Via the east and west public docks
See the map
|Opening hours||Lunch Fri-Sun; dinner Fri-Sat|
|Characteristics||Takes Reservations, Tasting, Events, Groups, Licenses, Long Lunch, Open Fire, Outdoor Seating, Romantic for a First Date, Vegetarian Friendly, Views, Private Room, Gluten-Free Options|
|Prices||Expensive (mains over $40)|
|Payments||Diner’s Club, eftpos, AMEX, Cash, Visa, Mastercard|
|Call||02 9456 1027|
If there’s a better way to start lunch than a boat ride through Berowra Creek, I can’t say I’ve experienced it. The free transfer from the dock to Berowra Waters Inn takes just five minutes, but the moment you hop on the restaurant’s flat-bottomed tinnie, a four-hour vacation begins. See you later, worries of the week. Hello, ancient bush, louvered windows and noble food.
Since its construction in the 1930s, the sandstone lodge has only been accessible by boat (or seaplane, if money doesn’t stop you from having a good time), largely because of the rock-lined cliffs. angophores that surround it. Even if there was a road, I wouldn’t take it. The punt is part of the fun.
I’m back on board for the first time in four years, partly because it’s always nice to eat oysters in a room with a view that would excite Arthur Streeton, and partly because talented pastry chef Lauren Eldridge has joined the kitchen in May and I keep hearing fabulous things about her desserts.
Spoiler in: These candies are worth more than the pilgrimage, especially the paper-thin rhubarb curls crowning the freeze-dried yogurt and rhubarb sorbet. Davidson plum powder brings the frilly creation to life and a sticky Margan Estate Semillon sends the dish into orbit. Maybe I waited too long between drinks.
Berowra Waters was originally a teahouse for the people of Hawkesbury River. Restaurateurs Gay and Tony Bilson took over in 1976, commissioning architect Glenn Murcutt to carry out an expensive redevelopment, and the restaurant led the new Australian restaurant movement into the decadent 1980s. Champagne Bollinger on arrival, bone marrow with brioche and a fight to see who will have the first crack of the crème brûlée.
The intense collaboration between Gay Bilson and chef Janni Kyritsis earned the gourmet restaurant a ranking of three hats during the 1984 edition (and first) of Sydney Morning Herald Food Guide. Bilson put the building up for sale nine years later, and Swiss-born chef Dietmar Sawyere propelled the inn to further fame in the late 2000s.
Brian Geraghty took over in 2012 and has been at the helm of hallowed ground ever since. His kitchen has gotten tighter and smarter since my last visit, and a new six-course tasting menu (there’s no a la carte) is one of the most enjoyable ways to spend a fall afternoon. .
Ingredients are often marinated, blitzed or reduced with delicious results. Dried sea urchin butter, for example, enhancing the rump cap of dry-aged wagyu poached in its own melted fat before lighting the charcoal hibachi grill.
The pork is slow-cooked in a buzzing master blend of star anise, ginger and orange, and pressed overnight for a devilishly sharp crackle – terrific with prune puree and a plate of ham hock terrine .
The focus is on indigenous ingredients that go beyond the odd spoonful of lime. Sweet and buttery raw trevally resists oil infused with black pepper and vinegar made from fermented bankia nectar. This is a very good dish, topped with salted sea fennel blossoms shaped like a caper and pickled daikon radish for crunch.
Eldridge follows his rhubarb number with roasted figs lightly cooked in verjuice syrup and bundled with bright rum caramel. Accompanied by fig leaf ice cream and a sprig of toasted meringue, it’s a striking and soothing end to a meal, and arguably even better with a local whiskey by the dining room fire.
Young sommelier Darcy Creenaune Ellis compiled an all-Australian drink list, meaning he stepped out with the French bubbly and a 2010 Stefano Lubiana Grande Reserve Brut ($142) from Tasmania. Smallpox on the hour-long drive back to town that prevents a bottle from popping. Rookie mistake, should have booked an Airbnb.
The restaurant may one day once again reach the heights of its Bilson era, but if that requires imported caviar and truffles, I’d rather Geraghty and Eldridge stick to their current, more considered path.
There are hundreds of fine restaurants today with ingredients rich in falutin, but few offer a singular Australian experience like the one found at Berowra Waters today. My next creek crossing won’t take four years.
Atmosphere: An escape by the river to quietly take the boat out
Essential dish: Rhubarb, yogurt and Davidson plum
Drinks : An all-Australian adventure through beer, wine and spirits, with a range of prices and styles
Cost: Tasting menu only, $195 per person; Options of $90 or $130 for paired wines
This review was originally published in Have a nice week end magazine