Room with a view, a zoo & cheffy smarts – Me-Gal at Taronga Zoo’s Wildlife Retreat launches new mod oz menu

The term ‘restaurants with a view’ would surely be one the most Googled search terms… along with getting tickets to Taylor Swift or entry into Melbourne’s F1. I doubt many people add ‘zoo optional’.

But here we are, after a false start trying to enter the zoo, we are redirected to Taronga’s Wildlife Retreat (and conference centre) a skip down the road. We meander through lush gardens, pebble paths, tap ‘UP’ on the lift and soon are entering a jaw dropping dining room.

There are views of Sydney and then there is Taronga. It’s fair to say that giraffes have better real estate than many of Sydney’s commuters. So we feel privileged to gawp from a distance at our natural human habitat – the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Opera House, and the city skyline.

It’s a beautiful room with nudges to flora and fauna, the ceiling is adorned with a wooden leafscape, pillars are clad in skyward dowling, and the dining chairs range from sumptuous pastel blues to banquets which look so comfy and overnight stay could be required. We are here at lunch time. It’s wonderfully tranquil with a few lovey dovey couples and a corporate group towards the back. We hear that sunset and dinner brings a buzzy room of cashed up Mossie-man locals. But today it feels like we have the world at our feet.

Canadian scallops

The wine list is all about Celebration (Aussie bubbles, Precision(short wine list -they do the work for you) and Preservation (80% of wines by the glass are Coravin). We start with a glass of See Saw Prosecco from Orange which is a celebration of apples and citrus.

Three chunky slices of Sonoma Sourdough stands to attention, as we slather the soft slices with a whipped butter, lightly flavoured with wattle seed & ricotta. There’s not that much excitement when it comes to entrees but a prettily plated dish of Canadian scallops ($34) are dotted with roe, small pomelo segments and drizzled with ponzu. Tiny slithers of radicchio give it a hint of bitterness and sprigs of Karkalla succulent leaves (known affectionately as pigface?! or beach banana) is a nod to its ocean loving home.

Mains are arguably more exciting as head chef Philipp Peter Kamlade (ex Public DiningRoom, Altitude at Shangri La Hotel Sydney) gets to roam more freely. A glossy Hunter Valley duck ($54) has been handsomely seared, sliced and layered onto a bed of fermented sweetcorn so delicious I want to lick the plate even without the Illawarra Plum jus. A crispy skinned Riverina Murray River Cod ($67) is sandwiched between sauteed mustard leaves on one side and a fennel mash on the other, melded together with a dashi stock. It’s a pretty dish, but gone in four forkfuls, so we are grateful that the sides of marjoram spiced duck fat potatoes and citrus glazed carrots are more substantial and nicely cooked. If we had our time again for close to the same price a whole butterflied chicken would be our go to.

We finish with a deconstructed tiramisù ($20) which works brilliantly. It’s an artful orb or marscapone dusted with cocoa powder, precion cubes of Mr Black gelée top off the fun with an arabica crumble.

The service is warm, friendly and we really appreciate the unhurried time spent at our table just having a ‘chat’. Me-Gal is named after the Cammeraigal word for ‘tears’ evoking the saltwater of the surrounding harbourside shoreline. There are none here, though you need to prepare for a price tag to match the views, theatre and attention to detail. This is destination dining at it’s Sydneys best. Our tears are kept for our departure, as a waddling echidna nuzzles around bush land of the forbidden land we cannot enter- the ‘Retreat’. It’s great to see Australian animals living the highlife. We just want to join them for a bit longer.

Me-Gal, 2A Bradleys Head Road, Mosman. Enter via the Taronga Wildlife Retreat.
Hours: Lunch- Thursday to Sunday. Dinner – Monday to Sunday

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).