The bar/café/restaurant trade is a tenuous one, with the amount of venues that close down regularly around town evidence of that. Even in known and established strips such as Brunswick or Chapel Street there can be quite a high turnover, with seemingly solid and long term places closing down, killed by competition, high rents, fickle public desires and numerous other factors.
To open a brand new place in this climate is a bold and gutsy move, and in such an unconventional location as the Southern bank of the Yarra, next to Jeff's shed and the Polly Woodside even more so. But that's exactly what the owners of The Boatbuilders Yard have done. Only established for around five weeks at the time of writing, our visit to this new restaurant was evidence that they have made an excellent start and that all signs look good.
Firstly the location, whilst somewhat unusual, is ultimately an excellence choice. Very picturesque, it gives a very different and splendid view of Melbourne city. It was a fantastic day, low to mid twenties, a very pleasant zephyr of a breeze and nary a cloud in the sky. The only drawback is the 'upside down' river itself, and after recent heavy rains it was even browner looking than usual this day. But it's a small and unavoidable gripe, especially when the overall ambience was so welcoming.
Speaking of the ambience, a large majority of the tables are outside, which for a day like this is absolutely perfect. Enjoying a pre-meal Cascade Pale Ale on the boardwalk in the sun, looking across the river to the city was most enjoyable. One can imagine this ambience would be lessened, just a touch, by a frigid Melbourne July evening however, and so management have installed covers and automatic heaters, which switch themselves on when the temperature descends to a certain temperature, in each section. So fear not to venture there when winter comes around again.
Of course good service always helps the dining experience to be a positive one, and the staff here were smiley and attentive at all times. They have opted for a non table-service system, with a buzzer that alerts you when your meal is ready to collect from a central point. Table service is always nice of course, but this type of systems makes perfect sense for an establishment that is mostly outside and spread out across such a comparatively broad area. And on this day it worked very smoothly, with the food ready for collection in a very reasonable timeframe.
The food was a bit excellent as well. There was a herb crusted pork chop, which was tender and succulent, with side of rocket and pistachio salad and a dill and cabbage condiment. The eggplant fritters were well cooked and exceptionally tasty, with the aioli dipping sauce adding some nice tang to the dish. Accompanying the fritters was a large vege coleslaw salad with some crispy noodles on top, which had a touch of sweetness that offset the very savoury nature of the fritters very nicely indeed. The servings were quite large and we walked away feeling very satisfied, but not over-full. Rounding things out nicely was a very rich, full flavoured coffee.
Food and beverages, positive!
Despite the delicate nature of the restaurant industry, one can pretty safely expect this new place to do extremely well once fully established. It has a unique feel, and it's obvious much careful planning has gone into the way it has been set out, and its menu and system. Sitting on the main thoroughfare, there was non-stop through traffic (by foot), as this boardwalk is a major connector between DFO and the city. Plus the convention and exhibition centre and the Polly Woodside would draw many punters to the area, hopefully many of which would desire something a little more than the hot dog and chips they would get for their lunch/dinner at Jeff's Shed.
The Boat Builders Yard may be brand new, but it has hit the ground running and comes highly recommended for people wanting a satisfying, ambient and very reasonably priced al fresco dining experience.