Five minutes with Judy & Michael McMahon of CATALINA, Rose Bay


Photography: Dominic Loneragan
Photography: Dominic Loneragan
MiNDFOOD sat down with CATALINA, Rose Bay's Judy & Michael McMahon to discuss their perfect restaurant location, upholding their very high and delicious standards and the future for this much-loved family run institution.

How did you come to open CATALINA?

Between 1988 & 1993 I was doing a lot of freelance consulting and I took on a position as General Manager of Bilson’s, now Quay while at the same time looking for a new restaurant project.

My research came up with a ratty old building on the most perfect restaurant site I have ever seen. It was called Caprice in Rose Bay. I searched the owner out found him to be in the USA made him an offer, bought the building over a Maritime Services lease hold and proceeded to virtually pull the old building down and rebuild it into what I think is a great restaurant space. The rest is history.

Photography: Dominic Loneragan
Photography: Dominic Loneragan

After 20 years, what has been your biggest lesson?

Never go into a restaurant undercapitalized.

What is it like working together with your family? Are you all involved day to day?

Judy & I work with James & Kate. James full time Kate part time our oldest son Paul (who used to be a chef at Catalina) now has a photography business. Working with family is sometimes hard but mostly very rewarding.

Photography: Dominic Loneragan
Photography: Dominic Loneragan

What are your fondest memories at CATALINA?

There are so many! Every Christmas Day, every Melbourne Cup Day, every New Year’s Eve, but I guess both Judy’s 40th & my 50th birthday parties, Paul’s wedding and certainly Kate’s wedding. Catalina is a very celebratory place. We are fortunate to be able to share these occasions with friends who are also loyal customers and visa versa.

What is the food philosophy at CATALINA?

Philosophy? Oh dear I’ll sound like a Celebrity Chef if I’m not careful – heaven forbid! “Only the best will do’, and, ‘good enough is never good enough.”

Photography: Dominic Loneragan
Photography: Dominic Loneragan

Where do you draw inspiration for your menus?

I love the food of Spain & Italy so I guess you could say we are Mediterranean inspired primarily but we do have a Master Sushi Chef who does the best Sushi & Sashimi. My personal indulgence, as I do love Japanese food.

What does the next 20 years hold for CATALINA?

The next 20 years? I’ll be in my 80’s you’ll have to ask James and Kate.

Want to dine at CATALINA? Click here for your chance to win a $500 dining voucher at CATALINA.



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