The Boathouse on Blackwattle Bay
It was only 10 minutes to six but night had already fallen over Blackwattle Bay, painting the waters obsidian black. Their restless surface reflected the harbouring city, neon corridors of concrete and steel that set the waves alight. Our family of six had come ten minutes early, too eager for the seafood feast to come. I clutched onto my jacket tightly, bracing against the unexpectedly chilly May weather.
The Boathouse on Blackwattle Bay stood humble but elegantly in a little outpouch of Kirribilli, a glasshouse reinforced by timber and brick. As six o'clock approached, there appeared a flood of yellow light, a smatter of sound as waitstaff flung open the door and ushered us up the narrow staircase and into the restaurant. In the dimly-lit boathouse, the glittering bayside view and open kitchen, both cordoned off by glass, stole focus. We were led to our seats with friendly aplomb. The service was excellent, as expected for fine dining.
Conversation moved glacially until our drinks arrived. We clutched pretty glasses of white sangria blooming with sweet acidity from the addition of lychee, mint, lime and strawberry. The boys sipped on bourbon, swilling the toffee-brown contents with relaxed grins.
Oyster aficionado I am not and with 15 varieties I was well out of my depth. It was lucky that I had Ange - a seasoned oyster-lover! - by my side who ordered 12 oysters - 6 Pambula Rock and 6 Moonlight Kisses Rock. They were lovely and creamy, the Pambula oysters moreso, pairing well with the accompanying Brasserie Bread selection and acidic mignonette.
The Golden Brook trout caviar, sourced from Yarra Valley, arrived with much fanfare looking more like a science experiment than a seafood delicacy perched on vessels of pristine glassware. With a clean spatula, the caviar was spread onto plump potato blinis alongside a dab of wasabi and a schmear of creme fraiche. Light, pedantic and a little indulgent, it whet the appetite for the meal to come.
Elegant, flavoursome and 'un po' a little (in Italian). We ordered almost every dish - you should do the same! My favourite was the sexily draped salmon sashimi, so fatty and luxurious, every chew punctuated by crispy greenery. Perfection.
The yellowfin tuna was fatty and melted in the mouth, so pleasurable to eat alongside the classically Japanese flavours of wasabi and ponzu. A shard of crispy rice brought a pop of texture to this otherwise smooth-flowing dish lubricated by a creamy mayonnaise.
Cooked well and perched upon a wholesome bed of farrow, the quail dish boasted sweet, caramelised and buttery flavours. The skin was lightly scorched with a lovely chew, the meat soft and blushing pink within.
The table favourite were the Roast Yamba Tiger Prawns, so juicy buttery and imbued with smoky 'wok hei' (usually a term I reserve for Asian dishes, wok hei seems right in this context). The flesh was plump and almost silken against the coarse grits and crackling. The prawn head concealed an immeasurable density of flavour.
Exquisite in their own right, we found ours bellies ballooning from the richness of the mains, savoury morsels that left us scraping the plate for more. The snapper pie, a main that graced virtually every table, was our pick of the night, wheeled out and served before diners with a crack of the flaky brown crust. Swimming in a ridiculously luxe soubise (a classic French onion gravy sauce), the snapper was tender and aromatic with truffle flavour. The accompanying smoked tomato and potato mash were good complements to a dish that could have been otherwise overpowering but were not particularly memorable.
All other dishes paled in comparison but were still elegantly done. Crusted in a golden polenta finish, the flathead had a lot of textures running through the dish and a smokiness from the char grilled corn. The protein was a touch more 'done' than I would have liked but the salty meaty chorizo and briny flavour from squid and ink brought bags of flavour to the plate.
The chargrilled swordfish was a delicately composed dish, another fish dish elevated by the harmonious complements of eggplant, capers, radicchio and almonds. Personally, I found it on the small side but found each mouthful pleasurable and well-calibrated.
While Boathouse focuses primarily on seafood, carnivores need not miss out! While the wagyu was not very fatty or well-marbled (as higher grade wagyu should be), it was decently seared with a juicy pink centre. The supporting cast of bone marrow, shallots and cavalo nero lent a sweet fattiness to the savoury profile of the dish.
Have I told you how much I love brussel sprouts? The typical 'go-to' vegetable when people are hating on greens, this side dish would convert a non-believer in a heartbeat. Smoky, charred and loaded with oodles of earthy textures, it was topped off with a beautifully soft burrata, a semi-soft mozzarella cheese filled with a heart of cream.
Mud crab was ordered as we weren't sure if we had enough food but behold, everyone sat clutching their stomachs in defeat by the time this final dish arrived. It was a good thing that I had brought the boyfriend along, whom Ange laughingly dubbed my 'BFG', or Big Friendly Giant. Inspired by Chinese 'salt and pepper' flavours, the sweet shallots and considerable 'wok breath' gained this dish the Chinese Parent Seal of Approval. The BFG alone conquered this dish, methodically extracting the tender meat and relishing the satisfyingly salty crunch of the batter.
Complimentary fruit jellies were a perfect finale for a family too full for dessert. Under a sugar-blinged surface, they were tart and gooey. I would have traded in a year of my life for one more sweet (figuratively speaking, but still they were great!).
The restaurant was quite dimly lit as pictured here, not great for photography but good food and incredible waterfront views of the city more than make up for this. The service is impeccable and food showcases the excellent local seafood Sydney has to offer. Boathouse at Blackwattle Bay is a rare pearl adrift in a sea of ordinary restaurant options and one I see myself returning to time and time again (so long as they keep that glorious snapper pie on the menu!).
The Boathouse at Blackwattle Bay
123 Ferry Rd, Glebe