Berowra Waters Inn
Refinement in a bush setting proves that Berowra Waters Inn hasn't finished making history yet.
Berowra Waters Inn holds a semi-mystical position in Australian culinary history. Arriving on a summer's day with remnant bushfire smoke over the sparkly water of the Hawkesbury river, the restaurant is concealed in a fitting magical haze. Dusthole Bay is filled with dinky boats that seem to be straight out of a Dr Seuss storybook — a boy putts past us in a rusted red tinnie with his kelpie sitting at the helm as we take the short ferry trip to the restaurant, which has been operating under Irish-born chef Brian Geraghty for a bit over a year now.
Only an hour out of the city, with a feeling of timelessness and food to rival any city establishment, Berowra Waters is just the ticket for city slickers in need of a day's rural rejuvenation.
The sandstone icon, originally designed by Glenn Murcutt, hovers on the cliff edge like a genteel houseboat that might sail off at any moment. Inside we're welcomed by modest formality: the famous Fritz Hansen Series 7 chairs at white linen tables, a sage green banquette with black trimming set into the sandstone, a silver vase of proteas. The Australian decor, including expansive watercolours by local artist Chris Kenyon, is elegant and successfully resists Australiana. Geraghty's partner, Victoria, leads a bright, professional team on the floor.
Thirty-year-old Geraghty's experience at Quay, Pied a Terre and Bilson's informs a classic approach to the four- or seven-course degustations on offer. Australian poet Martin Langford wrote a poem called Mahler in Midsummer, in which he describes Mahler's heavy European music vanishing in the Australian heat. The same might be said of French food in an Australian summer. White borage, baby coriander and shiso expire before they reach the table, and a creme fraiche boudin amuse-bouche only just holds its form in the heat. However, the trout mousse in a salted caramel tuile withstands it — a little barrel of sophistication.
The menu hits its straps at the third course with swordfish, avocado and squid arriving under a layer of cucumber jelly. The al dente cubed squid is a textural bridge between the avocado puree and firm swordfish. Geraghty's umber squid consomme and jelly is deep sea serious, matched well by a 2011 Joseph Cattin Gewurztraminer, the lychee and passionfruit notes holding their own against the umami of the squid consomme.
Beef short rib in anchovy crust with watercress is a satisfying end to the main course and the 2010 Coto de Hayas Crianza Tempranillo Grenache is a suitably weighty match.
Before dessert we're presented with goat's cheese, Corella pear jelly and hazelnut mousse, unhappily accompanied by toasted muesli. Geraghty's defence of the offending muesli is that his Irish childhood was full of oatcakes. We'll forgive him the nostalgia because the Old Rosie Cloudy Cider is such a good match for the cheese itself, the lactic kick from the cheese and grassy funk of the cider a perfect combination for a hot day on the river.
To avoid the ignoble task of driving back to Sydney through peak hour, either catch the seaplane home with all your gold bullion or book a couple of days at the Calabash Bay Lodge just up the river.
The charm of Geraghty and team's refinement in a bush setting proves that Berowra Waters Inn hasn't finished making history yet.