Belmont 16s Sailing Club will tomorrow unveil a breathtaking new Lake Macquarie vantage point when it officially opens Mediterranean-inspired restaurant Martha.
The 120-seat venue on the club's first floor features a restaurant, bar area and outdoor terrace. Standing on the terrace, it feels like you are on a cruise ship.
Martha is the jewel in the crown of the redeveloped Belmont 16s Sailing Club, where $20 million is being spent on upgrading the sailing, entertainment and dining facilities over 18 months as part of its Centenary Project.
Designed by Sydney-based architecture and design studio Atlis, Martha's stylish yet casual interior has dawn pastel tones, sandy beige and sage green accented by timber elements. The attractive cocktail bar is adorned in pink tiles with splashes of neon.
Martha's lofty space features a striking pitched roof with open-plan dining that connects the restaurant to the stunning outdoor terrace and - again - those lake views.
Chef Tyler Rolfe's menu at Martha is centred around the restaurant's state-of-the-art European Mibrasa ovens which use high temperatures and hot coals to infuse dishes with subtle, smoky flavours. Visiting recently with friends, I sampled the oysters with grilled chorizo and sherry butter as a starter alongside the fried calamari with salsa brava, mild peppers and aioli; the hot smoked salmon with provolone hash brown, pickled fennel and saffron aioli; and the cast iron cooked halloumi with pickled cumquat and honey drizzle.
For our mains we shared the market fish (ling) with charred asparagus, heirloom tomato and piccata; charcoal roast Riverina lamb rack with heirloom tomato, mint quinoa, tabouleh and labneh; and the 300g Pinnacle Black Angus scotch steak pasture-fed MSA 3 MB2+ with mixed leaves, triple-cooked chips, heirloom tomato and chimichurri.
The cos wedge with white anchovy, egg, parmesan and aioli was a crunchy and flavoursome side.
Everything was freshly made, cooked to our liking and nicely seasoned. With Martha, Belmont 16s has definitely raised the bar when it comes to club dining.
If you don't feel like eating a full meal, there's a snacks menu you can order from as you enjoy a beverage and the view. There's also an $85 "Feed Me Martha" shared menu.
As for the drinks list, it showcases a mix of classic cocktails and a playful array of signature creations named Martha & Friends. The wine list heroes Hunter Valley wineries plus a selection of Australian and European varieties.
"Martha is set to be an incredible new dining destination on Lake Macquarie for locals and visitors to the region," food and beverage manager Joel Simmons said.
"Our front and back of house team are passionate about great service, food, and drinks, and we are all very excited to welcome our first guests to the venue."
Families with young children were among the people wandering upstairs to have a sneak peek and there was a lot of "oohing" and "aahing" going on, and deservedly so. Martha is a sophisticated yet accessible space, and the club is to be commended for opening up those lake views to the public, both upstairs and downstairs.
Martha is open for lunch and dinner Thursday to Sunday, noon to 3pm and 5pm to 10pm.
And finally, why "Martha"? The story goes that in 1800, Captain William Reid sailed the 30-tonne schooner Martha from Sydney to the Hunter River on a mission to collect coal. Not going far enough north, he sailed into Lake Macquarie and accidentally became the first European person to visit the area. For many years the lake was known as Reid's Mistake before being renamed in honour of Governor Lachlan Macquarie.