26 January 2011

Berowra Waters Inn: French and Italian style small dishes, Berowra Waters (2 Jan 2011)

22-31 Dusthole Point via Public Wharves at Bay Road or Kirkpatrick Way, Berowra Waters NSW 2082

Two hats but no air con

To pre celebrate my 40th birthday I was generously taken out to the Berowra Waters Inn which had been on my wish list to try due to good reviews. Depending on which direction you drive from, unless you can afford to arrive by seaplane or private boat, you’ll either be parking on the seemingly organised Bay Road west side car park or the somewhat chaotic and narrow bush land Kilpatrick Way on the east side of the river where the deafening sound of cicadas sing high above in the summer heat — and where the shower of moisture on a clear day is unfortunately not rain. A friendly private ferry service picks us up promptly at the designated time for our booking and drops us off to a fully booked restaurant at 1.30 pm. For me there are 3 main factors that are essential to a great dining experience. The food of course but comfort and service can just be as important, if not more so. The price can be a major consideration as well but if these 3 factors are perfect then an expensive price can sometimes be justified.

As we arrive and seated near the wall it’s clearly apparent the overly hot day has warmed the dining room to a noticeable level and to our surprise/dismay discover there’s unfortunately no air conditioning besides the casual outside breeze that’s sometimes enjoyed by the window tables. If you dine on a hot, humid and calm day be prepared for this and even though it might only happen a few days in a year there’s not much the restaurant can do to keep you cool. Also mentioned on their website ‘in summer it can get particularly warm in the evening and as we are in the bush insects can be a problem so long sleeve light clothing is recommended' — sounds a bit like camping to me. The décor and water view is elegant and quite special but awkwardly low hung lamp shades above tables and centre table supports that don’t allow your feet to fit comfortably flat add to the discomfort with the unfortunate heat. Our designated waitress wasn’t the warmest, seemed a little forgetful of some of our requests and rather perfunctory in manner compared to some of the others — perhaps the heat had taken it’s toll on her too. Although in contrast the female floor manager was brilliant, very friendly and seemed attentive when required — I wish we had her for the entire time.

The minimum order of five courses ($150) with matched wines ($210) which includes coffee, tea and petit fours is a fair amount of food and hence why it takes around 4 hours — an option for less courses would be appreciated though. The dishes overall were good, well presented and made with quality ingredients but unfortunately the whole dining experience was somewhat tarnished by mostly comfort or lack there of due to the warmth and some service that could have or should have been better for a 2 hatted restaurant. The Salmon with eggplant puree starter was excellent and it’s funny how sometimes one of the best things eaten is the amuse-bouche. The Barramundi fillet was well liked and I recommend the Beignets of Hawkesbury oysters with the very light yet creamy chilled vichyssoise although it was hard to work out where the oscietra and salmon caviars were in the dish. I really enjoyed the Andrew Thomas Shiraz 2009 which was smooth and quaffable and the Roast local quail breast was nicely cooked. The delightful looking Wagyu 'Minute Steak' looked pretty small on it’s large plate but was enjoyable. The second amuse-bouche of Roast pumpkin soup was good but I was in two minds about whether the sweet crushed amaretto biscuit on top worked for me.

If you order the Squab baked in terracotta clay (for two) then you can be sure that the hammering theatrics of the baked clay shell when brought to your table will surely kill anything left alive inside. It’s a tasty yet heavy dish which kept me looking for something refreshing and lighter to provide contrast on the palate. With a choice of 5 cheeses it was hard resisting to try them all. I tended to prefer the French cheeses but didn’t like the selection of crackers and would have preferred wafer thin ones like they serve at Avido or simply sliced baguette and who actually likes oatmeal biscuits — I also prefer if the fruit condiments don't touch the cheese. You can’t go wrong with a glass of De Bortoli Noble One 2007 and I found the Lustau Sherry perhaps just a bit too strong for my liking. A pre-dessert of pineapple jelly with malibu coconut foam was very nice. The Dessert Variation on a theme (for two) comes with a sampling of all 4 desserts and ice cream is pre melted for your convenience due to the heat. I think my favourite was the Mango soufflé, but perhaps because I love mango. Peppermint tea and the Flat white were good and once we reminded service of our missing petit fours we indulged in our final sugar hit at around 5.30 pm after 4 hours dining.

With the right combination of comfort, service and food this restaurant could have been a better experience for us on the day but I’m glad I’ve had the opportunity to try it anyway. If you’re after a lighter dish than the squab then I’ve heard the Razor Clams, Spaghettini with Hand Picked Local Mud Crab is supposed to be pretty good. Be sure to book a seat near the window just in case your in need of a comforting breeze but be prepared for possible bugs in the evening and for some strange reason at the south end of the restaurant we did notice an unfortunate swamp water smell waft over the end tables at least 5 times during our stay. And please don't get me started on the crying baby someone decided to bring along — what were they thinking? — not of anyone else I guess.

Other blog reviews:

PROS: Good quality and well presented dishes, Water views, Interesting location, Quality wines, Focus on local, organic and sustainable resources
CONS: No air conditioning, Service was a bit hit and miss, Possible bush insects in the evening, Only accessible via boat or seaplane, Limited parking on Kirkpatrick Way side, Minimum 5 courses, Expensive, Expect a long sitting, Table support design can make it awkward to sit with your feet comfortably flat, Mastercard and Visa attracts a 2% surcharge
MUST TRY: Amuse-bouche Salmon, Beignets of Hawkesbury oysters, Andrew Thomas Shiraz 2009, Mango souffle, French cheeses
WORTH TRYING: Wagyu 'Minute Steak', Barramundi fillet

Car park at Kirkpatrick Way and catching sight of the restaurant in the distance over the water

Signage to private ferry wharf

Private ferry wharf

Short ferry trip to restaurant

Arriving at the restaurant

Private ferry

Originally seated at the south end of restaurant. Our request for a window seat was later arranged during dessert when a table became available and a cooling breeze through the window was then more noticeable.

Start time 1.30 pm

Amuse-bouche Salmon with eggplant puree and salmon roe on a crisp tortilla

Barramundi fillet, sweet green peas, samphire, lemon myrtle

Chilled vichyssoise, oscietra and salmon caviars, beignets of Hawkesbury oysters matched with Lengs and Cooter Riesling 2009, Clare Valley, SA

Lengs and Cooter Riesling 2009, Clare Valley, SA

Sourdough bread roll with unsalted butter

Multigrain bread roll with salted butter

Roast local quail breast, langoustine croustillant, spinach-fennel puree

Wagyu 'Minute Steak', naive pepper berry, shallots, celeriac matched with Andrew Thomas 'Two of a kind' Shiraz 2009, Hunter Valley-McLaren Vale NSW-SA

Andrew Thomas 'Two of a kind' Shiraz 2009, Hunter Valley-McLaren Vale NSW-SA

Amuse-bouche Roast pumpkin soup with crsuhed amaretto biscuit on top

Terracotta clay with squab pre cooked for 10 minutes then brought to your table to ceremoniously crack/smash with a kitchen mallet

Squab revealed and taken back to the kitchen to be pan fried and plated. Vegetarians probably won't like this part but it seems there's only one meal for them to choose from on the menu anyway so I'm not sure if they're actually catered for.

Squad baked in terracotta clay, foie gras cromesquis, mixed wood mushrooms, sauteed potato gnocchi (two people) matched with Spinifex 'Taureau' Tempranillo-Graciano-Carignon-Cabernet Sauvignon 2008, Barossa Valley, SA

Spinifex 'Taureau' Tempranillo-Graciano-Carignon-Cabernet Sauvignon 2008, Barossa Valley, SA

Kawarau Organic Sauvignon Blanc 2009, Central Otago NZ ($13 glass)

Roquefort Blue FR, Clarin De Perins Washed Rind Cheese FR, Holy Goat 'La Luna' Organic Goats Milk Cheese AUS, Ossau Iraty Sheeps Milk Cheese FR, Alpage Raw Cows Milk Cheese Swiss matched with Massena Barbera 2010

Waiter, there's a hole in my cracker

Massena Barbera 2010, Barossa Valley

De Bortoli Noble One 2007

Lustau Solera Reserva PX Pedro Ximénez San Emilio Sherry

Pre-dessert pineapple jelly with malibu coconut foam

White chocolate parfait, Kirsch macerated cherries

Lemon & lime custard, aubergine crisp, strawberries, basil

Mango souffle, passionfruit ripple icecream, mango

Dark amedei chocolate tart, raspberries, yoghurt cream

Peppermint tea, Flat white

Fruit mince pie (very sweet), Pistachio macaron, Chocolate truffle with salted vanilla, Blood peach jelly (very sugary coating)

Finish time 5.30 pm

View from the North end of the restaurant looking South

L'occitane liquid soap and nice hand towels — although they seemed to run out twice during my 4 hour stay

Awkward leg room with design of centre table support. 'Form follows function' is unfortunately sometimes comprised by visual aesthetics

Room with a view — request a window seat in your booking

Seaplane for those a bit more cashed up


joey@forkingaroundsydney said...

What a fabulous pre-birthday! The wagyu looks perfectly pink and the tortilla looks delish, and those desserts!

john@heneedsfood said...

Happy Birthday young man! My 40th is still a couple of months away & I still don't know what I'm doing. I'm actually horrified to hear there's no air-con up there. That's a very expensive camping trip. If I ever go I'll be sure to bring the Aeroguard!

thanh7580 said...

Looks like a great location, but too bad about the comfort and service part. And yes, why do people bring screaming kids to a restaurant like that. There are more family friendly restaurants available.

YaYa said...

I believe the restaurant was designed on environmentally sound principles negating the need for active air conditioning but when you hit one of Sydney's humid airless days, unfortunately not much can be done about creating cross currents! The food does look good though!

Tina@foodboozeshoes said...

Love the mallet for the clay - but it needs to go back to cook? What's the point...?
Looks and sounds like a great occasion restaurant...

linda said...

We had the same problem with the petit fours as well when we dined there last month. We had to remind the waitress about the missing petit four which she didn't seem to be too happy bringing out.

howard said...

Fair call about the aircon! We were looking it was quite cool when we went, god knows what it would have been like if we dined on a day like yesterday! (Australia day).

OohLookBel said...

Very honest, thorough review. The food does look pretty good, though if I ever go, I'll make sure it's an early booking on a sunny winter's day with someone else paying.

Richard Elliot said...

As I mentioned at dinner the other week, I love your reviews for the honesty. Too many bloggers out there only focus on the positives which give people who follow the recommendations false expectations.

Despite the over heating, insect bites, credit card surcharges, uncomfortable foot room and bad smells I'm still going to go. That view and the pics fo the food are too enticing! I am going to ask for a seat by the window though!

Food Fashion Victim * said...

Food looks delicious & nice photography Simon !!
I have been meaning to try Berowra Water Inn ~ now it has definitely moved up on the eating itinerary xox*

Mel said...

nice place for special occasions!

bbsnoopy said...

Oh Wow - 4 hrs without aircon...
Atleast the food and the view looks super awesomeness!!! :)
happy belated birthday~!

foodwink said...

Glad that you have made it to BWI :) And happy belated birthday! Love that toilet shot ...

Anonymous said...

I won a company incentive trip to eat there a couple of years ago. Our seaplane flight took us about 15 minutes to fly there from Rose Bay in spring!

We feasted on the degustation menu and it's an absolute experience that blew me away! One of the best dining experiences of my life!

Simon Leong said...

hi joey, i'm so glad the food was good.

hi john, hope your plans for your 40th go well but i'm sure it will be a special one. expensive camping trip indeed although the food was much better than any camping trip i've been on :-) aeroguard would be advisable at night although they might even provide?

hi thanh, i think some people really don't give a damn about bringing their kids along to places which is a real shame, especially places which are trying to make it a very special experience.

hi yaya, i'm all for environmental buildings but perhaps on some unfortunate days the air con could have been used.

hi tina, the theatrics of the kitchen. i guess they thought it would be entertaining for some people. perhaps they might also introduce catching your own fish from the river and killing it hehe

hi linda, they present it on a large tray so i guess it's rather heavy to carry but they shouldn't forget about it. a definite oversight by the wait staff — perhaps you had the same waiter?

hi howard, australia day would have been a total disaster if they were open i suspect.

hi bel, pick your weather season carefully. the cooler months will hopefully be a lot safer bet :-)

hi richard, hope you get your window seat and you get great weather to enjoy so you can focus on the food. looking forward to reading your review.

hi food fashion victim, i hope you enjoy the experience if you go.

hi mel, if all goes well it should be a very nice special occasion.

hi bbsnoopy, thanks for the birthday wish. i think the view will always remain consistently good.

hi foodwink, you know me and my toilet shots hehe

hi Anonymous, glad to hear you had a wonderful time. going for free is even better :-)

Anonymous said...

Very nice photo's. You captured the place very well. Aircon would be a travesty at the Inn. Glenn Murcutt would (in all likelyhood) not look on the building as fondly as he does. If you want a 24c box to eat in year round, then Berowra is not your place.

Simon Leong said...

hi anonymous, hopefully luck is on your side when dining for nice weather which isn't too hot :-)

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