The Boathouse - Lakes Entrance
Lakes Entrance is a beautiful part of the world, and with the esplanade looking out onto fishing boats at their moorings, you can't help but crave some local seafood.
The Boathouse, on the esplanade, looks out from it's large glass windows onto the fishing boats, and at sunset there is no better place to sit and look forward to a local, fresh seafood feast in a stylish and modern dining room.
The large sign outside the restaurant boasts that it is rated in the top 10 seafood restaurants in the state. This was according to a list compiled by the Herald Sun, and I would strongly disagree with this rating.
Their website boasts a fine dining experience, however on arrival I was called mate [which I don't mind at all, but is counter to their suggestion of a fine dining experience], and I was seated at a chair that was in bad need of respringing.
On looking at the wine list I was stunned that not one of the wines had the vintage listed, and even more perplexing was the page listed as for the 'discerning' customer. This was a list of higher quality wines from some of our great winemakers, including Penfolds 'Grange' and 'St Henri'. Again there were no vintages listed....surely the discerning customer would demand these details at what they themselves are calling a 'fine dining' restaurant.
In asking what vintage the Narkooje Reserve Chardonnay was, I was asked to wait while she checked. She came back and said it was the 2008. On it's arrival it was the 2009 vintage, already open.... luckily this was also a good vintage and was a sensational wine, however the way it was handled was hardly 'fine dining'.
Entrees were excellent, however the oyster foam on my WA scampi added little to the dish, and the accompanying vegetables were underseasoned. The Wagu Beef Salad was also excellent, however was listed as being accompanied by a green and tomato salad with a horseradish dressing. There were no tomatoes present, and on looking at their website the menu listed no tomatoes....maybe a 'fine dining restaurant should ensure the menu we are ordering from is the same as the one the chef is cooking from!
Main course was also well conceived. The Flat Head Tails cooked three ways with three accomapanying sauces was excellent, and the Blue Eye Filet served on Prawn and Creme Fraiche risotto was also good. The accompanying seared scallops were some of the smallest I've seen, but were sweet and well cooked. The fish itself was overcooked and had several small bones. Again this dish was underseasoned.
Now came the fireworks. I wanted to have the cheese course instead of dessert, and the menu listed 3 cheeses from Tarago. Each was a seperate dish. I asked the waiter of I could have a selection of all three cheeses, or at least two. He said NO. It was "...against the rules". His excuse was that the chef had the pieces precut in the kitchen and could'nt make smaller versions. I asked then to have all three cheeses, but since they would all come together, maybe at a reduced price. The cheeses were$15 per dish. Maybe 2 for $25 seemed fair... NO...the waiter explained...."this is a fine dining restaurant where you can't change the menu" Now I would have thought the opposite. Surely changes are more possible in a fine dining experience, trying to please the customer. Not long ago we ate at Vue de Monde, and any change was quickly and effortlessly made with a smile. At the Boathouse...NO was their favourite answer. I went ahead and ordered all three, at the price of $45. The most expensive cheesboard in Lakes Entrance! or perhaps even Victoria It arrived and we waited for the other dish to arrive, a chocolate tart..we waited and waited. Finally it came with some half baked excuse.
If a restaurant suggests to its diners that it is fine dining, tells them at the dining table and plasters it on the sign out the front, they had better follow through with some great food and excellent service. The Boathouse does not. We had to ask constantly for our water to be filled, and the table next to us had their empty beer bottle from before dinner, still cluttering the table at the end of their meal. The diners too were unhappy with the service they were given. At the very beginning of the evening when it was quite empty the phone rang and a customer was enquiring for a table for the evening. The waiter spoke loudly and firmly that there was no chance of a table for this evening, however by the end of the evening there were at least 4 tables that were never sat at. If I owned this restaurant I would be furious that the waiter turned paying customers away.