The Boatshed

543 Coronation Dr Toowong, QLD 4066

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Opening hours Lunch Monday-Sunday 11am-3.30pm; Dinner Monday-Sunday 5.30pm-8.30pm (9pm on Saturday and Sunday)
Prices Moderate (mains $20-$40)
Chef Shane Keighley
Phone 3871 9595

Almost everyone over twenty-five has a Regatta story. Mine, set to an INXS soundtrack, is too blurred by time and West Coast Coolers to recount here but like many locals, I suffered a pang of nostalgia-inspired mourning watching the grand old lady subsumed by the muddy flood waters of 2011.

But here we are, close to eighteen months on and you’d never guess at the trauma she’s been through. A sensitive $10 million facelift hasn’t compromised the Regatta’s historic integrity, but has allowed light to pour in, exposed old brickwork and created more of a connection between the different spaces. 

My memories of the Regatta’s restaurant, The Boatshed, are more recent but somewhat less happy than those of the pub, and feature indifferent staff, an overcooked steak and a tired-looking venue. Then there was the wine list. Very dull indeed. But like the rest of the Regatta, it’s been all change for The Boatshed after it re-opened a few weeks ago.

The display of meat hanging in ageing cabinets as you enter hint at the one thing that hasn’t changed - despite its watery moniker and the rowboat on the ceiling, it’s meat you come for. Specifically steak. In case the meat case isn’t clue enough, there’s an open flame on a stainless steel bench packed with logs, a whiff of grill in the air and the default steakhouse decorating palette of wood and chocolate brown. It certainly feels smarter and more contemporary than The Boatshed of old with an open kitchen overlooking the vast dining area and floor-to-ceiling glass giving views over the sluggish Coro Drive traffic to that rogue river.

We’re seated and water, the menu and wine list are promptly brought. The Boatshed menu doesn’t stray too far from modern pub fare, but non-steak lovers are well-served with entrée offerings from oysters (from $16) to calf’s liver ($14.90). We eventually settle on pork belly ($15.90) and prawns ($16.90). So often it’s the case with pork belly that the skin is so leathery and tough you could possible lose a filling, or so brittle you risk an eye injury. Here the danger has been removed altogether, leaving just an unctuous and full-flavoured piece of meat sitting in a mirin- and ginger-scented broth. Accompaniments of a curled ribbon of pickled carrot and cucumber and candied cashews give the necessary sour and sweet elements to balance flavour and cut through the pork’s richness. We’re pretty pleased with the prawns too: they are very fresh, firm and generously-sized and sit on a well-dressed but rather messy nest of Asian ‘slaw.

The steak menu boasts fifteen different cuts, dry and wet-aged, varying in size from a petite 120g Diamantina eye fillet ($27.90) to a hefty 500g T-bone ($44.90). Then there’s the now de rigeur steakhouse staple, wagyu, served here at a 6-9 marble score at $35.90 or a 400g sirloin with a marble rating of 4-5 ($58.90). I’m more interested in trying the dry-aged though, and choose the smallest, a Nolan ‘Private Selection’ MSA Yearling Beef Sirloin at 220g ($32.90). The process of dry-ageing beef tends to make it (surprise surprise) slightly dryer than wet-aged, explains our waiter and, I suspect, harder to get closer to the perfect level of doneness. Mine is a little too close to medium than medium rare, but undeniably more flavoursome than the now common wet-aged. 

As proper steakhouses do, steaks come with a choice of sauce, chips or potatoes, and a salad. My Béarnaise sauce is house-made and not at all bad and the chunky, rustic hand-cut chips are contenders for the best in town. Our other main, quail, is butterflied and has had its skin brushed with honey-seeded mustard. It’s sweet and tender with just a blush of pink inside and is perfectly pleasant, but not extraordinary. The biggest disappointments are the salads - uninspired, old-fashioned and seemingly randomly plated, featuring quartered tomatoes, thick slices of cucumber and too much Spanish onion, like something from a family barbecue circa 1975.  A little more care and imagination would be welcome and do the protein justice. In fact, all the plating up needs some refining.

What has already been refined is the wine list, courtesy of Michael Conrad (ex-Bistro Three). There’s still plenty of familiar names (this is a Coles-owned pub with attached bottle-shop after all) but he’s added interest with wine from France, Spain and Argentina and some less common varietals. If you’re out to impress (or just show off) there’s a reserve list boasting the likes of a '95 Bin Grange 2002 Shiraz at $650.

So far, much as expected: decent pub grub and a well-priced wine list. What comes next is completely left of field: a textbook perfect lemon tart ($9.90); quite possibly the best I’ve ever had (including in France). It boasts a very short pastry with a filling that is silky and absolutely exquisitely balanced in ratio of sweet to tart, a crisp brûléed top and comes with a summery lemon gelato, orange slices lightly dressed with olive oil and a little maltodextrine ‘snow’ for texture. My usually dessert-averse dining companion is charmed. We finish off with a pretty decent coffee.

A decade or so ago, we might have adjourned to the bar for a West Coast cooler or two to make some new Regatta stories. But it’s a school night.