February 5, 2024

This beachfront restaurant has stunning views, but does it deliver food and service to match?


ReviewEating outTerrigal

Ambitious new fine-diner Meribella at the Crowne Plaza in Terrigal channels the vibe of a Victorian-era seaside conservatory.

Terry Durack

February 6, 2024

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1 / 6The dining room has expansive views of the Pacific Ocean and Norfolk pines.Steven Siewert

2 / 6Crudo of snapper, coconut and lime.Steven Siewert

3 / 6Potato with caviar and salmon tartare.Steven Siewert

4 / 6Go-to dish: aged duck, beetroot and blackberry.Steven Siewert

5 / 6300g Riverina Angus New York cut steak frites with caper butter.Steven Siewert

6 / 6Champagne and vanilla sponge with mandarin, white chocolate and ricotta.Steven Siewert



The palms are potted, the tables are brass-lined marble, and the view through a soaring curve of conservatory windows is of Norfolk pines and the Pacific Ocean.

The rather flash Meribella at the beachside Crowne Plaza Terrigal feels like the modern equivalent of a Victorian-era health retreat by the sea. But instead of tucking a rug over my knees, staff bring me gin and tonics and potato-and-caviar snacks. Well, eventually.

Starting in the lounge bar is probably a mistake. Fifteen minutes after taking my order, the waitress is back. “Did you want a short or a tall glass?” Another 15 minutes pass, and by now, I am late for my restaurant booking. “Don’t worry, we’ll shoot the drinks through to your table immediately,” say the bar staff. They don’t.


Deep-fried potato topped with caviar and salmon tartare.Steven Siewert

In the meantime, the menu takes a bit of studying. Consultant executive chef Joshua Mason, also owner/chef of five-year-old Quoi Dining in Baulkham Hills, has been multitasking making wine in the Barossa Valley as well, under his Ciel label. Director of food and beverage is a name familiar to Sydney lovers of all things cacio e pepe: Michael Fantuz, co-founder of Buffalo Dining Club, who also compiled the appropriately Hunter-loving wine list.

The set menu costs $85 for two courses and $119 for three, with five choices per course. But then – whaaa? – there are 19 additional dishes that carry supplements, running from appetisers and oysters, to a cold seafood plate for $98, to a 1.1kg cote de boeuf Potoro black Angus on the bone for $110. Not to mention truffle frites and other sides. There are so many supplements, you could make a meal of them, if allowed.

Would it not be more sensible to make the whole menu a la carte, instead of charging an average of $40 per course for restricted choices? Just a thought.

I dabble in the canapes, which is probably another mistake, in terms of slowing down the pacing of the three-course meal to come. A little deep-fried crab cake ($12) is competent. But the price of a deep-fried cube of shredded, steamed and pressed potato topped with creamy salmon tartare and caviar ($8) made me query the provenance of the caviar. (Sterlet, from the Caspian Sea, apparently.)


Snapper is tonight replaced by salmon in the crudo, the large furls of silky raw fish in a bland pool of coconut milk, herb oil and lime juice that needs more oomph. Another first course – confit of pork belly with grilled peach and cauliflower puree – is dated, but pleasantly so.

Staff members are young, full of personality and trying hard, although their lack of experience shows. The wine list is missing a crucial page. One bright young chap up-ends a tray of glasses on the floor, and it’s a long wait before staff can return to other duties. “Sorry about the delay,” he announces cheerily, pouring a taste of the chef’s Ciel Maitre’d pinot noir ($72). “I was too busy throwing things at the floor.” (Good save, well done, all forgiven.)

But then he parks the bottle on the window sill and wanders off, leaving the glasses empty.

Go-to dish: aged duck, beetroot and blackberry.Steven Siewert

Main courses are a step up; an aged duck dish making the most of the pinot with its sensitive cooking and relaxed breast meat, balanced by beetroot done in various ways, a good jus and the sparkle of blackberry. Likewise, the steak frites, a 300g Riverina Angus New York cut, is precisely cooked, with a classic jus and bowl of hot fries. Sadly, mine comes lukewarm, unable to soften the disc of caper butter on top.


Dessert is a generous deconstruct of champagne and vanilla sponge with mandarin, white chocolate and ricotta that’s fresh and refreshing.

Meribella opened in November, just in time for summer. I reckon it takes six months for a new restaurant to hit its sweet spot – and probably longer if it’s in a hotel in a seaside town. The set-up is good, the views divine, and the ambitions are boundless, but we’re not there yet.

The low-down

Vibe: Victoriana conservatory by the sea

Go-to dish: Aged duck, beetroot and blackberry

Drinks: A dozen beers, classic cocktails and a comprehensive wine list, including an homage to Hunter whites and Brokenwood

Cost: Two courses $85pp (Fri lunch, Wed-Thu dinner), three courses $119pp, plus supplements and drinks

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