There aren’t many restaurants that can boast having an entrance like that of Berowra Waters Inn. Accessible only via Seaplane, private boat or by the restaurant’s private ferry, diners have no choice but to be whisked over the Hawkesbury River to what feels like remote bushland. Even before we reach the wharf, just driving through Ku-ring-gai National Park, there’s an immediate sense of calm and tranquility.
Booked for lunch at 12 noon, we arrive promptly at the wharf and get the royal treatment, with a private ferry, waiting for just the two of us. It’s a gentle five minute cruise along the river, but the anticipation is too great. I sit right at the front, trying to catch my first glimpse of the remote restaurant.
There’s an elegant appeal about Berowra Waters Inn. I love how it subtly blends into the rugged landscape, yet has a relaxed sophistication to it. The first thing I notice are the white crisp tablecloths – all that natural light bounces off them, making the interior glow with warmth.
Regarded as one of Sydney’s most historic (the Inn first opened in the 1920’s but carbon dated Aboriginal midden remains were uncovered during cellar renovations by Tony Bilson in 1976 and found to be 7000 years old – Berowra Waters Inn could therefore claim to be the oldest continuously used dining room in the world!) fine dining destinations, the restaurant entered a new chapter in late 2012 with chef Brian Geraghty (ex Quay and Bilson’s) stepping into the role of head chef and owner. Also with two-Michelin Star, Pied a Terre under his belt, Brian is definitely one young chef to watch!
The menu is degustation-only, but why would you make all that effort to travel here and have anything less! It’s $175 per person, or $250 with matching drinks, and as you’re about to see, it is worth every cent!
We start with drinks, Zen has a glass of Champagne (Grosset Grand Rose Brut) and still on my alcohol-free ‘my body is my temple‘ diet, I have a fruity mocktail which has refreshing pineapple notes. Having both taken Friday afternoon off to enjoy this leisurely gastronomic experience, we let out a breath of relief as we finally let the hectic week slip into the back of our minds. The restaurant is only open for lunch on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, and dinner on Fridays and Saturdays. It’s hard to comprehend how the business could be sustainable with such limited opening hours, but I think the exclusivity works in their favour, especially when paired with the novelty of flying or sailing here. It’s no doubt perfect for special occasions if you’re out to impress, or if you’re like us, celebrating Friday is an excuse as good as any!
The amuse bouche is a tomato sorbet, with tomato jelly, parmesan custard and basil powder. The presentation is exquisite and the matte sheen on the tomato jelly is amazing. As is, the parmesan custard, which I can’t get enough of! I’ve always loved the idea of starting with dessert first so this combination of sweet and savoury gets big ticks from me – it really does the job of opening up my appetite!
The breads on offer are onion brioche and mini white loaves. I opt for one of each and lather on so much tomato butter that we’re offered a second serve. The tomato butter is extremely light and fluffy, the flavour is more subtle and not as intense as the earlier sorbet, but still tomatoy enough to appreciate the delicateness of the fruit. Clearly making the most of tomatoes which are in season, I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed tomatoes as much as I just have.
First course is Scallops, Brandade & Cauliflower (matched with Domaine Pierre de La Grange Muscadet Sevre et Maine Vieilles Vignes, France) – I’m instantly drawn to the blowtorched scallops which have a gorgeous smokey flavour. The bits of fish crackling provide a satisfying crunch against the hearty cauliflower puree.
The next course is Ocean Trout, Smoked Milk & Dashi (matched with 2013 Scott Winemaking Fiano, Adelaide Hills), topped with playful golden crisp ribbons. I’m initially not excited by the foam, until I taste it, and realise it’s dashi stock which has a wonderful umami throughout it. There are so many layers of flavours here that each lift the ocean trout’s pure clean taste and gelatinous texture.
The Bacon & Egg is served in the most unimaginably gracious way possible. A puree of bacon and shallots sit beneath a perfectly slow poached egg (which according to sources, have been permeated with truffles for a week) and to add table-side theatrics, roast potato consomme is added before our eyes. A slight poke of the egg leads a pool of egg yolk to gloriously ooze out.
Victoria, our sommelier and Brian’s partner keeps us guessing at every point, only revealing the source of the matched drinks after each course. Zen is most excited about this one, a beer called Happy Goblin from a micro-brewery in the local Mt Ku-ring-gai area.
It takes great skill to turn sweetbreads into such a work of art, and the next course, Sweetbread & Pumpkin (matched with 2011 Paymanok dry rose, North Fork of Long Island, NY, USA) is so artistically executed, that the sweet honey gloss, crunchy pepita and pumpkin puree distracts us from the fact that we’re eating offal.
The Duck, Cabbage & Peach (matched with 2012 Hecht & Bannier Languedoc, Languedoc-Roussillon, France) is an easy combination to lust after. The duck is served two ways, one is confit and wrapped in a cabbage roll, and the other is slow-roasted. Every element looks like it has been precisely positioned to add depth to the dish.
Just as I thought we’d reached the peak of the degustation, a captivating cheese course of Goat Cheese, Beetroot & Licorice (matched with Jacoulot Ratafia de Bourgogne, France) is served. Again, Brian’s meticulous presentation makes this a feast for the eyes. Beetroot gel coats a ball of goats cheese bavarois, imitating the appearance of a shiny apple. Beetroot sorbet and a licorice soil add earthy flavours and balances the creaminess of the goats cheese. This is beyond divine.
A pre-dessert of roast coconut mousse and cucumber sorbet looks under-dressed in comparison to its predecessors, but it’s actually mind-blowingly delicious and utterly refreshing.
The finale of Apple & Doughnut (matched with Fusta Nova Moscatel, Valencia, Spain) is a deconstructed apple crumble with similar decadent and comforting tones, but much more luxurious of course.
We finish with tea, coffee and petit fours, and depart feeling rejuvenated and excited about the short ferry ride back to the car. What a way to start the weekend!
Berowra Waters Inn
Public Wharves, Berowra Waters, NSW
Phone: (02) 9456 1027
I Ate My Way Through dined as guests of Berowra Waters Inn with thanks to Impressions Marketing Communications