Bottom of the Harbour, Balmoral Beach

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.

'Bottom of the Harbour' is on the corner of The Esplanade and Raglan Streets.  No sign-writing on the building as yet due to the renovations.

‘Bottom of the Harbour’ is on the corner of The Esplanade and Raglan Streets. No sign-writing on the building as yet due to the renovations.

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!

The new interior that links the previously disconnected areas of the takeaway venue

The new interior that links the previously disconnected areas of the takeaway venue

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.

Lunch with all my friends and yes, Carl has a lot of keys

Lunch with all my friends and yes, Carl has a lot of keys

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.

My burger and fries.

My burger and fries – $11.90

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.

Fish and Chips

Fish and Chips – $11.50

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.

Potato Scallops

Potato Scallops – $1.00 each

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.

Across the road from Bottom of the Harbour is one of Sydney's best beaches

Across the road from Bottom of the Harbour is one of Sydney’s best beaches

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


  1. What a shame! Trading on a captive market is so common and we have many examples over here in the UK.

    Lovely beach, though. I guess you’ll be taking your own picnic and getting better food for far less cost next time?

  2. Yes I have found this happens a lot. Sometimes much better not to renovate – people are sometimes satisfied with good food at a fair price, than a fancy facade.

  3. Too bad about the food. Perhaps after the renovations are completed more attention will be paid to the quality and standards of the food.
    Gorgeous beach scene.

  4. I never realised this place had a name! It’s always just been the fish and chip shop at Balmoral… Shame about the oil.

  5. $35 for burgers? Wow! Maybe things are cheaper in Texas.

  6. I think bringing my own picnic is what I have to do. Honestly Charlie, I gain a pound just looking at that photo.

  7. Ah too bad it’s so expensive!! Definitely a bit of a burger buzzkill.

  8. I do have a problem with places charging through the roof just because of their location. But sadly, that is mostly the case now a days and no sign of improvement. But the food does look good. Hopefully they will take note and maybe you will get a better deal next time.

  9. I guess by the time you finally get your food you’re so starved you won’t put up too much of a fuss but someone should really tell them to raise the temperature of their oil. Or they stick so many items in at the same time so they can give out the food that the oil temp drops too much and it all gets greasy. You can only hope it gets better once the renovations are done.

  10. What a disappointment. Too bad. And I am certain word will travel quickly in spite of the renovations. But it looks like a lovely day to be out!

  11. Too bad about the food Charlie. But the location does look beautiful. Your caption, “Carl has a lot of keys” made me look twice at the picture!

  12. Lovely photo of gorgeous Balmoral Beach 🙂

  13. That’s a shame! I hope they lift their game once they’ve read your review!

  14. What a bummer Charlie, maybe the oil was cold and that’s why it soaked instead of fried? Hopefully they’ll pick up their game- but do you want to risk $40 too check? Xox

  15. Well, at least you had a gorgeous view during your lunch! I think Bill carries around the same amount of keys…and he hasn’t a clue what most of them unlock :/

  16. This looks like a great beach lunch spot. These types of places are always so expensive, but sometimes it’s just fun. Glad you and Alfie had a good lunch together. 🙂

  17. My goodness for Carl to actually have a bad word to say it must have been bad. It does look pretty oily even from the pics.

  18. Oh we used to go here every Sunday for fish and chips growing up! Mum would set up the picnic on the grass and Dad would obligingly queue for what seemed like hours! It’s a shame their prices have gone up so high and it’s so oily now. I don’t remember them being oily, maybe because we’d be so hungry and just scoff them down so fast?!

  19. What a lovely, lovely beach. I’d bring my own picnic lunch based on your review.

  20. I think my heart cringes at oil soaked food. 🙂 What a fantastic spot though – gorgeous. You live in such a pretty part of the world.

  21. The beach looks absolutely gorgeous! Too bad the food was such a disappointment. Hopefully they will take heed and make the effort to make the food as fabulous as the location.

  22. Time for a change of chef by the sounds of it. What a shame! Greasy anything is so unappetizing.

  23. That’s a hefty price to pay for oily fish! I hope they get the feedback and make an effort to improve their cooking methods. I will say the food looked better than apparently it was! How disappointing!

  24. G’day! Thanks Charlie, enjoyed your post today, true!
    They will only charge what people are willing to pay and obviously, business is doing ok or their prices would drop too!
    Cheers! Joanne

  25. O dear, if Carl was unimpressed then that’s a worry! I didn’t realise that he never had a bad word to say about food. In that case, he is always welcome here! 😉

  26. Shame, that same size portion of fish and chips at Palm beach is $7.50 and fabulous but don’t tell anyone. It’s the kids portion, but is ample to feed me. I am sick to the back teeth of paying top dollar for something I could have done better in my own kitchen. Recently I ordered the lemon sole with mash and veggies at a local yacht club and the watery vegetables were cold. It was still $25 though and very disappointing. Means I just won’t go there again in a hurry.

  27. Looks a bit greasy for me – the food that is. But the location is great.

  28. What a pity about the prices. It always seems places like that here don’t last long, which is a pity.
    🙂 Mandy xo

  29. How I love Balmoral beach! Sorry to hear about your bad experience! I remember waiting in that massive line for hot fish and chips. Sounds like the place has changed a bit because the food was always delicious when I was a kid!

  30. I imagine your meal tasted extra good on your first visit, after the waiting and queuing! And this must be a gem to draw you back so soon despite the renovations; I love that they have a varied menu and cater to more than just fish and chips.

  31. I want to fly there… 🙂 now made me hungry!

  32. What a shame; most of our touristy restaurants by the lake are crap too and highly priced. Not sure why they can’t be good as well but for some reason they never ever are. It looks like you had a gorgeous day.

  33. That fish sure is deceiving because it looks delicious! Pretty view and nice company at least 🙂

  34. I don’t expect a Michelin-rated restaurant when at the beach but I think a flavorful meal at a fair price isn’t too much to ask. Greasy food? No way. $35 for basically street fare? You’ll get me once but there will not be a second time. On the plus side, at least you both got to spend some time together on what looks like a fantastic day.

  35. The beach looks so clean and the sand is so soft! The beaches in Melbourne often have a lot of rocks through them 🙁 I like the look of the fish and chips but a shame about the potato cake I love fried food but don’t like it when it’s too greasy!

  36. I really like tanning there.

  37. Charlie, you’re right about expecting more for the price… I’d be inclined to bring my own picnic. Lovely spot! FYI, I recently learned one of the most insidious sources of gluten is seasoned fries. The seasoning is adhered with gluten-containing “dust” and/or the fries are cross-contaminated in fryers (think flour-laden batters or coatings.) Hopefully restaurants will get a clue that a growing number of their clientele can’t tolerate such seemingly innocuous slip-ups.

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