By Leigh O’Connor.
Imagine a fine dining restaurant that is only accessible by water, has been redesigned several times and still maintains a Chef Hat 42 years after it was first awarded.
Welcome to the Berowra Waters Inn – initially recognised by AGFG in 1980 and back then the highest-ranked restaurant on the guide. As we prepare for the announcement of the 2023 Chef Hat Awards, let’s take a look at what makes this dining destination so special.
Now under the guidance of Executive Chef and owner Brian Geraghty, who bought the venue in 2012, the inn currently ranks at 16 Hats and offers a Modern Australian menu sourcing produce from local makers, growers and suppliers.
Located on Berowra Creek – a tributary of the Hawkesbury River – a tea/guest house was first built on the site in the 1920s and remained that way until being transformed by a sleek refit in the mid-1970s when legendary Chef Tony Bilson and wife Gay took their food philosophies to the region.
With the help of architect Glen Murcutt, the restaurant was revamped into a fine-dining temple and in 1980, Berowra received a five-star top-class rating in that year’s AGFG guide; with a recommendation to try the mousse of foie gras with brioche, aiguilettes of duck, sauce rouille and the grand dessert plate.
Originally described by Glen himself as a ‘verandah by the water’, the inn has continued to be considered among Australia’s finest restaurants. Combining Sydney sandstone with corrugated tin and glass louvre windows, his vision for the building was revealed when the final stage was completed.
In 1982, Tony left Berowra and Janni Kyritsis joined Gay to head the kitchen until the inn was sold and closed in 1995; enter Swiss Chef Dietmar Sawyere, who purchased the venue just a couple of weeks before it was to be turned into a house.
It has even served as a family home, when in May 2022 Brian, partner Victoria, young son Otis and two dogs moved in while the restaurant was closed due to COVID restrictions and they could not justify an apartment in Sydney as well as the business.
Chef of the Year 2018 winner in Gault & Millau Australia, Brian has worked at some of Australia’s leading venues such as Bilson’s, Astral and Quay; he now dishes up a six-course degustation menu with optional drink pairings to Berowra diners.
Think snack dishes like kangaroo pastrami, toasted rye, garlic and cucumber; Davidson plum, chicken liver and beetroot, or shiitake, onion and yuzu canelé - before larger plates of Murray Cod, prawn, zucchini and basil or Wagyu, capers, onion and sherry.
Desserts like native frozen nougat – honey nougatine, riberries, desert lime, macadamia and sour apricot - entice to finish a memorable meal at a venue that just keeps getting better with age!