Not many restaurant reviews begin with the verdict. But, with Me Gal at Taronga Zoo, there’s no point beating about the native bush. It is more than a meal with a view – it’s an event.
We lobbed from the car park and stood at the giant, curved steel gates. Beyond lay the restaurant, conference, and function rooms – and the 51-room hotel. The hotel’s design is jaw-dropping; sunken and U-shaped, it looks up to the restaurant. Press the buzzer and the gates slowly part – just as in Bond movies.
Swanning down the winding stone path at the rear of the zoo, the surroundings are exotic. A wide, level path is flanked by bobbing palms, low natives and diffused lighting. Hard to hurry, we strolled to the lift, rose a floor and were met by the scent of Oak Moss as we zombie-walked through luxury to the iconic harbour view envied the world over.
Stunning interiors and an iconic view of Sydney Harbour are the first taste of what’s to come at Me Gal.
The circular foyer doubles as a lounge bar. The cavernous floor space rolls onto an expansive, open deck with plenty of view-drooling space and – once overcome – extra comfy lounges in which to flop, the vista still visible through the balustrade glass. However, a partial eclipse occurs when George the Peacock struts his stuff across the entire space, inside and out.
Up a floor, we were met by maître de/manager Tony Schultz – well-versed in the restaurant’s offerings, the zoo compound’s built environment – and his native quasi-pets.
The restaurant’s nightlife is unmatched. It belongs to party animals who shuffle about, and duck and dive in purpose-built streams. Mr Schultz knows their names, ages, and how to read their behaviour. One senses he’d rather be cross-legged sitting in front of Mackenzie – the 23-year-old platypus – as he makes figure eights in the water. After witnessing this utter delight – up close, hands fast to clasp mouth, Mr Schultz in no hurry to move us on – this was an unmatched joy, and we’d stood with dolphins in a bay.
Venue and Vibe
Those who attended ‘singles’ balls of the 1980s would recall the old Taronga conference centre.
Climbing the stairs, with a sick feeling the night would be a dud, this was mirrored in the worn, stained carpet tiles, scarred walls and neon-strip lighting. Now, the lot is a glorious space! Why would you take American presidents to the beach?
In March, Me Gal began its soft launch. Booked solid over Mother’s Day lunch and dinner, chefs served 200 covers. Saturday nights were busy, and midweek when most establishments had slower days, Me Gal was doing well.