Catalina is the archetypal family business. Michael and Judy McMahon have been fixtures in the Sydney dining scene since its modern birth at Berowra Waters Inn and have established a dedication to excellence in restaurants that children James and Kate strive to emulate.
Michael and Judy began their careers with the late Len Evans (OBE) working at the legendary Bulletin Place. In 1978, they made the move to Gay and Tony Bilson’s Berowra Waters Inn, Michael as floor manager and Judy as their first female waitress.
In 1983 Judy and Michael purchased Barrenjoey House in Palm Beach and worked with a young Neil Perry, subsequently opening Perry’s in Paddington, both of which attained Two Hat ratings in the Good Food Guide.
By 1988, Judy and Michael had sold both Perry’s and Barrenjoey House, and Michael became the General Manager of Bilson’s in Circular Quay. Judy followed as the Function Manager, and together they ran that glittering icon until they purchased Catalina in 1994, transforming a tired old space into the perfect harbourside restaurant that it is today. In 2011 Michael was awarded the Vittoria Legend award at the Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Awards.
With this wonderful partnership as an example, a second generation of McMahons, James and Kate now also work in this family business.
James followed his parents into restaurants with stints at fine diners such as banc, Buon Ricordo and est., as well as Sydney favourites Rockpool Bar and Grill and China Doll. James runs the dining room and brings a wealth of fine dining and service experience to Catalina.
Kate came up through cocktail bars in the Merivale Group, such as Hemmesphere and The Den (at Ivy), and has brought in fresh and exciting ideas. The greatest example to date is Kate’s famed annual New Year’s Day party, which has become an iconic event on Sydney’s party calendar.
Catalina has been a Sydney icon for the past 21 years with Michael and Judy at the helm. With James and Kate continuing in the family tradition, another twenty one years seem assured.