Million dollar views and a place to lock up your kids
Weddings, parties, anything: I have been to all of these and more at the iconic Boatshed Restaurant in South Perth. With priceless views directly over the river to the city, it is spectacular day or night, the food is pretty good although the prices can literally take your breath away.
We recently had a celebratory lunch there for fifteen people, including five children under eight. It ended up being a long lunch, as service was quite slow, and it would have been wonderful to know about the gated play area that is attached to the restaurant long before the kids finished their meals and got bored. I use the term 'gated' loosely, as it's really just metal hurricane fencing, but it's safe to assume that small children can't escape, and if they don't mind looking through bars, it's a lovely view.
I shouldn't be too harsh though, because any fine dining establishment that provides a playground of this size and quality for children ought to be commended. The only access is via the restaurant, so there is little concern about kids taking off. The equipment includes a variety of different wooden cubbies, ramps, slides, and steering wheels. It is outdoors though, with no protection from sun or rain.
Staff were quick to take orders for the children, and small serves of fish and chips were on the table long before adults drink orders were even taken. There is no children's menu as such, but it borrows from the Boatshed café next door.
If you dine for lunch during the week, there is a special Mon-Fri menu; but if you visit on the weekend as we did, your only choice is from the main dinner menu. Many of the items are the same on the two menus, but the dinner menu is more expensive – much more expensive in some cases.
However, you would presume that the serving sizes would – and should – be larger if you are ordering off the dinner menu (even at lunch time).
We chose the tasting platter to begin. The prices are the same for lunch or dinner and are $35 to serve two people, or $68 for four. There are a wide range of tastes on the plate, including chorizo, polenta, arancini, gyoza, and croquettes. While individually tasty, many of the flavours are quite similar, especially the cheesy arancini, the skordalia, and the cheesy croquettes. It relies on the chutneys and sauces to differentiate, although the entire plate is certainly a fun and pleasant way to start a meal.
Perhaps because we were a large group, and there was another large function adjacent to ours, I found the service very slow. It was a long time before we had our orders taken, and then even longer for each course to arrive. I understand that having service staff pour water is a sign of fine dining, but it is frustrating having to wait for people to notice that glasses are empty, and I wish they would just leave the bottles on the table.
The weekday lunch menu has eight items, ranging from $26 to $46, while the weekend lunch menu (i.e. the dinner menu) has eight mains ($39-$50), plus a small selection of entrees ($24-$26), and three side dishes ($10-$12). As you can see, dining on the weekend attracts a rather large premium.
I chose the pulled pork Wellington with apple jam, red pickled cabbage, honey cider jus, and champ, which is a fancy way of saying mashed potato with spring onions ($44). It was a curious mix of traditional and en trende fashions, with the beef fillet replaced with very now pulled pork, and curiously, the pate replaced by lettuce leaves.
The accompanying jus was provided in a very cute copper pot, and the pickled cabbage sat atop the mound of potato. The absence of the pate was very unfortunate, but not as unfortunate as the soggy lettuce which lined the pastry. You couldn't actually taste it, and perhaps its role was to keep the pastry nice and crisp from the moist pork, but it was unusual. I missed the pate.
The crisp skin barramundi with cauliflower skordalia, potato fondants, jamon wrapped fennel, and café de paris butter is $46/$48, depending on when you dine. The fondants looked like nothing more than neat parcels of boiled potato, but the dish was universally popular.
Similarly, the main steak dish seemed pleasant. Weekdays you can expect a black angus rib eye with asparagus, champ, kohlrabi remoulade, and truffle jus ($46), while at dinner and on weekends you receive beef fillet, confit chat potatoes, parsnip puree, asparagus, truffle jus, and parsnip crisps ($50).
There is plenty of time between courses to admire the view of the city, ever growing and spiky with cranes. The glare of the river can be distracting at times, but it is easy enough to pop out for a quick wander down the jetty while waiting for the next course.
There are five dessert options, all $16, and they all read like a jumble of delicious flavours and ideas.
Chocolate jaffa, chocolate marmalade, pave, orange vanilla pannacotta, blood orange sorbet, orange crisp, popping candy, orange ganache, macaron, and white chocolate orange air needed its own page on the menu, it has so many components.
Knickerbocker glory with peanut butter mousse, boatshed brownie, peanut brittle, vanilla semifredo, and raspberry gel might run at half the word length, but is curiously complex in its own right.
FYI if you want something really simple, they do offer a sticky date pudding with caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream.
But why restrict your taste buds to only twenty flavours when you can sample over 100? The dessert tasting platter, surely the best invention since the remote control, offers four of the five desserts (funnily enough, it doesn't include the sticky date pudding) for the very reasonable price of $29, for two people. I think it's quite possibly the best value dish they offer.
It is also inherently sensible, as all the portions are smaller and therefore you are less likely to suffer guilt (and indigestion) afterwards.
All up, you will find restaurants with better views and better food and better prices, but it does what it does quite well, and has been a part of the Perth dining scene for almost two decades. Moreover, it holds fond memories for me, including weddings, anniversaries and work functions. Still, if you want to spend less and you're just looking for the views and kids playground, then you can always consider the Boatshed café next door