2 Anderson Place Cottage Point, New South Wales 2084
|Opening hours||Mon-Thu 12 Noon– 3:00 PM, Fri-Sat 12 Noon– 3:00 PM 6:30 – 9:00 PM, Sun 12 Noon– 5:00 PM|
|Features||Accepts bookings, Bar, Degustation, Licensed, Long lunch, Outdoor seating, Romance-first date, Views, Gluten-free options, Vegetarian friendly|
|Prices||Expensive (mains over $40)|
|Payments||eftpos, AMEX, Cash, Visa, Mastercard|
|Phone||02 9456 1011|
It's a little disconcerting when you've just settled in to your waterside terrace table at one of the most remote and romantic restaurants in the Sydney area, and suddenly, your waiter disappears. He pops up a moment later out on the restaurant's pontoon, expertly helping a couple moor their handsome yacht. It's heartening to witness such hospitality, set against the backdrop of the deeply blue-green water, vast expanses of darkening blue sky, and the many shades of green of the forested slopes that rise from the lower reaches of the Hawkesbury River.
If most of us think it's a bit of a stretch from the heart of Sydney to Cottage Point Inn, how on earth did a young French chef named Guillaume Zika get here? It's a far cry from being head chef at Claude Bosi's two-Michelin starred Hibiscus in London, cooking with Thomas Keller at Per Se in New York, or training at Le Grand Vefour in Paris. What drew him to this romantic little hideaway was, of course, romance. Zika fell for the Australian girl on reception at Hibiscus, and returned with her to Sydney.
Sweet, but let's not allow love to get in the way of dinner. After a dazzling little amuse-gueule of clear, shimmering gazpacho jelly, barely tickled with basil oil, you can go degustation or a la carte. From the latter menu comes an extravagant dish of two lightly seared scampi ($38), beached like pink whales in a foamy pool of scampi bisque sweetly imbued with vanilla. Good, but better is the simple freshness of raw, line-caught snapper dressed with a white peach sauce vierge, punctuated with the salty tang of sea succulents ($28). I could have eaten three of these and gone home happy.
With a short list of five main courses, the kitchen work is about depth rather than breadth, with different techniques layered into each dish. So what looks like your everyday roasted chicken breast ($45) has actually been slow-poached in burnt-hay stock, then glazed with chicken juices. The bird's legs have been salted, dried, hay-smoked and turned into lardons, combined with a lush spoon-worthy sauce of sweet corn, onion juice and roast garlic puree, chicken skin crisps and fresh wood sorrel.
Wagyu rump cap ($45) on the other hand, is simply grilled and sent out under a shower of shaved, frozen, foie gras, a fluffy ball of fun that melts like snow in your mouth. Grilled king brown mushrooms, blackberries and a lemon and onion puree add light and shade.
Service is professionally smooth, if slightly institutionalised, and the wine list is a nice mix of Frenchies, Spaniards and smaller Oz labels. A notably peachy, spicy 2013 Yalumba Eden Valley Roussanne ($15/$58) and a ripe, opulent 2013 Epsilon Barossa Shiraz ($16/$70) is good value from the lower end.
The pre-dessert "cheeseboard" is an unexpected show-stopper, its roquefort foam, crunchy walnut praline, and granny smith apple jelly layers doing everything a great cheeseboard does, only in a glass. Then it's Pretty Time, with an artfully arranged salad of fresh strawberries, raspberries and shaved baby beetroot (hell yes, why not?), strewn with shiso leaves and honeycomb and finished with a blood-red beetroot and strawberry sorbet ($19) that's as summery as can be.
It's like all the food here - fresh, bright, and notable for its well-played acidity, sweetness and balance. Getting here might take a bit of effort, but it's just as hard to tear yourself away.
Best bit: The pre-dessert "cheese-board", which isn't.
Worst bit: Missing the kookas' feeding time (lunch).
Go-to dish: Line-caught snapper carpaccio, white peach sauce vierge, basil and finger lime $28.
Terry Durack is chief restaurant critic for The Sydney Morning Herald and senior reviewer for the Good Food Guide. This rating is based on the Good Food Guide scoring system.