"Well a chicken rib is the size of a chicken rib," our waitress replies rather dryly. While my dining companion looks a bit stunned, I explain he was interested in the number of chicken ribs in a serve. She’s also unaware of the flavour of the Daiquiri of the Day ($16) – it's mango – and doesn’t know whether the margarita is frozen, but will request it comes chilled. It’s an inauspicious beginning that makes us feel like we’re pesky Sydney types who ask too many questions.
"There are five people behind the bar, and two in the kitchen, and none of them are making our drinks," my dining companion later complains, adding: “one is having a Coke, another is on the phone.” Eventually, two of our drinks arrive, but the ‘chilled’ Margarita ($16) is yet to appear.
When it does come, it's cool not frozen, but surprisingly well balanced. Our Long Island Iced Tea ($16) on the other hand, is er… uncompromising. They've whispered the word Coke to an assemblage of secondary spirits. We wash it down with a schooner of Young Henry's Newtowner ($8.50), just one of the craft beer selections from a reasonably interesting list.
Our half-dozen Bourbon Glazed Chicken Ribs and Wings ($14) are slightly too sweet, but tasty when eaten with the accompanying lemon, coleslaw and tangy ranch dressing. By this stage our waitress has warmed to us, and I forgive the shaky beginning, especially when she informs us that Jose Jones has only been open for six weeks.
The indoor-outdoor space is located at the front edge of the Thirroul Beach Motel, an older-style, two-storey red brick hotel. On the blisteringly hot day we dined, the outdoor tables are a bit on the warm side, but nearly all boast notes detailing reservations, pinned down by succulents in tin-pail plant pots with their table numbers on wooden spoons.
The restaurant’s broad menu philosophy seems to be healthy food, and the Buddha Bowl with Five Spice Chicken ($22) is a particularly good exemplar. Fresh, locally grown, organic salad greens are teamed with charred greens, sweet potato, wholemeal rice, lemon hummus and a host of grains, nuts and seeds, are accentuated with a small piece of free-range chook. It’s a beautifully presented bowl of food with so much diversity it is a pleasure to eat.
From the specials chalkboard, we also try the Black Lip Mussels ($26). The plump bivalves are treated to a leek, garlic, chardonnay and butter sauce, and are all the better for the dish's simplicity. It’s rounded out into a whole meal with some sourdough and a well-seasoned pot of seaweed salad.
Before you leave, be sure to check out the loos for some gendered bathroom surf philosophy. While my partner is treated to advice like “surf, jam and live in a van” with a side order of topless surf girls, I’m informed I should prefer flowers in my hair to diamonds around my neck. Yet somehow as I take in the poetry of José Chaves in the sunny, beachside haven of Thirroul, fresh from an ocean swim myself, it feels poignant rather than proscriptive, and I leave this place with a smile.
Thirroul Beach Motel, 222 Lawrence Hargrave Drive, Thirroul
Ph: (02) 4268 5406