The natural beauty of Sydney harbour is breathtaking to say the least.
But this city is truly world class through its excellence in food, wine and hospitality.
As far as food is concerned, Sydney has come a long way since the euphoria of its summer Olympics in year 2000. I remember the stable of restaurants that firmly stamped Sydney on the world map as a gastronomic destination for overseas visitors.
Since that time, our city has up the ante with even more cutting-edge restaurants offering that mercurial and exciting blend of cuisine we are so proud to call Modern Australian.
Other cities may boast about their food but what Sydney has to offer is not just a piece of multi-culturalism on a plate. She does it in style with sparkling sunshine and simmering harbour views to match some of the freshest seafood money can buy. To me, this is Sydney’s gold medal winning combination.
There are countless restaurants with postcard waterviews of the harbour. And with a kind invitation from PR company Cardinal Spin, Mysaucepan and I find ourselves driving towards yet another one of Sydney’s best kept secrets.
Cottage Point is a tiny suburb 35 kilometres north of Sydney CBD. It’s a secluded spot because the only way to get there on wheels is heading north via Mona Vale road and making a left turn onto McCarrs Creek road. If you are more adventurous, this restaurant allows you to make a grand entrance via a Sydney seaplane or riding on a ferry that takes you along the calm and serene waters of the Hawkesbury River.
This place is a rather well-kept secret because it’s a good 10 kilometre drive through bushland from the junction of Mona Vale and McCarrs Creek roads. Our anticipation grows as we weave through each corner along this windy road.
Upon arrival, we are guided by the signage to head down a footpath towards the water’s edge.
What do they say about good things in life? If it’s easy, it ain’t worth it.
And when it comes to good food, I believe it’s not found in restaurants where everyone is raving about. Good food is where you find it for yourself.
Cottage Point Inn, Cottage Point
Cottage Point Inn is a restaurant located on a historic spot in Cowan Creek where it began as a boat house, general store and post office for the Hawkesbury River community.
With the increase in holiday makers in the 1950s, two apartments were built and the business began to focus on providing food for sightseers. With the opening of road access in the 1970s, the Inn could call itself a restaurant for the first time and successive owners have since lifted the standard of its food. In the early 1990s, current owner Dan McKinnon began the journey to transform the bistro style cuisine to become the fine-dining establishment that it is today.
Restaurant manager Shane Olesen and sommelier Jim Sanders have brought their fine-dining experience and service to the front of house. The all important ‘engine room’ is helmed by Head Chef Guillaume Zika (Cover image above), a Parisian Frenchman who has spent the past four years at London’s two Michelin star Hibiscus Restaurant.
As we take our seats at the al fresco area, the weather this weekend seems a little gloomy like Easter last weekend though thankfully it’s not as wet.
Some diners have decided to come to the restaurant by seaplane.
A 2013 Toolangi chardonnay from the Yarra Valley is a blend of low cropped hand harvested chardonnay and viognier fruit co-fermented and aged in French oak for three months.
The pale straw tinge shows its relatively young age.
Aromatic and fresh on the nose, there are stone fruits and ginger nuances on the palate with hints of French oak woven into a buttery albeit gentle mouth-feel.
“It’s a pretty nice drop, isn’t it?” I ask Mysaucepan who pines for a glass of white whenever she is near the water’s edge like we are this afternoon.
“Very nice and refreshing” she replies.
“I’ve chosen a chardonnay coz I’m eyeing that roasted spatchcock on the menu” I say.
A knob of butter sitting on black volcanic rock lives up to its French chef’s heritage for fine dairy.
Sourdough that is fresh and warm from the oven does due justice to the butter and chardonnay.
Amuse bouche ~ Gaspacho jelly and basil oil
Gazpacho jelly may be Spanish with sweet and sour notes of tomato broth.
A drizzle of basil oil and a few salt flakes lend Italian flavours to this amuse bouche.
Line-caught snapper carpaccio
Fresh slivers of line-caught snapper are swimming in a shallow pool of strawberry sauce vierge, celery, basil and finger lime.
Finely diced strawberry adds sweetness let alone its glorious red hue while celery and finger lime offer bits of crunch and tangy pops to each succulent sliver of fish.
As you can see, I’m a fan of black pepper and there is no better canvass than carpaccio to sprinkle generous amounts without offending the chef for lack of taste. In fact, the amount of pepper I add is directly proportional to my compliments to him for this creation.
Gently grilled scallops, fresh figs, charred gem lettuce
Mysaucepan loves scallops and when paired with her other favourite ingredient of fresh figs, this dish has her name written all over it.
Gently grilled scallops are hidden under a cloak of charred gem lettuce and toasted hazelnut flakes, its peek-a-boo presentation is keeping with current trends in many modern fine dining restaurants.
Mysaucepan unveils the charred lettuce to find plump and succulent scallops with gentle seared marks. Velvety rosemary butter-poached figs give this dish its luscious texture.
Chef Zika is showing glimpses of his native style with creamy macadamia milk pitted against the sweetness of diced figs and shards of crunchy hazelnut.
An icy cold Holgate Brewhouse Pilsner is an European style lager with a light golden straw colour. It is crisp and refreshing with grassy aromas and a malt flavoured palate.
With a glorious deep waterfront setting, it is lovely to dine outdoors but in winter, indoor tables offer sweeping views of the water amid a warm and toasty dining room.
The dining room is cosy and diners are enjoying the serene water views of Cowan Creek.
Lightly charred cobia with anchoïade hollandaise
It’s not easy to find cobia on any restaurant menu as it is a deep sea fish reminiscent of kingfish in taste and texture. Chef Zika explains it is also a tricky fish to cook as it can dry out easily.
Lightly charred to impart smoky flavours, the delicate fillet is moist and silky.
Paired with rich anchoïade hollandaise, sweet roasted persimmon and sour poached rhubarb, this interpretation shows creativity yet restraint and respect for the produce.
Roast spatchcock, peanut & parmesan crumbed endive, creamy potato, roast garlic
Chicken can be rather boring on the menu but when it’s spatchcock handled with care, the results can be magical.
The breast and leg of this bird is cooked separately, first roasted for flavour, then sous vide in its own juices for tenderness and finished off in a pan for a crisp finish.
Peanut, parmesan and bits of crispy roast garlic make up a crumbed endive to match succulent chunks of spatchcock and creamy potato mash.
Parley oil mixed with brown roasting juices add a subtle herb dimension to the meat.
Golden brown balls of dauphine potatoes are crisp with a cream and fluffy centre, giving us both an excellent side to complement our mains.
There is a good break between each course and we notice a similar trend with other tables.
Perhaps it’s an unwritten norm to give diners a chance to soak up some sun while taking a little sojourn around the pier. Guests are charmed by a friendly local – a kookaburra that would eat chunks of meat off the hand of wait staff.
Indeed there are dining couples who have temporarily vacated their seats for a walkabout, perhaps to take some photos or just gone for a smoko break.
Cheese glass amuse bouche
A surprise pre-dessert amuse bouche arrives after our mains.
The cheese glass is Chef Zika’s French twist on the cheese plate. We dip our teaspoons into the tiny glass to uncover a thin layer of sweet and sour green apple jelly topped with creamy blue cheese foam folded with crunchy walnuts.
There’s a savoury, sweet, sour and crunchy explosion in every little mouthful.
Lemon curd with lemon thyme, coconut genoise, torched meringue and coconut sorbet
Mysaucepan‘s tart lemon curd is crowned with a quenelle of creamy coconut sorbet studded with little crispy meringue diamonds. The result is a light and elegant dessert sparkling on the palate.
Raspberry salad, beetroot & raspberry sorbet, honeycomb, shiso gel
My raspberry salad is equally refreshing with vibrant colours of red raspberry sorbet, pink radish swirls and golden honeycomb beautiful like a Marilyn Monroe at her prime.
Each spoonful screams of summer pleasure though we are well into autumn.
The tartness of raspberries against sweet honeycomb and bitter baby shiso is every bit like the bitter sweet life of the American screen icon.
Aerated coconut chocolate crumble
Before we could order coffee, a curious piece of driftwood showcases the chef’s whimsical take on petite fours with cubes of aerated coconut chocolate on a stick.
Chef Zika wanders out from his kitchen to have a chat with us after our meal. He tells us about his time in Europe working for Michelin starred restaurants and the influence of his heritage on his cooking style.
Cooking at this restaurant feels a bit like being on the French riviera. The ultra fresh local produce especially seafood such as Spanish mackerel (a dish he put on the menu since his arrival almost eighteen months ago) allows him to get creative by combining seasonal ingredients to come up with unique dishes of his own.
After lunch, we take a slow walk along the pier where boats moor, seaplanes land and local kookaburras fly off against the glorious blue skies at Cowan Creek.
The waves lapping against the jetty is calming as we stroll along the secluded waterfront. Oysters can be seen lodged firmly on the rocks and birds gliding over crystal blue waters.
Just as diners arrived for lunch by seaplane, they are leaving the same way as we stroll along the waterfront after lunch.
A restaurant on an idyllic deep waterfront location is one thing. It takes creativity to give diners a memorable experience and the team at Cottage Point Inn has done just that. Throughout our lunch, we happily relived once again what the quintessential Sydney dining experience is all about.
Cottage Point Inn is quite the special place for a milestone birthday celebration, an anniversary dinner or that all important marriage proposal.
ChopinandMysaucepan dined courtesy of PR company Cardinal Spin and Cottage Point Inn. Prices are included for readers’ information. All views and opinions on this blog post are our own on the day of attendance.
Cottage Point Inn
2 Anderson Place, Cottage Point
New South Wales
Tel: +61 2 9456 1011
Opening hours: Lunch 7 days from 12 noon to 3pm, Dinner Friday, Saturday & Sunday 6.30pm – 9pm. Please note the restaurant will be closed every Tuesday & Wednesday from Tuesday 14th April until October 2015.
Seaplanes can be hired to transport guests to the restaurant at http://www.seaplanes.com.au/
The Cottage Inn has a list of House Etiquette as follows:
- Children are welcome as there is a children’s menu. Parents are requested to keep children under supervision at all times as a courtesy to other guests.
- The restaurant is not on town water supplies and tap water is unsuitable for drinking. Bottled spring water may be ordered from the drinks menu.
- Taxis are difficult to book. Guests are requested to inform staff on arrival if they require one. Taxi companies will not guarantee acceptance of taxi hire.
- All major credit cards are accepted with a minimum charge of $25.
- Special requests for birthday cakes / dietary requirements will be met with pleasure with preferably a 48-hour notice. Cakes are not allowed to be brought to the restaurant.
- Smoking is not allowed in and around the restaurant. Ashtrays are provided near the fish pond at the entrance.
- In accordance with Liquor Licensing Laws, drinks must not be taken off the timber deck area.
- As pontoon space is limited, boat owners are requested to allow other patrons to “raft up”. The pontoon is not available for overnight stays and are required to be vacated after meals.
- Seaplanes, ferries and water taxis service the restaurant. Phone numbers and pricing information can be requested from the restaurant.
- There are two well-appointed apartments for overnight stays, one with a kitchenette.
- As the restaurant is located in a serene residential area, guests are requested to depart the premises quietly to respect the peace of the neighbours.