it, but this level general happiness to serve is quite unusual. Maybe its the sea air? Or the beer?

We start off with a generous steaming salted bowl of edamame. The gyoza ($16) is a standout. Paper thin skins, golden crispy bottoms and the balanced juicy filling is wonderful when sloshed into a mix of rice wine vinegar, soy, rayu chilli oil glaze. It reminds me of the ones we ate when we were last in Japan in Kyoto.

Salmon sashimi tartare

Salmon sashimi tartare arrives in a little bowl with a few squares of seaweed nori for a DIY sushi roll experience. It’s great fun and the balance of cucumber, pear, nicely seasoned sushi rice makes this a creatively refreshing dish.

Yakitori Chicken

Karaage Fried Chicken fills the brief, but it’s the Yakitori Chicken which steals my heart. It’s unusual to see a whole thigh, flattened chargrilled with signature zebra stripes and thoughtfully pre cut so that the thigh falls off the skewer beautifully onto the plate into easy to eat strips. The marinade of yuzu kosho (a condiment of fresh green chillies which are fermented with salt, plus the rind and juice of yuzu) gives it a zing.

For those seeking veggies, a plate of Miso Eggplant Dengaku ($13), is deliciously caramelised with a sweet miso glaze, toasted sesame seeds and is great for sharing. Perhaps my favourite dish (aside from the glorious gyozas) is a clash of cultures; English v Japan. It’s the Beer Battered Tempura. Two white ribbons of moonfish are flash fried. With one swoop of my chopsticks, I dip a strip of golden batter into Kewpie mayo and pop one into my mouth. It’s perfection. It holds firm, then collapses with a satisfying crunch into the creamy sweet flesh. I chase this down with battered brussels sprouts! Half East, half West dinner. Not sure which side wins, but I would say it’s a draw.

Izakaya dishes to share

There’s more on the ‘Big’ menu if you want to move onto Japanese curries and rice bowls, but we are having too much fun in Izakaya land.

Twelve taps are pouring rotating 4 Pines Core and Limited Release beers, with my favourites being Tokyo Hazeand the classic slightly hoppy Pale Ale. The Nitro Stout is steller too. Our favourite sake was the Hakutsuru Junmai Daiginjo, though we saw a number of people opting for the Yuzu Shikoku Slushy special ($15 on Saturday evenings).

In Japan, you don’t just say something is delicious, you say that ‘your cheeks are falling off’.. well we leave into the cold night air having lost some facial weight but in a good way.

4 Pines Brewing Co, 29/43-45 E Esplanade, Manly, 2095
Special Events each week:
Wednesday – $14 curry night, from 5pm 
Thursday – $1 gyoza’s, from 5pm (FREE from 6pm – 8pm)  
Friday – Live tunes, 6pm – 9pm 
Saturday – $15 Yuzu Slushy’s, from 5pm 
Sunday – Free edamame with any jug, from 4pm 

About the author

Karen’s corporate job back in the UK had included entertaining clients in some of the best restaurants. This ultimately sparked a curiosity 'Just how do they do that?' (she confesses she was brought up on meat and vegetables, so this was all very exciting). Currently a Mr & Mrs Smith 'Tastemaker', she’s flashpacked around the world, learning about wine, experiencing different cultures and cuisines and had a two- year love affair with it all. Originally from England, she finally settled in Australia and continues to be besotted by food, wine and travel preferring to focus on the luxury end of town (thread count does matter).


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