Boilerhouse Restaurant at Manly's historical Q Station isn't exactly a restaurant one would stumble upon on a walk up a busy street lined with competing eateries. Tucked away in a building that used to heat the water for the old Quarantine Station, the very stylish Boilerhouse stands in a league of it's own as having the most unique location out of any acclaimed Sydney restaurant.
Don't make the same mistake I did and walk from Manly Wharf; there's a bus that goes directly to Q Station
Q Station is a heritage retreat shrouded in mystery; famous for it's ghost tours. Preserved within 36 hectares of Sydney National Park at North Head in Manly, Australia's first and oldest Quarantine Station dates back to 1833 and contains 65 buildings and several archaeological sites. Boilerhouse Restaurant is but one of those buildings, and it's perfectly located on the grounds, right on the little private beach (and right near a functioning wharf where you can catch The Sydney Harbour Eco Hopper ferry.
DO catch the ferry for Manly Wharf though; that view is unbeatable
The beach at Q Station
A small group of media were invited along the Boilerhouse to take part in the first of what are several themed dinners planned to take place throughout the year, including a Mother's Day High Tea (May 10th), a Winter Wine Feast (June 17th), and a Christmas Giving Long Lunch (November 27th). With the swift efficiency they handled this event, an Autumn Harvest Dinner in line with an Old English tradition, there's no doubt that Boilerhouse are out to make specific, focused events a significant part of their yearly calender.
Catch the Eco Hopper ferry from the wharf right next to Boilerhouse
The Autumn Harvest Dinner drew on inspiration from Chef Matt Kemp's background, bringing in an age-old tradition from West Country in England called 'wassailing'. It's a popular ceremony with the purpose of waking the cider trees and scaring away evil spirits to ensure a good harvest of fruit in the Autumn. A drink comes from from this tradition to: the Wassail, which has evolved over the years into a mulled punch-type drink which includes sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger over a base of wine or brandy, apples, and oranges. Kemp ended the Autumn Harvest Dinner with his interpretation of the drink, bringing us into the fold of the special tradition with a beautiful, warming drink of dry sherry, brandy, star anise, juniper berries, apples, oranges, cider, nutmeg, cloves, and cider.
Kemp had set up a video link from the downstairs open-kitchen up to the dining area so that we could watch, on several different screens, how each dish was prepared before enjoying it for ourselves. It added yet another layer of education to the dinner, keeping us engaged between meals and allowing us for a closer look into how Kemp approaches cooking.
The wine-matched six course degustation began with a cup of Smoked Celeriac Velouté with Truffle Cream. The celeriac was cubed and added a nice texture to the soupy amuse bouche, soaking a smoked flavour from the earthy truffle cream and velouté sauce. This was paired up with a smooth Taltarni ‘T Series’ sparkling chardonnay pinot noir.
Highlight: Gnocchi of Roasted Jerusalem Artichokes with Wild Rabbit & Rosemary
My personal highlight, and one of the best gnocchi-based dishes I've ever had, was up next; the great Gnocchi of Roasted Jerusalem Artichokes with Wild Rabbit & Rosemary. I don't think any amount of this would have been enough for the appetite it sprung upon me, the gnocchi was perfectly soft and fluffy, hidden underneath a whole heap of stewed, spiced wild rabbit and some large roasted Jerusalem artichokes. Everything about this came together brilliantly, with the dish also including butter, chestnuts, and broad beans for a stunning flavour. The wine matching was also well advised, with the 2013 Rockburn Pinot Gris from NZ bringing in a nice, fruity flavour to the meal.
Barramundi with Wild Mushroom & Cauliflower Cream
Just as we all craved some more of that pasta, out came the Barramundi with Wild Mushroom & Cauliflower Cream, a beautiful dish centred around the very well-cooked and moist fish. The tenderness of the dish was complemented with the delicate mushrooms and that light, flavourful cream. A nice passionfruit flavour came from the matching wine, a 2013 Cherubino Sauvignon Blanc from WA.
Mandagery Creek Venison with Spiced Pear Tarte
The final savoury dish was Mandagery Creek Venison with Spiced Pear Tarte. On the plate sat a hearty and very satisfying combination of the perfect rare venison and a sweet pear tart, beautifully presented with a some pear puree . The juices from the venison were key here, and surprisingly played well with the sweeter, fruitier side of the dish. This was matched with a gorgeous 2013 Cherubino ‘Laissez Faire’ Syrah, again from WA.
Clearly a fan of the warmer desserts, Kemp pre-faced our final plate with a small deconstructed Pumpkin Brulee. The smooth soupy serving came with a large caramelised toffee and some pumpkin seeds. This was irrepressibly autumn, with the comforting, creamy taste working well to relax our palettes for the final dessert.
Creamed Rice Pudding, Apple Compote, and Mulled Blackberries
A very English end to the degustation came with Creamed Rice Pudding, Apple Compote, and Mulled Blackberries, a dessert which came with a large apple sorbet on top. As Kemp explained via video link while plating the dessert, the rice was soaked in milk for a full day and the blackberries were macerated in mulled red wine, spreading a variety of flavour throughout the dessert, all coming together under that icy apple sorbet.
As above, the dinner finished off on a hugely memorable note, with the lovely wassail once again filling our chests with the warmth and comfort that characterised the entire night.
The award winning restaurant really does feel like no other in Sydney, when you're out there disconnected from the city on the grounds of Q Station the experience is much more than just the dinner, the wine, and the theme. I can't wait to go back and try their regular award-winning menu and see how the whole place fares earlier in the day, with the homely courtyard and that stunning private beach.
Address: 1 North Head Scenic Drive, Manly
Contact: 9466 1511
Opening Hours: Lunch from 12:00pm - 3.00pm Friday, Saturday & Sunday; Dinner from 6pm, 7 Days a week.
Sunday, 10th May 2015 - Mother's Day High Tea
Time: 1:30pm to 3pm (Please be at Q Station by 1pm)
Cost: $59 per person including a decadent high tea & glass of sparkling wine on arrival