While the future of a new $7.8 million Newport Surf Life Saving Club remains up in the air, the club and a local chef have introduced a pop-up restaurant on the little-used first floor of the clubhouse on Sydney’s northern beaches.
Rowie Dillon, current President of the Newport Chamber of Commerce, approached club president Guyren Smith with the pop-up concept and they hatched a plan. The first Rowie’s by the Sea opened its doors at noon on Sunday, December 18 with no bookings, offering Ottolenghi-style dining with simple food serving three salads, hot veg, a choice of two proteins ($35) and a dessert ($15). There was also mac and cheese for kids ($15). More than 60 people turned up to dine and listen to free live music from local musicians.
“It is really nice having more activity in the club and having people outside our normal membership base utilising our facilities, making it a place to visit on a Sunday when it would normally be closed up and quiet,” Smith said. “We spend a lot of time looking towards the beach and we don’t spend enough time looking to the community, so we wanted to focus on that a bit more.”
The club now makes money from the bar and takes a percentage of the profits without having to employ staff to cook in the kitchen.
“Extra income is always good for us, surf clubs are always scratching around here and there for extra money to do what we need to do,” Smith said.
While most of the prep is done at Dillon’s HACCP-certified home kitchen, the pop-up works out of a tight but modern kitchen space with three staff. Dillon can accommodate up to 80 people for lunch and is hoping other surf clubs will jump on board to utilise little-used spaces.
“Nothing else has been happening there (in the space) except for yoga and (surf club) training,” Dillon said. “It’s such a great concept that I would totally love to run the concept out in (surf) clubs around the country.”
Northern Beaches Council has asked the NSW Government’s independent State North Planning Panel to review plans it recently rejected to extend the surf club building. Dillon has also put in a submission to include her dining concept as part of that review.
Smith added that the club wanted to maintain a hybrid space, for yoga, training and use by club members, and not dedicate a whole restaurant space in the new plans.