Perched right on the edge of Ettalong Beach, The BOX on the Water is your quintessential Aussie seaside spot. It takes a three-pronged approach to delivering Ettalong Beach visitors exactly what they’ve come here to eat.
Whether you want kiosk-style fish and chips eaten somewhere you can remain in wet togs; bar snacks with an ice cold beer; or a more formal lunch or dinner that will please the whole family, The BOX has got you covered.
We pull up in the packed restaurant space on a glorious sunny day, marveling at the million-buck view. They’ve kept the architect designed glass box pretty simple inside, with warm blonde wood panels, and matching tables.
To keep as many eyes as possible on the all-important view, the only wall that isn’t see-through, is taken up by a long grey fabric banquette. The rest of us get two different types of Scando-style chairs - maritime-inspired rope and leatherette.
Polished aggregate floors below make for easy sand removal, with all the hard surfaces softened by some actual organics - leafy green ferns - hanging overhead.
Their Finger Lime & Saltbush Margarita ($18) proves to be the perfect seaside tipple, with sharp salty lime to strip the sea from your palate. It’s nicely garnished with a saltbush leaf pegged to the rim next to a slice of the eye-catching native lime.
Despite the restaurant being busy, staff are warm and utterly unphased by the crowds. Our waiter, originally from Edinburgh, took the time to chat, explaining this was quite usual for them: “The weekends take care of themselves.” He rattles off the daily seafood selection in the BOX Seafood Plate ($46/person) and is easygoing about making a substitution to suit our dining predilections.
The resulting hot and cold seafood platter for two people was certainly generously proportioned. We’re kept busy peeling plentiful, flesh meaty prawns, and scarfing Sydney rock oysters punctuated with forays into the grilled flathead and chips. There’s a saucy little pot of well-handled mussels cooked with lemongrass, chilli and ginger, that makes me long for bread. My wish is quickly granted and it’s not added to the bill. This pleases me, because I reckon bread is also necessary to do justice to the pink pickled-onion topped mounds of creamy salmon rillettes, and little, white anchovy fishes.
My only slight disappointment was the oysters were opened too early, and had lost their beautiful liquor. While I’m willing to make some allowances because I dined on the Australia Day Long Weekend while they were slammed, I’d hope at other times to see them shucked to order.
While we grazed our way through the mountain of fresh seafood, my plainer eating dining companion was pleased to see a simple Fish & Chips ($27). House ale battered flathead was teamed with a garden salad and a good supply of chips.
Keen to linger in the shade and watch the antics on the family beach, I hit up a White Chocolate Espresso Martini ($17), but the combination of Baileys, Amaretto, Frangelico and espresso is dissonant and out-of-sync. No complaints about the generous goblet of the daily Sorbet ($8) selection though: pretty mandarin, with adult pith and peel notes, proved a perfect complement to the hot sun and salty air.
The BOX on the Water
Ettalong Beach Waterfront Reserve, The Esplanade, Ettalong Beach
Ph: (02) 4339 3369