Restaurateur Bill Drakopoulos knows a good thing when he sees it, which is what he thought when he laid eyes on the heritage-listed Fenwick & Co tug-boat shed on the foreshore of Balmain East.

“I get offered lots of sites on a very regular basis, which I’m very humbled about, but with this one it was instant, a no-brainer,” he tells Broadsheet.

The Fenwick is the latest venture by Drakopoulos’s Sydney Restaurant Group, which is behind eight notable waterside venues, including Lumi, Ormeggio at the Spit, Chiosco, Aqua Dining and Ripples. The Balmain site was tied up in red tape for 17 years, so when it came up for tender the group took no chances, spending two years working with the Inner West Council to ensure the company secured the distinctive waterside venue.

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“I think our group has become synonymous with amazing locations,” says Drakopoulos. “When I opened Aqua Dining 20 years ago [overlooking the North Sydney Olympic Pool and the Harbour Bridge], this is the same feeling that I got. It’s just one of those sites ... I’ve just got a gut feeling about this place.”

The restored sandstone building’s front archway frames a view across to Luna Park (and Aqua Dining if you squint hard enough), the Harbour Bridge and along the Barangaroo foreshore.

The menu was designed by Italian-born executive chef and co-owner Davide Rebeccato (Aqua Dining, The Nielsen). For breakfast there’s scrambled eggs served on French toast with prawns, eggplant and baby spinach, and poached eggs with asparagus and cavolo nero on sourdough, with parmesan fondue. At lunch you can eat pickled sardines served with Spanish onions and sultanas, or for some proper seaside dining, snapper tail served with lemon-and-garlic-butter sauce with a mixed-leaf salad. Pasta is made in-house – at the moment there’s a gnocchi with wild mushrooms, black truffle and scamorza cheese, and a spaghetti with prawns, pecorino, black pepper and lime.

“It’s still something special that you can’t do at home, but something that doesn’t break the bank or your belt,” says Drakopoulos.

Upstairs has been turned into a gallery, which will host regular exhibitions. The eatery is taking expressions of interest from artists. “It doesn’t have to be someone who has runs on the board, it could be an up-and-comer. We’re looking for Indigenous art, local art, abstract art, live art, I don’t mind,” he says.

The Fenwick is currently open for breakfast and lunch (until 5pm), but there are plans for dinner service in future.

The Fenwick
2-8 Weston Street, Balmain East
(02) 9159 4700

Daily 7am–5pm