Surrounded by water, the view from my table is tranquil, bar for the loud caws of an Australasian Darter sitting on the wharf beneath us.
The sleek, brown bird is fanning his wings to dry them out after taking a dive for fish.
He arches his long, snake-like neck to eyeball us in response to our attention.
I’m sitting under the famous white sails of The Coast Bar & Restaurant, Gosford’s iconic waterfront restaurant.
Four years ago, this outfit took over the former Iguana Joe’s site, which, as you might recall, hit the national spotlight in 2008 with some (now former) politicians behaving badly.
These days things seem much more peaceful inside the large, airy space.
Coastal-inspired décor including stripped back, pale wooden tables surrounded by wooden, white chairs make the room easy on the eye, without detracting from the water views on three sides.
With the building sitting at 45 degrees to the coastline, they can respond to the direction of the prevailing wind simply by opening a different set of windows. Interior sails and a soft blue tint on the glass both help to reduce glare, though you might want your sunglasses as you kick back with a Summer Long Island Iced Tea ($20). With peach and cranberry, this fruity iteration of the classic is easy on the eye and the palate, going down all too quickly.
For something a bit sharper, the Activated Margarita ($20) is a good, sour margarita that leaves a hole for you to taste smoky tequila. Slurp it from the glass, not the straw, to enjoy the activated charcoal salt rim.
The menu is please-all and big, offering up everything from wood-fired pizza cooked in the large domed pizza oven you passed on the way in, to burgers, steaks, seafood and pasta.
Pliable soft Tortillas ($21/2) make for a pleasant beginning, with crisp soft-shell crab mingling with iceberg lettuce, avocado and tomato salsa, all drizzled with saffron aioli.
A juicy, crisp-skinned wedge of Western Australian Bonito ($23) is given a Mediterranean-inspired makeover with balsamic baby beets, pickled eschallots and a quenelle of horseradish crème fraiche. A grilled lemon cheek and a cluster of bright, flavoursome cherry tomatoes kept on the vine add colour to this enjoyable plate, that’s very reasonably priced.
You might just want for some carbs, and here the Crispy Skin Cocktail Potatoes ($9) painted with Kalamata olive, chilli and rosemary, are particularly good.
The Coast Fish’n’Chips ($28) will deliver all the carbohydrates you need with a giant fillet of hake coated in crisp beer batter, a classic potato scallop plus chips, salad, tangy tartare and a grilled lemon cheek all piled onto one plate.
Cider braised Pulled Pork ($28) makes for a tasty pizza topping. It’s presented on a BBQ sauce base with fresh apple matchsticks and pork crackling.
It wins points for originality, if not for the biscuity crisp base.
It is bested by Malloreddus ($27) – a Sardinian pasta with a gnocchi-like shape – teamed here with marinated chook and spicy chorizo sausage softened with rosemary roasted pumpkin. It’s topped with fresh ricotta cheese and a handful of toasted almond slivers; and feels vaguely Spanish in flavour.
Team it with a Tomato and Bocconcini Salad ($12) and a glass of pink – the Squealing Pig Pinot Rose ($9) - and you have yourself a dinner. Keep this large, easy-going restaurant in mind, especially for those days when fighting kids and kilometres-long traffic jams drive you off the Pacific Motorway in search of solace.
The Coast Bar & Restaurant
12 Dane Drive, Gosford
Ph: (02) 4323 0216