Celebrating in style at Berowra Waters Inn

by Forager on May 3, 2010

If you read my previous post – you’ll know that I just turned 30 and as it’s widely recognised as a milestone worth celebrating, I was getting spoilt by friends and family. As this year my birthday fell  on a midweek day, the Co-pilot took me to Berowra Waters Inn for an early surprise birthday treat on the weekend leading up to it.

I tried to guess where we were heading but can safely say I was absolutely stumped (I’m terrible with directions), and it was only when standing on the pier waiting for the ferry to pick us up did I guess where we were heading. The Co-pilot did his best to shield my ears from the conversations of other waiting passengers, but in the end the signage on the ferry picking us up gave away the secret location.

Berowra Waters Inn is located at Dust Point on beautiful Berowra Waters, about an hours drive from the Sydney CBD. It was bought in 1975 by Tony and Gay Bilson, redesigned by legendary Australian architect Glenn Murcutt, and opened in 1976 under owner Gay Bilson and Chef Janni Kyritsis (owner and chef at MG Garage). It was acclaimed as Australia’s first gastronomic experience and delighted patrons until it closed in 1995 when Gay Bilson retired. It re-opened in 2007 under Chef Dietmar Sawyeres (of Forty One Restaurant fame), and patrons are offered an extensive French and Italian inspired tasting menu to go with the spectacular view.

Berowra Waters Inn ferry

The Berowra Waters Inn ferry

Berowra Waters Inn

Pulling up to Berowra Waters Inn

Berowra Waters Inn view

The view from our table

The flexible design of the menu allows patrons to choose 4 – 6  individual courses from 11 savoury tasting courses, 5 cheeses and 4 desserts. Given the occasion, we decided to treat ourselves and get six tasting courses each,  and to maximise the number of things we tried from the menu – we of course ensured they were all as different as possible. We wanted to indulge in the matching wines, but as the Co-pilot was driving, we shared the wines matched to my courses. And in hindsight I was relieved that we chose the wines, because for me it undoubtedly enhanced the overall dining experience.

Whilst we took in our view and contemplated the occasion, we were brought a complementary starter of citrus-infused salmon, salmon roe and guacamole. These were gobbled up quickly, the citrus subtle and perceptible, giving the rich salmon a zing. We were also brought little sourdough loaves. Having French butter with them was a nice decadent touch, and of course, for that reason, we ate too much of it.

salmon and guacamole

Citrus infused salmon, salmon roe and guacamole

Sourdough and French butter

Sourdough and French butter

For our first course we both decided to order the vichyssoise and oysters as it sounded so mouthwatering, neither of us wanted to share half with the other. The oysters were just ever so lightly fried to retain their freshness and hiding beneath the oysters in the shell was a delicious salty, savoury leek concoction. But it was all about the creamy vichyssoise. The crunch of the crispy croutons, the salty pop of the salmon and Oscietra caviar pearls contrasted against the rich velvety texture of the vichyssoise, coating our mouths with its creaminess. Just divine and we were groaning audibly with delight.

On its own, the accompanying riesling was too bright and acidic for my palette but was a perfect accompaniment with this dish, ruthlessly slicing through and mellowing the rich, creamy, fried and savoury flavours.

Vichyssoise, caviar, oysters

Chilled vichyssoise, Oscietra and salmon caviars, beignets of Hawkesbury oysters. Matching wine: Hewitson 'Gun Metal' Riesling 2009, Eden Valley South Australia

Hidden caviar in the vichyssoise

Hidden caviar in the vichyssoise

For our second course, the Co-pilot chose the aubergine ravioli – a delicious dish of rich aubergine parcels folded over like tender ravioli, their richness brightened by the very moreish olive oil and lemon sorbet. I chose the grilled scallops and peppered oxtail. The scallops were fantastic – so plump and juicy and the flakes of peppered oxtail tender and soft within the crunchy croustillant casing.

The accompanying petit chablis, from the Chablis region in France is a French chardonnay that was bright, dry and acidic with lime and green apple flavours. Like the riesling accompanying the first course, I didn’t think it suited my palette until I tried it with the scallop. I was astounded as how well matched the wine was to the grilled scallop. Just when scallop flavours have dissipated from your last bite, the wine brings all those savoury, grilled flavours to the forefront again.  The Co-pilot initially laughed at my “exaggerated” overreaction, until he tried the scallop and wine combination for himself and confirmed all that I thought with a simple and quiet “wow”.

Aubergine ravioli

Aubergine ravioli, bocconcini, basil, lemon-olive oil sorbet, sauce vierge

Sea scallops, peppered oxtail

Grilled sea scallops, peppered oxtail croustillant, pumpkin. Matching wine: Domaine La Roche Petit Chablis 2006, Petit Chablis, France

Our respective choices for our third course seemed to be the heavy, dense course for us both. The Co-pilot chose the lamb shanks with the steamed bone marrow dumpling. The lamb shank was molten tender if a little salty. It was a nice dish – nothing surprising or special. I chose the quail and foie gras ballotine with yabbies. The yabbies were superb – so plump and juicy, and the quail and foie gras ballotine was as expected, rich, decadent and delicious.

Given our experience with the previous two matched wines, we were both curious to try the New Zealand pinot noir matched to my my dish. The pinot noir had sweet, grassy notes and subtle hints of chamomile. We tried the pinot noir with the Co-pilot’s lamb shanks, and my quail, foie gras and yabbies. But it didn’t even work with the yabbies, the pinot noir was undoubtedly perfectly matched with the quail and foie gras ballotine where it somehow cut through some flavours like the saltiness and enhanced other rich, savoury flavours.

Lamb shank

Lamb shank, steamed bone marrow dumpling, spinach, roast shallot jus

Quail, foie gras, yabbies

Ballotine of local quail, foie gras, yabbies. Matching wine: Te Kairanga Pinot Noir 2008, Martinborough, New Zealand

After our third course we were both feeling heavy and sleepy – and having serious doubts about our ability to get through our six courses. We were surprised then that the complimentary interlude of cauliflower soup with black truffles with it’s rich, heavy flavours was a hit with both of us. We commented on how it was the ultimate instant relaxing brew and could melt away any stresses. We just need someone ready, on the wings to dole these out when life’s stresses hit.

Cauliflower, truffle soup

Cauliflower and black truffle soup

Somehow, the rich soup doubled as a palate cleanser and our appetites were rejuvenated in time for our fourth course. The Co-pilot chose the grilled wagyu which was just seared around the edges and rare within. The dark dollop of fermented garlic both looked and tasted like Vegemite with salty, yeasty flavours and we tried it sparingly with the steak. But the steak didn’t require the additional adornment anyway as the molten soft sinews spoke for themselves.

My dish of langoustine and sweetbreads was particularly intriguing as I normally don’t order sweetbreads with the Co-pilot as he is not a great fan of offal. Being both scientifically trained doesn’t help either as the Co-pilot mutters “mmm, thymus” under his breath as I lift a wobbly chunk of the sweetbreads to my mouth. But, I summoned the strength to cast aside unpleasant thoughts and found the sweetbreads to be delicious – much creamier and fattier than I was accustomed to and I couldn’t help thinking, it was also larger. What causes thyromegaly? Well, it is a major immune gland, so a large thymus is usually a reliable sign of an immunologically challenged animal. Great. Thanks brain for adding that thought in whilst I chewed away. I decided right there that sweetbreads belonged in the category I’d already reserved for spleen, another immune system filter – it was the category best left uneaten. Happily, the langoustine was much less mentally challenging, and I savoured the small, juicy, al dente morsels hidden in the pastilla casing.

The matched wine with the langoustine and sweetbreads was a grenache wine from Sardinia. It wasn’t a pleasant drinking wine. We identified “sweaty saddle-like flavours”, strong tannins and red berries, but all that was over-ridden by an unpleasant slightly bitter chemical edge which I finally picked as iodine. But whilst it was unpleasant as a drinking wine it was perfectly matched to the fatty, rich flavours of the thymus. With anything else the grimace-inducing iodine was omnipresent and overpowering, but with the thymus it was beaten into submission and allowed the other wine flavours to rise. Fascinating!

Wagyu scotch fillet

Grilled Wagyu scotch fillet, celeriac, shallots, fermented garlic

Langoustine, sweetbreads

Langoustine pastilla, sauteed veal sweetbreads, spinach-fennel puree. Matching wine: Sella and Mosca Canonau di Sardegna Riserva 2005, Sardinia, Italy

With the mains completed and the cheese course beckoning, we reflected on our review of the mains. We thought the mains were well balanced in terms of flavours and the order that the different courses were sampled. When we felt full and our palates drenched in salty, savoury flavours after the third course, our fourth courses was pleasantly and surprisingly light. The matched wines were undeniably good. I profess that I’m not a wine connoisseur by any means, but I’ve had a few matched wine courses over the years and have never experienced the amazing effects and flavour sensations that these matched wines produced. The Co-pilot also made the astute observation that we had lots of dense small morsels in circular forms that were either fried and crispy or stuffed. He was a little tired of the heavy fried flavours and was more than ready for cheese.

As the cheese course arrived we got our second wind and attacked the mixed cheese plate with gusto. The five cheeses on the plate were ripe, oozing and calling out to us. All the cheeses were spectacularly flavourful in their own way.  We thought the 2 harder cheeses, the sheeps milk and raw milk cheese would be mild and subtle, but they both packed an amazing fragrant punch. In fact, my favourites were the Alpage raw milk cheese and the sharp, tasty roquefort. The Co-pilot was most enamoured with the tallegio and devoured it with lightning speed.

The cheeses were paired with a barbera – a red Italian grape variety from the Barossa Valley. Not surprisingly, the mild berry-laden wine couldn’t match all five cheeses, but paired very nicely with the sheeps milk and goats cheese.

Cheese course accompaniments

Cheese course accompaniments

Cheese tasting plate

Cheese tasting plate. From left: Ossau Iraty sheeps milk cheese, Pyrenees, France, served with quince paste; raw milk 'Alpage' cheese, Thurgau, Switzerland served with beetroot oil and apple poached in sauvignon blanc; Holy Goat 'La Luna' organic goats cheese, Victoria served with salted walnut and fig; Tallegio washed rind, Aosta Valley, Northern Italy served with black cherry jam; Roquefort organic blue ewes milk cheese, France. Matching wine: Massena Barbera, 2009, Barossa Valley, SA

Whilst we demolished the cheese plate, we spotted the elaborate dessert platter for 2 make its way across the room and onto our neighbour’s table. We had felt like we should have stopped after the satisfying cheeses, but one glance at the dessert platter and then at each other threw that ridiculous thought out the window. Bring on the dessert! To prepare us, we were brought a complimentary pre-dessert and our stickies to refresh our post-cheese palates. The fresh cubes of sweet pineapple were so refreshing and complementary to the coconutty flavours in the malibu foam. After scraping away the last of the dessert we sampled the dessert wines. The Noble One we know and love well – always a sumptuous, sacrine experience. The Pedro Ximenez was a dessert wine I’d only heard my friend, FineDiner rave about, but not tried myself. I loved the more complex flavours in this sticky – caramelised dates, candied fruit and treacle. Lip-smackingly good!

Pre dessert pineapple jelly and dessert wines

Pre-dessert of pineapple jelly with fresh pineapple pieces and malibu foam. Dessert wines in background: Lustau Pedro Ximenez sherry on left, De Bortoli Noble One on right

The dessert course was a feast for the mouth and eyes. Neither the Co-pilot nor I are dessert fiends – we’d both happily forgo dessert for an extra entree. When we want dessert we only want a mouthful – a small teaser to remind us of the joy that is sugar without that 3rd of 4th bite that sends us in sugar hyperdrive. So a tasting plate is a perfect option for us, we get to sample each sweet delight offered on the menu without commitment to any. All 4 desserts were scrumptious in their own way: the pithivier – a type of layered almond cake, was delicate and comforting; the chocolate tart sinfully rich, gooey, oddly yeasty but lifted by the fresh bite of raspberries; the amaretto parfait was a sugary, creamy spectacle in the white chocolate cone; but the favourite for both of us was the white chocolate and honeycomb mousse. It was light, airy and velvety, juxtaposed with crunchy vivid green pistachios and the sweet brittle crunch of the honeycomb. After we’d had a chance to taste all the desserts this was the one we both returned to and devoured first.

Dessert tasting plate

Dessert tasting plate (clockwise from top left): Pithivier, slow cooked rhubarb, cinnamon gelato; dark Amadei chocolate tart, raspberries, yoghurt cream; white chocolate and honeycomb mousse, roast plum, frangelico; amaretto parfait, fresh figs, mint jelly. Matching dessert wines: Lustau Pedro Ximenez sherry, Jerez, Spain and De Bortoli Noble One, Botrytis Semillion, 2007, Riverina, NSW

Finally, a mere 4 hours after we commenced the meal we were very comfortably full, feeling the inevitable onset of food-coma and ready to sip on a restorative brew before the long drive home. To fill any gaps we might have had remaining in our bellies we were offered complimentary petit fours with our tea and although we were full to brimming, we dutifully sampled each treat. Yes, I am the first to admit that we are indeed gluttons.

Tea and petit fours

Tea and petit fours (clockwise from top left): white chocolate, lemon tart, mango jelly and dark chocolate truffle

As we left, we’d noticed that while we observed Berowra Waters from the warm interior of the restaurant, the cool overcast day had slowly transformed into a bright, crisp Autumn day with clear blue skies with a barely perceptible full moon rising in the distance. It turned out to be a wonderful celebration; the food was delicious; the matching wines mind-blowing in their ability to enhance their matched courses; and even the final ferry shuttle around Berowra Waters and back to the shore seemed to be a peaceful calming treat.

Sunset over the water

Sunset over the water - a perfect ending to a lovely celebration

Berowra Waters Inn is definitely a picturesque and memorable place to celebrate milestones, and I have to thank FineDiner for whispering venue suggestions in the Co-pilot’s ear.

Berowra Waters Inn

Access via the restaurant’s private ferry from the East or West public wharves, Berowra Waters NSW. You can also arrive via private boat or seaplane.

Open for lunch from Friday to Sunday, midday to 3pm; open for dinner on Friday and Saturday, 7 – 10pm. Call (02) 9456-1027 for bookings.

Foodie in the know:

You can have 4 to 6 courses from the menu,which range from $130 – $160pp, with matched wines this becomes $180 – $225pp respectively. The dress code is smart casual.

As the trip to the restaurant requires a bit of committment, but you can make the special occasion even more memorable by staying the night! The restaurant offers accommodation in their gorgeous B&B guesthouse overlooking Berowra Waters and the daily tariff includes the six course degustation. A worthwhile investment to be ferried back to your accommodation after your decadent meal – and an option that’s particularly attractive when the food coma sets in and you’re facing an hour long drive back to Sydney.

http://www.berowrawatersinn.com

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{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

1 OohLookBel May 3, 2010 at 4:10 pm

What an absolutely gorgeous way to celebrate your 30th! It’s certainly one of the best-looking meals I’ve seen, and the view of the water is not bad either.
.-= OohLookBel´s last blog ..ATFT photography workshop at Mumu Grill =-.

2 Christine May 3, 2010 at 4:50 pm

Looks like a great dinner! Happy 30th :)

3 Mark @ Cafe Campana May 3, 2010 at 7:06 pm

Yay! This restaurant has been on the top of my must eat at list for a while now along with Tetsuyas. I think I might need to leave some hints for my birthday :)
.-= Mark @ Cafe Campana´s last blog ..The Ten Commandments of the Grill – Cafe de Paris Butter =-.

4 Jacq May 3, 2010 at 7:27 pm

Happy Birthday! It definitely looks like you celebrated in style, with some amazing food and wine as well! I love the look of the grilled sea scallops and oxtail croustillant – yum!

5 Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella May 3, 2010 at 8:53 pm

Happy Birthday girl! 😀 and what a way to celebrate it. I have mine coming up and Berowra Waters Inn was one of my choices but as it’s not a very significant birthday I decided against it. But now I wish I had chosen it!

6 Katherine May 3, 2010 at 10:40 pm

Happy Birthday Trina. What a beautiful place to eat. The dessert tasting plate looks absolutely delicious.
.-= Katherine´s last blog ..Express Apple Crumble using Be Natural Berry Trail Bars =-.

7 Arwen from Hoglet K May 4, 2010 at 1:11 am

Happy birthday! It sounds like you had a wonderful celebration – both the view and the food look superb. The stress-relieving cauliflower soup sounds like something we all need more of!
.-= Arwen from Hoglet K´s last blog ..The Asparagus Menu at Der Pimpel =-.

8 Tangled Noodle May 4, 2010 at 12:43 pm

Happy Birthday! Thank you so much for sharing your surprise celebration – what an incredible meal and lovely setting. Reading about your culinary adventures is such a treat!
.-= Tangled Noodle´s last blog ..A Sip and a Salad =-.

9 Adrian @ Food Rehab May 4, 2010 at 9:11 pm

OK. What I wanna know is how much butter was consumed that day? I see there was plenty in the Ballotine of local quail, foie gras, yabbies and the hunk O butter that came with the bread! LOL

Happy Buttery Birthday! :)
.-= Adrian @ Food Rehab´s last blog ..The Hidden Caffeine Fix to the Sexy Noodles: Melbourne’s Hotspots Under $20 in 1 Day =-.

10 Conor @ HoldtheBeef May 5, 2010 at 12:43 am

Celebrating in style indeed! Happy birthday to you, and it totally sounds like you made a wise decision to go the wines with the courses.

Can’t believe you fell for the bread overeating due to tasty tasty butter though. Rookie mistake (which I totally can’t help but do either) 😉
.-= Conor @ HoldtheBeef´s last blog ..Gently rapping at the pantry door =-.

11 Betty @ The Hungry Girl May 6, 2010 at 10:33 am

Wow! What an amazing experience!! I love how you desrcibed all the matching wines, it all sounds wonderful. And that dessert platter – woah! My eyes lit up when I saw that! Amazing! Happy belated birthday :)
.-= Betty @ The Hungry Girl´s last blog ..Anzac Biscuits =-.

12 foodwink May 7, 2010 at 12:18 am

What a coincidence! I also celebrated my birthday here recently, and absolutely loved the experience.
.-= foodwink´s last blog ..Knock Knock =-.

13 chocolatesuze May 7, 2010 at 1:07 am

happy 30th! the food looks amazing especially the dessert tasting plate wow!
.-= chocolatesuze´s last blog ..Malaysia part 4, how much kaya toast can i eat [1] =-.

14 rosie May 7, 2010 at 4:04 pm

Oh YUM Happy birthday and I am very jealous!! Lots of love Rosie
.-= rosie´s last blog ..Frustrating! =-.

15 Forager May 9, 2010 at 8:54 pm

Hey Belle – The Co-pilot definitely earned some brownie points with this find – was beautiful in every way

Hey Christine – Thanks!

Hey Mark – Well, not quite Tetsuya’s equivalent in the kitchen, but the scenery certainly made up for it!

Hey Jacq – Was very memorable indeed!

Hey Lorraine – Ah, I’m sure the alternative you chose was a winner anyway given your excellent taste!

Hey Katherine – I thought that dessert plate would impress a few fellow food bloggers!

Hey Arwen – I agree. I need some of that truffle and cauliflower soup on hand in the office! It would make work a bearable experience I think!

Hey Tangled Noodle – The pleasure was mine to share this experience!

Hey Adrian – That is definitely a thought best left unexplored – but is probably the reason I’m starting my diet this week.. *sigh*

Hey Conor – I know – the wines were definitely a winning choice. I tried to resist the bread but got seduced by the butter. Gets me everytime dammit!

Hey Betty – The wines were by far the most fascinating. And I know you would have loved the desserts!

Hey Foodwink – Ah, how was your experience? My friend ate here only a week after me but her menu was already vastly different. Looks like they make good use of seasonal produce

Hey Chocolatesuze – Thanks for the birthday wishes!

Hey Rosie – Thanks Rosie – although there’s no need to be jealous. I think the view off your front porch still wins hands down!

16 Y May 10, 2010 at 11:08 am

Happy belated Birthday! What a stunning way to celebrate :)
.-= Y´s last blog ..Daring Bakers Challenge : Puddings =-.

17 Gourmantic May 10, 2010 at 9:45 pm

Happy belated birthday from another taurean! :)

The meal look splendid! It’s been a long time since I’ve been there. Glad you celebrated a milestone birthday in style :)
.-= Gourmantic´s last blog ..The Chef’s Table: Bocca di Lupo, London =-.

18 Forager July 20, 2010 at 3:59 pm

Hey Y – thanks for the birthday wishes!

Hey Gourmantic – Ooh, that’s right, you’re a Taurean too – Restaurant Balzac for yours right? :)

19 Richard Elliot December 9, 2010 at 4:06 pm

I’m beginning to plan a few fine dining experiences for next year. Berowra was definitely in contention and after reading your blog I’m sold!

Just checked their website and the guesthouse has been sold, so they currently aren’t offering accomodation until they find somewhere new. I love the idea of staying over, so hopefully they get another property before I visit.
Richard Elliot recently posted..Project Hunter- Week 9My Profile

20 Sneh | Cook Republic February 1, 2011 at 2:08 pm

A belated but very happy birthday to you!

I can’t believe this pl;ace is practically in our backyard (we are in Hornsby Heights, a mere 10 minutes away). We have been looking for that special gastronomic experience to indulge in for our upcoming 10th anniversary and this might just be it. Thnx for a wonderfully informative post!
Sneh | Cook Republic recently posted..Lavender Dream BiscuitsMy Profile

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