Sydney is blessed with more beaches, picturesque waterways and laid-back eateries than the locals know what to do with – including at Pittwater, a tidal estuary at the top end of its Northern Beaches region that’s loved for its relaxed, beachy lifestyle.
Pittwater is easily reached from Sydney in just under an hour by road, or a 15nm cruise by boat or ferry. You’ll find plenty of boat ramps, wharves, and more than 3600 moorings, with plenty more further north in Broken Bay or westward from there into the Hawkesbury River and beyond. And should you tire from exploring Pittwater’s many nooks and crannies by boat, just step ashore at any number of locations to enjoy a variety of eateries and bars to suit most budgets and tastes.
We began our Pittwater cruise at its northern end at Palm Beach (aka TV soap Home and Away’s Summer Bay), which boasts sweeping beaches on both sides of the narrow land neck, with top surf conditions on the oceanfront eastern shore, tranquil water on the western side, and sensational views from Barrenjoey Lighthouse at the tip.
We stopped for a late breakfast at The Boathouse Palm Beach … and yes, the H&A crew were filming while we were there. Further south at Newport, we dropped in at The Newport, a sprawling locale with different inand outdoor dining spaces and bars set amongst lush gardens with sensational views across the bay.
And to round off our Culinary Cruise of Pittwater, a drive via the scenic route through Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park took us to Cottage Point, where we stayed in one of Cottage Point Inn’s two guest apartments and enjoyed artisanal cheeses and a sensational red on the balcony, while watching the sunset across Cowan Creek and the wooded hills beyond.
Soak up the serenity of Cowan Creek’s meandering waterway and stop for some fine dining at Cottage Point Inn (lunch every day, dinner Friday and Saturday). Nestled in lush woodland at the foot of a steep hill on the water’s edge, the inn also has two guest apartments … the perfect riverside hideaway for a romantic weekend or mid-week escape.
Still a bit of a secret among locals and regulars looking to escape the limelight, the inn’s secluded location lets you feel a thousand miles from everywhere (and everyone – internet reception is patchy at best). It’s easy to reach by water, air and road – arrive by boat or seaplane at the private pontoon, or the ferry from Palm Beach Wharf. Alternatively, an easy 50-minute drive from Sydney takes you on a scenic route through heritage-listed Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park.
The apartments include a cosy studio for two, with en suite and kitchenette, and a large, self-contained apartment with kitchen, large living area and bathroom with double showers. Both apartments feature balconies with glorious water views.
In the restaurant, Cottage Point Inn’s head chef, Guillaume Zika blends his European culinary expertise with the food of his birthplace (France) and Australian produce, creating exquisite dishes that are superbly matched with a wine/drinks list to rival the best selections. Here’s a sample.
Snapper, served raw with strawberry sauce vierge, finger lime and basil
Sauce vierge is usually made with tomatoes and shallots, but Guillaume Zika makes it with strawberry and celery to make it softer and add interest. Recreate the dish by dicing strawberry and celery and infusing in olive oil, white balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, finger lime and basil cress. Thinly slice the snapper (Zika uses local trap-caught fish) and serve with the sauce vierge.
Sommelier Jim Sanders recommends a 2014 St André de Figuière ‘Le Saint André’ rosé (France).
Yoghurt vacherin with Malfroy’s Gold honey, lemon curd and basil
In this take on a classic French dessert, a meringue (vacherin) sits on meringue crumb and is filled with yoghurt and honey sorbet, lemon curd, honey, basil and honeycomb. Zika uses Malfroy’s Gold honey, harvested from gumtrees in the Blue Mountains that flower every four years.
Wine recommendation: a 2015 Soumah Brachetto, Yarra Valley, Victoria.
2 Anderson Place, Cottage Point
(02) 9456 1011
The team at The Boathouse Palm Beach has mastered the holiday beach vibe, with a breezy location in the original Barrenjoey Boathouse and a fuss-free menu that’s by no means lacking in finesse.
Guests wander in from the beach (or off a seaplane) dressed as they are. They’re greeted by a lush, cool garden with huge ceramic planters overflowing with foliage and citrus fruits, and piles of fresh fruit, flowers and delicacies in a marketplace by the entrance. Take a seat indoors, or under umbrellas in the garden and beach-top deck with delightful views across Pittwater. Order chilled beers, ciders, smoothies and juices at the drinks counter, where an oversized ice tub with a refined selection of wines is surrounded by rows of Bollinger champagne.
The kitchen crew turns seasonal produce into Instagram-worthy dishes bursting with flavour – you’ll find buckets of Queensland tiger prawns, inspired summer salads, burgers, flatbreads and boards with meaty, seafoody or vegetarian fare, and pretty much all the scrumptious breakfast items you could want.
We tucked into some sensational flathead with chips (recipe below) with the perfect crunch-to-fluffy ratio, and a glass of Philip Shaw ‘Pink Billy’ rosé.
Beer-battered flathead with chips and Boathouse tartare
8 fillets of flathead (approx 100g each)
Vegetable oil, to deep-fry the fillets
Lemons, to garnish
Micro herbs, to garnish
Potatoes of your preference, hand-cut into long strips
170g plain flour
170g self-raising flour
Mix all the dry ingredients. Add the beer and cold water, whisk to form a smooth batter with no lumps. Set aside.
500g whole-egg mayonnaise
50g capers, finely chopped
50g gherkins, finely chopped
1 eschallot/Spanish onion, finely chopped
A couple of sprigs of parsley
Lemon, zest and juice
Finely chop (or food process) the capers, gherkins and eschallot. Finely chop the parsley and combine all in a bowl with the zest of half a lemon and the mayonnaise. Add salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste.
Peel and cut the potatoes to size.
To create a nice crunchy chip, first blanch the chips in oil at 150°C until just cooked. Then set aside in a tray lined with paper towel and let cool. Then heat the oil to 180°C and cook the potatoes again until crisp and golden.
Cooking the fish
In a deep frying pan, add enough oil to coat the fish when frying. Heat the oil to 180°C. Using your hands, hold the fish by the tail end, dip it into the beer batter and hang up for a couple of seconds (this removes any excess batter). Dip slowly into the pan by moving the fish around. Cook until golden.
Serve in a wide shallow bowl – chips on the base, with a fish tower on top. Garnish with lemon wedges, tartare and micro herbs.
2 small scoops ice cream (The Boathouse uses Peters vanilla ice cream)
1 small squeeze of honey
120g mixed berries
Whizz all ingredients in a blender until smooth and frothy. Drizzle a little extra honey down the inside of the glass (The Boathouse served ours in a bear-shaped honey jar) before pouring the smoothie.
When the Merivale team went about reinventing the historical Newport Arms – a Northern Beaches landmark pub established in 1880 and reopened as The Newport at Easter 2016 – they included the local residents and craftsmen in the planning and build. And the Newport community is returning the love with their loyal patronage and by engaging in the busy calendar of activities and events – which includes yoga classes, SUP boarding, a petanque court (French boules), live music, movie screenings, and a gymnasium-inspired games area.
Surrounded by the bay’s natural beauty, the sprawling, semicircular grounds with uninterrupted water views have a village marketplace feel to them.
You’ll find open and undercover dining and bar areas offering a variety of foods made with fresh, predominantly local ingredients – including Vinnie’s Pizza (with two massive wood-fired ovens churning out pizza so flavourful, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’re in Italy), a Seafood Market (try the kingfish ceviche or the oysters), a burger and ‘schnitty’ joint, loads of salads at The Shack, and The Kiosk with hot-smoked king salmon, pork belly, and an industrial-strength rotisserie making succulent roast chook (recipe below).
The beverages are equally varied and delicious. We tried a frozen cravado, made with Wyborowa vodka, lychee, mint and coconut water … the ideal cool-me-down on a hot summer’s day.
2 Kalinya St, Newport
(02) 9997 4900
The Newport’s rotisserie chicken
Yoghurt and garlic sauce
500g Greek yoghurt
250ml Kenko Japanese mayonnaise
5g garlic powder
2g onion powder
10 garlic cloves, blanched and refreshed in cold water, twice
Mix the yoghurt and mayonnaise. Add all other ingredients into the yoghurt mix. Blitz in a Vita-Prep (or blender). Season to taste with salt.
130g green tomato
2 bunches coriander, chopped
2 bunches parsley, chopped
1 eschallot, brunoise
1 long red chilli, de-seeded, brunoise
Seasoning: fish sauce, lime juice, sugar – quantities to taste
Combine all ingredients and dress with the seasoning.
10g garlic powder
10g onion powder
50g black pepper
Combine all marinade ingredients.
Rub a large, free-range chicken liberally with the marinade and leave in the fridge overnight to infuse with flavour.
When roasting them at home, head chef Ed Sargent strongly recommends using a rotisserie attachment in your barbecue. The slow cook achieved on a spit, says Sargent, is “a thing of beauty.”
If using a conventional oven, fill the bird’s cavity with herbs (thyme, bay leaf and rosemary are all good) and half a lemon. Roast it slowly at around 150°C (at higher temperatures, the meat will seize and the texture will be tough) until the core temperature in the thigh reaches 75°C and the juices run clear.
Serve with cos lettuce cups, flatbread, and the above accompaniments.
The Newport’s coconut panna cotta with berries and honeycomb
Coconut panna cotta
230ml coconut milk
20ml natural yoghurt
2 vanilla beans, split and seeds scraped
65g caster sugar
3.5 silver-strength gelatin leaves, bloomed
Bring coconut milk, natural yoghurt, vanilla seeds and caster sugar to the boil. Remove from the heat, add the softened (bloomed) gelatin and whisk until dissolved. Strain and cool over ice. Pour into moulds and set in the fridge (several hours or overnight).
Berries infused in lemongrass syrup
250g caster sugar
25g lemongrass, chopped
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
2 limes, zest and juice
20g ginger, chopped
Fresh mixed berries, larger berries and strawberries chopped
Bring the ingredients (except lime juice and the berries) to the boil, adding the lime juice last. Remove from the heat and gently add the berries. Cool.
800g caster sugar
48g bicarb soda
Mix the sugar, water and honey together over a gentle heat. Add the glucose.
Once all the sugar is dissolved, increase the temperature and, using a sugar thermometer, bring the mixture to 155°C.
Add the bicarb soda and beat into the mixture with a wooden spoon – the mixture will foam greatly; keep mixing until all the bicarb has dissolved. Pour into a greased tin and leave to set for 1 to 1½ hours. Snap into chunks when cool.
Serve the panna cotta with the infused berries, small chunks of honeycomb, and a sprig of mint.