It's called The Boathouse Effect. Food lands on the table, eyes widen, mouths form a "wow". But instead of picking up a knife and fork, the hands reach out for a smartphone.
I bet Instagram threw a party when news broke that the team behind the ridiculously photogenic, freshly styled Boathouses at Palm Beach and Balmoral Beach had been awarded the lease of the Shelly Beach kiosk.
Owners Andrew and Pip Goldsmith and exec chef Tom Eadie promptly set about "Boathousing'' the historic site, transforming it into the free-flowing indoors/outdoors beach house of your dreams. Piles of fresh fruit, huge outcrops of glorious flowers, wicker chairs, graceful chandeliers of oyster shells or twisted rope, and a flickering open fire make it the sort of place you just want to snap and hashtag #wishyouwerehere.
There's a vignette everywhere you turn, from the wood-fired pizza oven on the terrace, to the beach views from the function room balcony above. Even the stormwater drain has been restyled into a tinkling waterfall.
Before you ask – yes, the beer-battered fish and chips (snap) and the built-up Boathouse burger (snap) are here, as is the rather ruthless find-your-own-seat and order-your-own-food regimen at breakfast and lunch.
But this is the first Boathouse to open at night as well, and not only do they take reservations for dinner, they also do table service. Even on a dark and windy night, the place is packed to the rafters with sweet 16 birthday parties, family groups, daters and local couples. Making full use of the flash new kitchen, Eadie fleshes out the Boathouse favourites on the menu with serious main courses, including a 400-gram aged rib-eye on the bone ($42) and a terrific brined and roasted Thirlmere duck ($39) lacquered with honeyed duck juices. But it's hard to go past seafood at a boathouse.
The whippy, lightly smoky trout pate ($18) teamed with a stack of beetroot-coloured buckwheat blinis is hard to beat, as is a flashy little fry-up of calamari, school prawns and whitebait ($23) tangled with herbs. Green spaghetti ($32), is a crowd-pleaser piled high with scampi, pippies and prawns, although it's almost too clean and healthy for the likes of me. A scorchy, bubble-crusted, wood-fired flatbread is a nice surprise, topped with garlic, eggplant and mozza, and accessorised with skewers of fat, grilled sardines in a clever deconstruct on pizza.
I've had only the one dessert, a tropical gathering of coconut sorbet, pine nut crumbs, banana cream and honey panna cotta squeezed into a coconut shell ($14), but it is fun.
Drinks range from colourful juices to fruity-fresh cocktails, and wines are corralled into two price points - either $9 a glass and $39 a bottle, or $14/$65. The opulent and elegant Mt Difficulty 2013 Pinot Noir ($65) wins my Smallest Mark-Up Of The Year Award, selling at my local liquor store for just $5 less. The wine glasses themselves are on the utilitarian side.
The gorgeously styled, just-shoot-me dishes go some way to ease the painful queues by day, waiting for ditherers to work out whether to have the golden fish pie or the bright, fresh, green-upon-green Boathouse salad. They also tell me Tom Eadie is a chef to watch; capable of more than the most photographed fish and chips in town.
Even so, I suggest you go while it's still cold and dark. By the time it's warm and sunny, this place is going to break Instagram.
Best bit: Dinner by the beach
Worst bit: D-I-Y ordering at breakfast and lunch
Go-to dish: Flatbread with sardines, chilli, tomatoes and basil, $21
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.
- Cuisine - Modern Australian
- Prices - About $85 for two, plus drinks at dinner (About $55 at lunch; $40 at breakfast)
- Features - Private dining, Accepts bookings, Views, Outdoor seating
- Opening Hours - Breakfast daily 7-11.30am; Lunch daily noon-3pm; Dinner Tue-Sat 6-10pm
- Author - Terry Durack
Full article: http://www.goodfood.com.au/good-food/eat-out/review/restaurant/the-boathouse-shelly-beach-20150720-3zmdv.html