It’s almost a shame that The BOX on the Water has such an amazing view.
With stark, simple lines, lots of glass and marine ply, and replica Hans Wegner wishbone chairs to hug you at your table, this is a stunning little restaurant. But that view … it’s really hard to look away. Luckily The BOX’s kitchen produces the kind of food that demands your attention and pulls your focus back inside.
Part of the recent redevelopment of the Ettalong foreshore, The BOX on the Water is cleverly named, both for its shape and for nearby headland Box Head, visible from the floor to ceiling windows. As soon as restaurant owners Monique Keogh and Natasha Nicholson saw the space, they knew they had to create something special. It could so easily have become a middle-of-the-road beachside eatery but Monique and Natasha, both Peninsula residents, were determined to deliver something exceptional that both locals and visitors would embrace.
Despite its incredible good looks The BOX on the Water is all about simplicity and has a stylishly casual vibe, not at all pretentious. Perhaps that comes from the fact that it practically sits on family-friendly Ettalong beach, has a splendid play park to one side and a cycleway to the front.
Monique and Natasha have really been very clever in creating a restaurant worthy of the tag “fine dining” but with an inviting seaside aesthetic. With the huge windows that open up when the weather is fine, there’s nothing cloistered and exclusive about The BOX. You feel a part of the beachside goings-on as you watch children play in the water, families out for a stroll and watercraft coming and going.
The BOX epitomises a fresh, uniquely Australian take on dining, and the kitchen also reflects this. The menu is cleverly divided into snacks (for “while you’re deciding”), small plates and large plates. You can mix them up as you like. The menu isn’t exhaustive but features plenty of choice, with fish and seafood featuring prominently including a seafood platter for two.
Much of the food is quite simple and relies heavily on outstanding ingredients and the talent back of house.
Young Head Chef David Peters has created a menu that can be shared or ordered as a traditional three course meal. There’s an emphasis on quality local and seasonal produce, including sustainable seafood.
There are beach-chic options like fresh prawns simply served with a housemade lemon aioli or a wonderful beer battered fish and chips with housemade tartare.
For something lighter, and effortlessly beautiful in presentation, the sage and citrus-cured salmon gravlax with pickled lime mascarpone and pickled cucumber salad or the South Rocks seared scallops with caramelised fennel, spiced pea purée and puffed capers are both pretty hard to pass up.
Heartier dishes also feature, such as the melt-in-your-mouth Angus scotch fillet, served with hand cut root vegetable chips, a Merlot jus and frisée and radish salad, but on our visit the fish dishes were definitely a highlight. Natural king fish sashimi was simply served with a surprising and delicious ‘sorbet’ of avocado, coriander and lime, and wild barramundi, topped with sauce verte, was imaginatively served on a bed of Puy lentils and pomegranate.
The desserts follow the trend – simply presented and delicious. We enjoyed the passionfruit tart, served with blueberries and cream and the ginger brulée, served with a zingy raspberry coulis. The cheese platter is also very popular and includes both local and imported cheeses, a divine orange marmalade and lavosh, presented with fresh figs on a rustic timber board.
There’s a small but lovely lounge bar to the rear, serving cocktails, an extensive list of wines and beer on tap from Six String Brewing Company and Balmain Brewing Company. Prices are very reasonable by today’s standards. The bar opens between lunch and dinner Friday to Sunday for Sunset Sips, serving sophisticated bar snacks.
Not surprising, given its location, The BOX is also a popular spot for breakfast. What seems at first a sparing menu is actually a well-thought-out selection that caters to all tastes. There’s also plenty of extras that can be added to your eggs (poached, fried or scrambled) creating a lot of flexibility.
Natasha and Monique also operate the beach kiosk attached to The BOX and predictably it’s a step up from what you might expect of a beachside takeaway outlet. For one the coffee is great! It keeps beachgoers and the families visiting the adjoining playground happy with burgers, muffins, pies, cool drinks and snacks but quality ingredients are in evidence here too and it’s all delicious and freshly made.
Both restaurant and kiosk have made a significant contribution to the revamp of the Ettalong foreshore, and that’s really down to Monique and Natasha’s commitment to creating something spectacular out of a rather stunning little box on the water.
The BOX on the Water recently hosted a wine dinner featuring the Hunter Valley’s Bimbadgen Estate. Five courses from the current main menu were served and matching wines were presented by Senior Winemaker Rauri Donkin. Keep an eye on The BOX’s website and social media for future special events.
Dishes clockwise from top left: Sashimi style king fish, served with 2014 Vermentino; Drunken Pâté, served with 2014 Pinot Gris; Barramundi with Puy lentils and pomegranate, served with 2014 Chardonnay; Pork belly with sour plum, served with 2013 Shiraz; Bottom: Ginger Brulée, served with 2011 Botrytis Semillon.
THE BOX ON THE WATER
Open for lunch 12-3pm daily,
Dinner: Thursday – Monday 6-9pm,
Breakfast: Saturday & Sunday only, 8-11am.
Kiosk open: 7-4pm daily.
The BOX on the Water
Ettalong Beach Waterfront Reserve,
The Esplanade, Ettalong NSW 2257
Ph: 02 4339 3369