A sit down with Catalina of Rose Bay

Born of a love for helping people enjoy themselves, Judy McMahon and her partner in business and in life, Michael, opened the Catalina at Sydney’s Rose Bay as an homage to their years of experience in and passion for the hospitality game.

They do what they know and love and they always have, mentioned Judy who very lovingly took a turn around the Catalina with THE F recently.

“The hospitality industry is just so enjoyable; you see people who are out and enjoying themselves and you have an opportunity to make their experience even better – it’s the art of being hospitable.”

That’s the key to success in this industry: genuine enjoyment of what it is you’re doing. It’s indicative of a seasoned and well-versed professional when put up against any competitor.

Though the Catalina over the years has become synonymous with fine dining, quality food and a lush more than enjoyable view and overall experience that both Judy and Catalina’s pool of dedicated repeat customers  enjoy, it’s not all bells and whistles.

Judy and Michael worked long, hard years and forgave their weekends for a good many years until the Catalina was the shining star in Sydney’s eastern suburbs that it is today.

“When we were younger, establishing Catalina, Michael and I worked really hard – we had to oversee everything and be there all the time, to turn our vision into a reality. Our family life with our [then] young children had to take a back seat a lot of the time. Obviously we rely on others like our staff, to keep our vision alive as well, but when it comes down to it, the buck stops with us. If something isn’t up to scratch, it’s our responsibility. We certainly didn’t have weekends off for years.”

It’s that notorious and all-too-well recognisable sacrifice of time outside the business that is conveyed in every element of the Catalina itself, though. The menu, sublime; the staff, professional; the bar service, second-to-none and the environment, cataclysmically perfect.

There’s no wonder the Catalina is as renowned as it is.

Catalina’s menu is as deep as it is full, offering-up a rich array of food both essential in its presentation, but complex in its construction and flavours.

Neither Judy nor Michael are chefs, but their passion for the food and flavours they offer come from their love for food itself, but also the fresh produce that Michael spends his time sourcing.

Catalina Rose Bay THE F 1

“The inspiration comes from the produce and we’re very lucky to have such great quality produce in Australia. Michael shares his knowledge and passion for food with our Head Chef, Mark Axisa, and Mark develops the menu. It is a collaborative approach which works really well.”

The Catalina, though, dissimilarly to many other restaurants around Australia, doesn’t strictly alter its menu depending on the season. It’s a bit of a suck-it-and-see approach to menu design and transformation that depends heavily on what is good, fresh and available at any particular time of year. The Catalina’s daily list is where the season-driven dishes are developed and offered every day.

The beat of the drum to which Catalina marches and moves forward is very much their own, meaning consistency and quality through the ages, which have been expanded to include the McMahon’s now older and well-seasoned children.

Catalina Rose Bay THE F 2

“Catalina has grown and changed over the years, and will continue to do so. Our children James and Kate, who are both committed hospitality professionals, have worked with us over the past six years, diversifying what we offer,” said Judy. “Kate’s New Year’s Day Party which has become a must-do in Sydney’s summer social calendar; and also the development of our bar offering, have given us more than just the fine dining tag, and have allowed people to come in and experience Catalina on a number of different levels.”

A well-rounded offering for the well-practised in fine-dining to those who’re wanting an experience outside of anything to be considered ‘usual’ or ‘run-of-the-mill’, Catalina Rose Bay is the best option.

See more at their website (WWW).


Catalina Rose Bay THE F 3








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