There’s no denying that Little Beach Boathouse occupies an enviable location. It sits at one end of a perfect little golden sand beach, lapped by the gentle aquamarine waters of Port Stephens.
Despite the area being a holiday favourite for Sydneysiders, this particular beach seems to have escaped the level of over-development you will find in neighbouring Nelson Bay.
Restaurants occupying picture postcard locales can be disappointing, often relying upon the view to lure in customers, over careful consideration about what they’re putting on the plates. They can also be overpriced. I'm pleased to report in this case, I liked this spot enough to dine twice over the course of the one weekend.
Separated into a restaurant and wharf-side bar, Little Beach Boathouse gives you two different ways to dine.
The upstairs restaurant space is white and simply decorated, cleverly allowing the view to be the hero. The lunch menu is succinct and focused upon the bounty of the sea, though there are pork, chicken or lamb options for those who require them.
A chalkboard menu offers a local Kingfish Ceviche ($19) with lime, avocado salsa, cucumber and brik pastry wafers for crunch. It’s simple but satisfying because it highlights nothing more than the beautiful flavour and texture of the freshly caught fish.
Port Stephens is also an oyster producing area, so it’d be wrong not to get a Mixed Oysters ($35/12) showing off the local Sydney rocks. They’re cleanly and reasonably recently shucked, then dressed three ways – natural with yuzu, with soy and shiso dressing, and Kilpatrick. I find it hard to pick a favourite, and the underlying oyster quality is good.
The Boathouse Prawn Cocktail ($19) lightly renovates the Australian classic with four plump whole local prawns. There’s the expected iceberg lettuce, judiciously applied Boathouse cocktail sauce, some smashed avocado and more sumac-sprinkled brik pastry. I like that this version doesn’t stray too far from the Aussie classic, merely corrects the over-zealous saucing and avoids brutalisation of quality prawns.
We round out our light shared lunch with a salad and slices of Local Turkish Bread ($8) rubbed with confit garlic cloves and dragged through local Hunter Valley olive oil and vinegar.
The Boathouse Salad ($9) is a bit of a bargain. As well as the usual assorted greens, it’s full of juicy peach slices, crumbled Binnorie goats’ cheese, shaved fennel and candied walnuts, making it a pleasure to eat.
The downstairs bar puts you right on the water’s edge; water that’s so clear and beautiful, I have to physically restrain myself from throwing myself into it.
The seating options are varied, from chairs to indoor and outdoor bar stools, to tables on a deck by the water’s edge.
Australian craft beers, like Murray’s Angry Man ($8) and the Pigs Fly Pale Ale ($8) are cool and refreshing, wherever you decide to sit.
The menu downstairs is partially derived from the upstairs list, with the same Boathouse Salad ($10) eating slightly less well for an extra buck.
Turkish Bread ($9) down here comes with marinated Sicilian olives and a compelling Kalamata olive and feta tapenade.
While I’m not sure you can call the Chicken Karage Sliders ($18/3) “sliders” in the traditional sense, this trio of half-burgers decked out with crisp-fried chook, ‘slaw and sriracha mayo. were tasty if less attractive and more bready than their small-bun cousins. Yeah okay, I'm an upstairs kind of gal.
Little Beach Boathouse
4 Victoria Parade, Nelson Bay
Ph: (02) 4984 9420