Steamers Bar & Grill

Jackie McMillan
10th Jun 2023

Steamers Bar & Grill was hard to get a handle on. On the one hand, its placement where Wollongong Lighthouse meets City Beach suggests overpriced tourist trap — an impression no doubt enhanced by nautical theming from shelves of mounted globes and other curiosities to an upside-down dingy. Couples are set to the edges of the large, glass-box dining room with the centre given over to raucous group tables and a modern fire pit where orange flames lick at glass surrounds. Groups of young people sip flamboyant cocktails next to mixed family groups on long tables flying 50th birthday balloons. On the other hand, the wine list—particularly for those obsessed with Western Australian Chardonnay—is spectacular. 

So, to make the most of this venue, skip theme-park cocktails, like the frothy Woodford bourbon-based Chef’s Relic ($26) with pear, pineapple rum and egg whites and the Paradisi ($22) teaming grapefruit-infused vodka with passionfruit liqueur, and by-the-glass offerings in favour of bottled wine. Sommelier and restaurant manager, Romain Bastianel, and I both concur on a favourite: the Domaine Naturaliste Artus Chardonnay ($108/bottle). While it’d suit oysters ($28/6) the Clyde River bivalves have been shucked too early to hold on to any liquor. This makes it hard for them to stand up to the interesting topping list, which included options like nori, lime dust and bonito. 

No matter, the generously proportioned two-course early bird special ($49/person) doesn’t need any add-ons. It dabbles across the grill-focused, please-all menu starting with tender, wood-fired calamari ($23) dusted with chilli salt. Next up, bao buns ($25/2) where a piece of overcooked char sui pork joined Asian ‘slaw and sriracha mayo. in (and strangely on) steamed buns. Slow-braised beef short rib ($39) presents a hearty slab of falling-off-the-bone beef on mash with wood-fired corn and thyme jus. It’s teamed with a mixed leaf salad ($14) and artichoke ravioli ($35) bespeckled with charred corn and peas. Curiosity saw us add on rumbledethump ($14)—a skillet of baked mashed potato folded with cabbage and onion under golden, melted cheese—utterly delicious but totally surplus to need. Steamers delivered plenty of food very quickly for a reasonable price, and had a wine list of a calibre rarely seen: it’s a study of contrasts.