Nestled deep within the beautiful surroundings of Q Station, The Boilerhouse Harbourside Restaurant & Bar offers diners a tranquil escape from their bustling city life.
Q Station, formerly known as the Quarantine Station, is located on the north side of Sydney Harbour at North Head, near Manly. It operated as a quarantine station from 1832 to 1984, making it the oldest of its kind in Australia. Today, Q Station is a luxury retreat, with a hotel, conference centres and restaurants on site, as well as an offering of actives for all ages.
The Boilerhouse Restaurant is located in one of the original buildings from the quarantine days, and is only accessible by shuttle bus from reception (no other cars are allowed on-site) or via the Sydney Harbour Ecohopper, which arrives directly at Q Station Wharf.
Chef Matt Kemp undertook the role of Executive Chef at the Boilerhouse in March of this year, adding another notch to his already impressive bedpost.
Inside, exposed pipes and brickwork paired with modern lights, thoughtful décor and natural Australian flora means the restaurant simply embodies industrial chic. Outside, the sprawling outdoor terrace is relaxed and airy, perfect for summer dining.
Flanked by spectacular natural bushland on one side and beautiful water views on the other, the Boilerhouse offers diners contemporary Australian cuisine, with an emphasis on fresh seasonal produce. Chef Matt and his team create a range of seasonal menus throughout the year, focusing on the ingredients that are in their prime.
We were invited to try the new Spring/Summer menu, and were given a delicious selection of dishes from the à la carte menu, as well as a couple of spectacular creations from the kitchen.
Some little amuse-bouches came out first: a Vietnamese seaweed cracker; fried polenta bites; and a cauliflower and chorizo tart. They came served on a bed of smooth rocks, which was a nice touch. All were delicious, each with distinct flavours and textures.
For entrée we had a special creation from the weekend: some big, succulent king prawns with textures of cauliflower, and sprinkled with salmon roe. The prawns were sweet and meaty, and the creamy cauliflower purée was a lovely base. The vibrant salmon roe jumped off the plate, and burst in the mouth like little orange balloons.
The next dish was another weekend special, and the open-plan kitchen gave me the opportunity to watch fabulous Sous Chef James Green plate up. After a violent splash of red beetroot across the plate, Chef James delicately placed all the other elements of the dish: orange segments, radicchio, paper-thin slices of radish and micro greens, and finally a perfectly cooked morsel of crispy-skinned duck breast. It looked like art, and tasted even better. The duck was juicy, crispy and salty, and the sweet orange balanced out the bitterness of the radicchio. Light, colourful and delicious.
Somewhere between the amuse-bouches and the duck dish, we were visited by a most unexpected guest — an adorable little long-nosed bandicoot! Notoriously elusive animals, this little guy was no doubt drawn in by the warmth of the light and the mouthwatering smells coming from the kitchen. I’m sure he was hoping to sample the wondrous delights from Chef Matt!
For mains, I was given the Pink Snapper ($35) with ‘Petit Pois À La Française’ and salt & pepper squid. The serving was generous, and the crispy squid on top made me want to jump right in. Hidden underneath the fillet of fish was a garden of beautifully prepared vegetables sitting on a bed of vibrant green pea puree. The whole dish was textural and deliciously buttery.
The other main was not on the à la carte menu. It was a lamb dish that came with golden, crispy chunks of fried polenta, green beans and a capsicum sauce. Cooked to perfection, the lamb was juicy and tender, and the polenta gave a welcome crunch. To me, this dish is quintessentially Australian — the use of lamb (you never lamb alone) and the colours of charred brown, dusty orange ochre and deep green.
If you have a sweet tooth, perhaps you’re in the habit of looking at the dessert menu first, so you can choose your mains accordingly and save stomach room. No? Just me then? Well, either way you won’t be disappointed with the dessert offerings here. The Eton Mess ($16) and the Spiced Poached Pears with muscovado sugar crème caramel ($16) are both from the à la carte menu.
The crème caramel was glossy and inviting, with spectacular aromas swirling around it. The flavours were decidedly wintry, but the soft caramel paired with the crisp pears kept the dish light and perfect for Spring.
On the other hand, the Eton Mess was Summer on a plate. Little mounds of cream and fresh berries formed the foundations from which lovely big shards of meringue sprouted, giving the dish impressive height. A perfect sphere of raspberry sorbet sat in the middle, and the whole dish was drizzled with a berry sauce and dusted with freeze dried raspberries. Crisp and crunchy, tart and sweet, cold and smooth. Pure delight.
It’s clear Chef Matt and his team know what they’re doing. And I love that they are given the time and space to play. Creativity in the kitchen is paramount to a restaurant’s success, and as long as the team here at the Boilerhouse can continue to play and create, I think they’ll be welcoming guests for a while to come.
The Boilerhouse Restaurant & Bar
Q Station – Sydney Harbour National Park
North Head Scenic Drive, Manly NSW
Phone: (02) 9466 1511
I Ate My Way Through dined as guests of Q Station