In the final days before the opening of the fresh-faced and revamped Balmoral Boatshed, there were some ruffled feathers among Balmoral locals.
“We had a woman saying that we’d ruined everything with the crab pots and that she didn’t like the plants on the deck,” says Pip Robb, one half of the team that is bringing the feel and flare from The Boathouse Palm Beach to Balmoral Boatshed.
“I didn’t really know what to say to that,” sighs Robb. “People seem very confused about why we’re bringing plants to the beach,” she continues, shooting a glance towards the trademark pots, plants and floristry that deck out the refitted interior and add a sense of lush abundance to the sprawling deck.
“But I grew up going to the beach and wandering through scrub and bushland before you come to the sand.”
Robb and her business partner and fiancé Andrew Goldsmith are the team that brought us the artfully styled surrounds and simple, elegant menu of The Boathouse Palm Beach and previously Armchair Collective in Mona Vale. The duo also runs function space Moby Dick’s at Whale Beach and their distinct style is overflowing with carefully chosen pieces and unique objet d’art. It’s a style that is well suited to beachside surrounds, responding to the local atmosphere to create a casual eatery with an inclusive nature.
Neither Robb nor Goldsmith have any formal hospitality training, but they both have a love for business and good food that marry well with their combined design aesthetic. It was a great compliment when the team was approached by The Boatshed landlords and offered the opportunity to bring their flair to Balmoral, eventually tying in well with the sale of Armchair Collective around Christmas. Gone is the kiosk-style cafe and its ice cream cabinets, to be replaced by Ici Et La striped stools, white picnic benches, wooden deck chairs and The Boathouse’s trademark blackboard menu and potted vegetation.
“Andrew is actually a trained landscape designer by trade, so that’s why we have all the plants. And I’m an interior designer, so we’re always clashing with what we want for inside and outside, but not in a bad way,” laughs Robb gently.
“We’re inspired by places where…there is attention to detail, so we wanted to create the same thing,” says Robb. “The Boathouse [Palm Beach] really evolved – it started little and then grew. So we’ll see how this goes and what the locals need. We don’t want to push any of those boundaries.”
To that end, they have installed a public bubbler out the front and opened up a thoroughfare through the cafe to the Balmoral Boat Hire at the back of The Boatshed. Boat hire is still a separate business, but customers are no longer relegated to a side entry away from the cafe and the team have carried motifs (like the blue and white striped wallpaper) right through to the Boat Hire, working on the principle of being open and inclusive. It’s a breath of new life for a space that had been sadly underutilised, and for Robb it’s also something of a homecoming.
“I grew up around here, I went to high school around here and all my friends are here, and so for me it’s nice and it feels like it’s a bit of my childhood, which is lovely.”
The food will reflect the casual style that the team have perfected at The Boathouse and while their famous fish and chips will be on the menu along with other signature seaside dishes, there will also be a few new things added to the mix with seasonality playing a big part.
“We like to stick to what we know and do it well. Why reinvent it?” urges Robb. “We love it so much and we think it suits the beachside area. We try to create all of it [from the decor to the food] so that it’s as casual as it can be. You can still come in your swimmers, with sandy feet and none of it is precious. We don’t mind having sand everywhere, but you can still enjoy a really nice meal and a drink in a beautiful spot. It’s about the experience.” And all in a lush, green oasis by the water.
We just hope the locals get used to the pot plants.
The Balmoral Boatshed
2 The Esplanade, Balmoral Beach
(02) 9969 4412
Daily from 7am for breakfast, lunch, cake and coffee.