Wander along Manly’s Trafalgar Street towards the water, past the Moreton Bay Trailer Boat Club and the Coast Guard and the Darling Point Sailing Squadron digs, and eventually you’ll find them – boomers, bright young things and families milling about a pure-white weatherboard building, its garden populated by picnic tables.
This was once the home of the Brisbane 18 Footers Sailing Club. More recently it was Wilsons Boathouse, a family seafood restaurant. Now it’s Manly Boathouse, one of the bayside’s buzziest new restaurant, bars and cafes.
“As soon as we saw it, we thought it was a no-brainer,” says Nikki Kay, who co-owns Manly Boathouse with her husband Greg Kay. The Kays are best known for Reef Seafood & Sushi in Newstead. “Where do you find a site quite like that anywhere in Queensland, really?”
The Kays initially opened Manly Boathouse as a restaurant and bar in February. In late March its outside area, The Patio, introduced a patisserie serving espresso, French pastries and a short menu of breakfast brioche buns, and a month later came a fish and chippery serving fish and chips, fresh prawns, and oysters.
In terms of looks, imagine the brightly renovated multipurpose pubs that have started popping up along the coast between Brisbane and Sydney, but even more crisp, clean and Instagrammable in its treatment. Inside the restaurant and bar, just about everything is white – the lightshades, the section curtains, the exposed ceiling beams. The dining room is populated by low-set timber tables and rattan furniture, and lined with French doors, the better to enjoy the brilliant views of Manly Boat Harbour and Moreton Bay.
“Everything is white because when you sit down, you just look at the view,” Nikki says. “You don’t walk into the venue and go, ‘Oh, I love the dining room.’ You just have your head up and you’re looking at everything [outside].”
Outside in The Patio the theme continues with white picnic tables shaded by navy and white umbrellas, and lined by a grassy area on one side of the building. Inside, Manly Boathouse is a place designed for occasions; outside, you’re meeting mates for beers and a graze.
In the restaurant, chef Braden White (formerly Hatch & Co, The Apo, Ricky’s and Miss Moneypenny’s Broadbeach) has written a menu heavy on seafood. You might start with kingfish sashimi served with ponzu, shellfish crema and radish; barbequed Tasmanian scallops with miso mayo; or grilled ocean king prawns with cafe de Paris butter and lemon. For larger meals there’s grilled barramundi fillet with broccoli puree, fermented chilli and ginger shallot dressing; a sand crab linguine finished with abalone broth; and share plates such as slow cooked lamb shoulder, an 800-gram OBE Organic short rib, and a 1.4 kilogram Black Onyx tomahawk steak (if you’re going large).
For drinks, there’s a generous wine list that favours classic Australian drops (and a cellar selection that ranges up to an $800 2009 Jim Barry Armagh shiraz), backed by cocktails, and 10 beers and ciders on tap.
It all adds up to a venue that signposts a change in bayside dining in recent years. Shucks Bar is flipping oysters on the Esplanade and Hudson Brewing has opened just up the road in Wynnum. Earlier this month saw the unveiling of woodfired restaurant The Arsonist, a sister venue to classy all-day eatery Tide, which sits on the Jetty opposite Manly Boathouse.
“Manly is this hidden gem,” Nikki says. “I spoke to one local real estate agent and some property has never come up on the market, just because it keeps getting handed down through generations. But all these outer suburbs from the city are growing up. We’ve lived up and down the coast for 30 years and have always known Manly, but maybe we underestimated the need and want for something like this.
“But I couldn’t tell you the demographic of our customers, or if they’re mostly over 50 or under 30. It’s an even spread all the way through. Our venue is like travelling overseas to a resort and looking around, and you see young people, and families, or families with their parents, and you see older people. It’s this lovely mix and it’s really amazing.”
4 Trafalgar Street, Manly
(07) 3393 5920