594 New South Head Rd Rose Bay, NSW 2029
|Opening hours||Daily 11.30am-3pm, 6pm-9pm; kiosk daily 7am-3pm (no reservations)|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
|Phone||02 9974 2004|
Every time I drive through Rose Bay, I wonder why the hell someone doesn't just move in to what was Pier/Sailors Club/Regatta, and do great fish and chips. Let's face it, that's what people want, and that's where people want it – on a pier fringed by a marina, parklands and promenades.
Well, now someone has.
And, of course, it's the Boathouse Group, purveyors of fine fish and chips in Balmoral, Palmy and Patonga. Now part of Isaac Property, it's the first venture south of the bridge for Andrew and Pip Goldsmith, who still run day-to-day operations. No surprise, therefore, that it has Boathouse DNA, from the massive, shell-framed mirror at the entrance, to the sea-green tiled reception with its massed floral displays and oyster shell chandeliers.
Never knowingly underplaying a theme, they pile on the maritime style. Crab pots line the ceiling, conch shells perch on marble-topped tables, and even an overlooked rooftop is decked out with painted wooden row boats. And the eastern suburbs has taken the bait, with tables filled with everyone from the slim-gym set and mothers-and-daughters, to young families and old golfers.
But first, a big tick for the kiosk downstairs on the pier, which is walk-in only, order-at-the-counter, and take-a-number, for a blackboard menu that runs from battered flathead and chips to steak sandwiches, salmon fritters, a few wines and well-made Single O coffee. A waterside table under the striped awning here is the place to be, before the weather turns too cool.
Upstairs in the restaurant proper, things are as much Rose Bay as Boathouse, so there's waiter service under manager Eleanora Vaccarini that's both personable and professional, and some serious cocktail action.
Chef James Brownrigg's menu runs to a choice of oysters, selection of crudo, pretty prawn cocktails, rich crab rolls, pasta and fish dishes, as well as duck and beef.
Much of the food is themed to the seaside as well. A pleasantly pink tarama ($23) is served in white shell-shaped stone, just in case you forget where you are (unlikely), topped with a spoonful of salmon roe and accessorised with blinis.
Order scampi linguine ($44) and you'll laugh out loud at the ornamental platter, kitschily painted with lobsters, mussels and lemons. It's a good dish on the inside, too, the linguine cooked not-so-al-dente and tangled with nubbins of Moreton Bay bug meat and a pool of rich bisque sauce, the whole thing topped with a crowning glory of scampi in its shell. Holiday food, if your holidays are more isle of Capri than caravan park.
Another rich pasta/seafood combo of lobster ravioli ($24/$41) is just plain dull – pasta, cream sauce, overcooked scallop garnish, and all.
Other dishes are nicely styled, if a little dated, from King Ora salmon with a velvety pea veloute and creme fraiche ($37), to 14-hour-cooked lamb shoulder formed into a tight roll, with parsnip puree ($39).
Fish and chips get upgraded here to John Dory ($38), tartare and rocket, with hot, thin, salty chips on the side. There's a leafy salad ($12), but it's dressed without acidity, so the leaves are just that, leaves.
Desserts have also been upgraded to restaurant level – bombe Alaska, raspberry and white chocolate eclair, and a hazelnut mousse ($12) that's all crunch-crumble-and-cream. Mind you, grabbing a takeaway gelato wouldn't be too shabby either.
The Boathouse built its reputation on the north shore with a fantasy we all fall for – that we're the sort of people who wear white linen and holiday by the sea in gorgeous beach houses, without a care in the world.
It has added a few more creature comforts for the eastern suburbs, but what makes it right for now are the choices. It's both inside and outside, cafe and restaurant, eat-in and takeaway, breakfast and dinner, self-service and full service, day and night (with day having the edge on night). What people want, and where people want it.
The Boathouse Rose Bay
Vegetarian Limited options throughout menu such as green orecchiette, butternut pumpkin with cauliflower and sage, and beetroot carpaccio.
Drinks Cocktails, mocktails, local gins, and a lively, Australian-led wine list with a focus on Tasmania's Tolpuddle.
Pro tip Grab takeaway from the hatch at the front to take to your superyacht.