There are two ways to get to Berowra Waters Inn. By seaplane or private ferry.
Of course there could be other ways. Rubber dinghy, canoe, paddle board and hovercraft are just some of the unconventional alternatives I consider as my private ferry pulls up to the restaurant. It’s a beautiful autumn day, not a cloud in the sky, as ripples of the Hawkesbury River lead me through beautiful bush land to one of the oldest dining institutions in the Sydney region.
Berowra Waters Inn first opened as a guesthouse back in the 1930s before Tony and Gay Bilson purchased it in 1975. Chefs Janni Kyritsis and Dietmar Sawyere have also taken turns at this waterside kitchen but you’ll now find Irish-born Head Chef/Owner Brian Geragthy at the helm.
Arriving at Berowra Waters Inn is magical- you instantly feel relaxed, at ease with nature. It’s an intimate dining experience with a small number of tables lined up against the floor to ceiling glass windows. Delicate floral arrangements rest on crisp white linen and the entire space is light and airy. I’m sure dining here at night would be lovely but for me, lunch is the only way to experience Berowra Waters Inn.
Surrounded by gum trees and native flora our Akubra wearing ferry operator drops us directly to the private jetty of Berowra Waters Inn. Our friendly Swiss Sommelier Victoria is Brian’s wife. Together, they live further up the river and ride their little tin boat to work or use it to pick up fresh produce from neighbouring suppliers. It’s a humbling and genuine image amongst such refinery. It makes me want to quit Sydney and buy a dinghy.
The menu at Berowra Waters Inn is to be enjoyed as a degustation of small dishes reflecting seasonal (and where possible organic and sustainable) produce. Brian has a wealth of experience having worked with Sean Connolly at Astral, Peter Gilmore at Quay and Shane Osborn at two-Michelin-starred Pied a Terre in London.
We settle in for a 7 course degustation, that actually works out to be more like 10 courses when you add an amuse, pre dessert and and so on but I’m not complaining.
We start with an amuse of parmesan custard, tomato sorbet and basil powder. Tomatoes but be in season because shortly after we try tomato butter- different colour, same texture, but perhaps not quite as good as the regular spread. It’s fun and different nonetheless and sets the tone for a menu full of gastronomical surprises.
If you’re lucky enough to be flying home or have a designated driver I suggest you order the matching wines. Victoria likes to play a little game of “guess what you’re drinking, I’ll tell you after”. It’s fun- do it.
The first course of scallops, brandade and pickled cauliflower with preserved lemon is almost too pretty to eat. That can be said of all Brian’s dishes- he definitely does ‘pretty food’ well. I do eat it though- the flavours and texture are perfect.
My lunch partner describes the second course of ocean trout with smoked milk, dashi and bonita on top as a “seafood orgasm”. It’s his favourite dish of the deg whilst mine was described on the menu simply as bacon and egg. A perfectly poached egg rests neatly on a bacon puree topped with fried potato is placed before me. A consume is poured over the dish and yolky goodness flows at the press of my knife. For me it is the standout dish on a sensational menu. Victoria matches it with a boutique beer from Happy Goblin. Interesting name, great beer.
Sweetbreads aren’t for everyone but I personally love them and Brian’s sweetbreads and pumpkin dish is a winner. Like each course, the plating is a visual feast.
The next course of duck and cabbage with subtle additions of peach is delicious. The macadamia puree makes it a little dry but the clever combination of flavours keeps you distracted.
My lunch partner dislikes beetroot, which is a total score for me because I get to have mine and his next course of goats cheese, beetroot and liquorice. He’s crazy- it’s amazing.
It’s about this time in the degustation you might want to take a walk around, loosen your pants and breathe a little deeper. I know you’re full but it’s not ever yet.
A little palette cleanser of roast coconut mousse, mint mousse and Hendrick’s infused cucumber sorbet should help. Wink wink Gelato Messina- some flavour inspiration perhaps that’s closer to my home?
The finale is a visual treat and so much fun. It’s the perfect end to a truly memorable dining experience.
We finish our meal with The Grounds coffee espresso and some jelly petit fours- not that we need it. We take a little food coma nap in the car before reluctantly making our way back to Sydney. Berowra Waters Inn goes up there with one of my most favourite dining experiences in Sydney (in fact anywhere).
Now to marry a chef, move to the Hawkesbury and get that dinghy!
Degustation menu $175/person, $250 including matching wines