During the school holidays I was down at Balmoral Beach with my little guy and we noticed that that old ‘fish n chip’ shop was undergoing renovations.
But that didn’t mean it was closed.
Bottom of the Harbour was still trading while the renovations were taking place.
Once a corner butcher’s shop, the site now is a fish ‘n chip shop that for the locals is an institution.
On our day at Balmoral Beach during the school holidays we had lunch at Bottom of the Harbour. I was starving by the time Alfie climbed out of the surrounding fig trees and once we ordered we then had to wait. The trick at Bottom of the Harbour is that once you have ordered and pre-paid for your meal, you then have to wait for your number to be called – think queuing in a bank!
On that day the situation was at its worst. With the warm weather and the shining sun there couldn’t have been more voluminous crowds down at Balmoral – all without picnic baskets. So Alfie and I queued with the rest of them and waited on the sidewalk with all the hungry others, blocking access for anyone trying to pass by, especially those with prams and double strollers and motorised scooters.
Finally our order arrived and we had a lovely time together eating our fish and chips.
I was keen to visit again so back I went. But I deliberately chose a day outside of school holidays, outside of good weather and outside of a weekend because this establishment is so popular, I would never have been able to photograph it without hoards of crowds blocking every feature.
Carl and I went to Bottom of the Harbour on a Monday and we didn’t arrive until 2.15pm so well after the lunchtime rush.
As you can see from the images, Bottom of the Harbour is still undergoing renovations. It hasn’t changed ownership; the existing owners have decided to blend what was a fairly disconnected and disjointed space into one stream-lined area. I can see how the interior space is being improved and I really like what they’re doing and the rowing oars hanging from the ceiling are a lovely feature.
The menu has improved also. While once this was a site for seafood lovers only (including a one and only salad with anchovies in the dressing), now there is a wide variety of salads and a selection of interesting burgers.
I ordered a ‘Twenty 88’ burger with chargrilled chicken breast, lemon and herb marinade, iceberg lettuce, avocado, tomato, double smoked bacon and house made piri-piri sauce and aioli. While the burger was generous in proportions and well cooked with crispy bacon and plenty of avocado, I unfortunately couldn’t taste the piri-piri sauce. I enjoyed the chips that came with it however they did need to be seasoned.
There is no gluten-free burger option.
Carl had the battered fish and chips. The fish is New Zealand Hake. Most of you know that Carl never has a bad word to say about any meal he has however, he hated his fish and chips. He said it was the oiliest fish he has ever had as well as the most bland. It was served with a wedge of lemon but he felt it needed another kick so he went to the counter and bought a small container of tartare sauce for $1.50.
I ordered some potato scallops because these are authentic scallops and not the ordered-in highly fake looking scallops you see in a lot of fish ‘n chip shops. However, as authentic as these were, there was just too much oil. They also lacked flavour and really needed a boost of tomato sauce however I would have needed to queue again and I couldn’t quite be bothered.
I believe that in a few weeks time this store will have finished its renovations and will look incredible and you can guarantee there will be no shortage of customers. However, a store should not trade on its fortunate position alone and if you’re going to charge inflated prices, customers have a right to expect exceptional quality and standards.
On our Monday encounter, I’m not sure the $34.80 price tag (plus $1.50 for tartare sauce), for a burger with chips, two potato scallops, two bottles of water and a fish and chips was worth it.
I do love the establishment and it is a great place to visit when you’re parched and starving however there has to be some balance between what you pay and what you get.
Verdict: Have deep pockets and a not-so-fussy attitude or bring your own picnic to Balmoral Beach.
Bottom of the Harbour: 21 The Esplanade, Balmoral Beach Ph: 9969 7911