Cuisine: Spanish,Moroccan

Come to this Moorish/Spanish-inspired restaurant on a weeknight and you’ll find a warm, cosy atmosphere for relaxed dining. Return on the weekend and you see the place completely transformed, buzzing with groups cheering on flamenco dancers (Friday and Saturday nights) and tucking into seemingly endless banquets. Whatever the night, you might start with tapas plates such as harissa prawns $15 and Andalusian eggs baked with tomatoes, peas and a dash of sherry $12. While it’s good, look beyond the chicken and seafood paella $54 (serves two) to traditional Moorish recipes such as b’stilla $25, a dessert-looking chicken, almond and orange blossom pastry pie. A mouth-watering assortment of tajines come served in clay dishes and a beef and broadbean tajine $25 is a winner. It’s directly opposite Manly Wharf, so the views ain’t bad, either.


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Cuisine: Spanish,Moroccan,Modern Australian,Mediterranean

Situated at North Head on the heritage site of the former quarantine station, this restaurant is housed in an old boilerhouse complete with two carefully restored giant boilers. As it’s in a national park, you can’t drive or walk to this historic gem and instead have to wait for the shuttle bus that runs every 20 minutes from the carpark, or there’s a regular courtesy bus from Manly. Sit outside under the umbrellas or inside on the mezzanine level overlooking the kitchen below. Traditional flavours meet contemporary in the menu. Entrees, starting at $14, include our favourite, seared scallops with cumin lentils du puy $21. Mains such as beef fillet with carrot mash $36 or salmon with a horseradish and pinenut crust $34 nudge it out of our price bracket, so you might want to go for the weekend lunch special of two courses plus a glass of wine or beer for $49.

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Cuisine: Spanish,Moroccan,Modern Australian,Mediterranean,South American

What a cool place this is. The decor is 1950s, the lights are dim, the bathroom walls are covered in Astroturf and the staff know how to treat you. It’s always going to be busy but it’s small and intimate, so everyone knows to keep on the good side of loud. As for the sexy South American share food: big praise. Two or three tapas-style plates per person should be enough. Goat’s curd and basil-stuffed mushrooms $12 are simple and tasty; jerk-spiced single ribs $16 are tender and moist, served with a single lime cheek; and the Chilean chef knows how to cook duck $17 — perfectly matched with fruity salsa. Tangy key lime pie $10 is the one for dessert if it’s on. This cruisey little restaurant/bar is definitely worth checking out. 

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Cuisine: Spanish,Moroccan,Modern Australian,Mediterranean,South American,North African

From the zebra-patterned couches to the spicy aromas of cumin, mint and chermoula, this place is a veritable feast for the senses. Chef/owner Hassan M’souli arrived in Australia from Casablanca in 1985, bringing with him all the lessons he had learned in his mother’s kitchen. Today, his Esplanade eatery always draws a crowd. Indulge in briouats, cigar-shaped filo pastries stuffed with marinated chicken and almonds with sweet saffron sauce $14, or the Marrakesh Express brochettes, skewers of spiced lamb backstrap $15. Tajines, such as chicken, olives, preserved lemon and couscous $25.50, lock in moisture and flavour. Lamb sosaties $32.50 pair chargrilled lamb with dried-fruit-flavoured rice and a sweet apricot sauce. Sweet mains might see you finish on a refreshing mint tea ... or perhaps a rum punch cocktail.


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