TIDE’S ON THE RISE
Matthew Denholm samples local fare in the dining outpost of Burnie
IF you wanted to combine a love of the beach and fine dining, this is as close as it gets without sand between your toes. Bayviews Restaurant and Lounge Bar is not so much close to the beach in the northwest Tasmanian city of Burnie as on it. When it became apparent the Burnie Surf Club was to get a refurbished home, three local businessmen sniffed an opportunity and pitched a grander vision to authorities. The surf club got its new home while the city gained an awardwinning piece of waterfront architecture.
The glass, steel, concrete and timber structure houses the club, conference facilities, lounge bar and two sorely needed restaurants.
Despite the region generating some fine produce, including cheese and beef, Burnie has had a reputation as a culinary backwater in terms of top-notch dining. Approaching Bayviews at dusk, as the surf of Bass Strait pounds on the shore, I’m hoping that has changed.
I realise it would have been better to eat here during the day to enjoy the superb outlook over the beach and sea. As it is, I have my back to the dimly visible white-foamed surf and my view is of the bright lights of a KFC.
The interior of Bayviews, which opened in March, is a little stark, but the dark, wave-like timber ceiling and stylish bar provide warmth. It’s a weeknight but the place is packed: a good sign for any restaurant. There are a few mainland tourists, marvelling as they recall discoveries of virgin rainforest and low property prices, as well as a smattering of locals.
In a small city surrounded by farms and industry, with no experience of exclusive eateries, it is natural that a pioneering establishment should aim for a broad appeal.
We mull these issues and examine the menu over a couple of beers, mine a Boag’s, brewed a couple of hours’ drive east in more cosmopolitan Launceston. The menu seems to include less local produce than I had hoped, although I later learn most is from the region even if it is not identified as such.
The dozen oysters ($18) with which I open my account are not local. There are excellent oysters to be had in nearby Smithton, but the vagaries of supply mean that tonight’s come instead from St Helens on the state’s east coast. They are certainly fresh, having arrived only minutes earlier, and are as firm and succulent as the best can be.
I am a little puzzled, however, to find them in a stack, which I feel I have to disassemble before they can be consumed. Why do some chefs think diners like food to arrive in pyramid form? Plates are usually large and round, so why do they layer food in the middle like a pile of rocks?
We have selected a bottle of 2006 Pipers Brook Pinot Gris ($36) to follow our beer, also from the Launceston region (in the Tamar Valley), a good match for the oysters and for the quail my dining companion, Matt, has ordered as an entree.
He enjoys his Thai-inspired dish, the bird served on a bed of wok-tossed greens ($17). It features, you guessed it, another stack, and Matt grumbles that the accompanying wafers are ‘‘ a bit pointless’’. The quail, which I later discover is sourced locally, is excellent, however, and the serving refreshingly generous. We both enjoy our food more macro than micro and hope this is a sign of things to come.
The menus created by husband and wife chefs Craig and Hannah Jones — lunch, dinner and specials — are varied. Dishes range from light and curious (local periwinkles baked with spicy tomato relish and pecorino, $14 or $24) to traditional and intimidating (800g local aged rump steak with chips, $40).
Pizzas are also a feature, including inventive options such as gin and beetroot-cured trout with tomato, capers, spanish onion and creme fraiche ($18). And a tempting seafood platter for two features king prawns, periwinkles, natural and baked oysters, mussels, baby snapper, smoked ocean trout and scallops with salad and french fries ($95).
For our main courses, Matt and I have chosen a less ambitious option: the pan-seared blue-eyed trevalla fillet cooked in tarragon cream on a creamy garlic mash ($26.50).
The flavours are fine but the fish is closer to overcooked and drowning in tarragon sauce. The accompanying vegetables are limp and, while mercifully not stacked, appear simply to have been dumped on the plate. We agree the mains are closer to pub fare than fine dining.
The service is friendly but lacks finesse. When fresh cutlery arrives between courses, for example, it is placed carelessly askew. Such details are small but important parts of the dining experience.
Undeterred, we push on to dessert. I order a chocolate jaffa tart with Cointreau yoghurt ($9.50), while Matt takes the Bayviews threecheese tasting plate with crackers ($14.50). I’m unsure if the yoghurt’s acidophilus has survived its brush with the Cointreau, but reassure myself that at the very least the bacteria died happy. I’m happy, too, with this super-rich tart, which is well matched by the boozy yoghurt.
Matt can’t go wrong with his selection of local cheeses: washed-rind brie, a blue and a cheddar. Coffees ($3.50) complete an enjoyable if less than perfect meal.
Bayviews does not — yet, at least — reach the heights of the best local restaurants, such as Launceston’s Luck’s, Stillwater and Daniel Alps at Strathlyn, or Lebrina and Marque IV in Hobart. However, it constitutes a laudable step in the right direction for Burnie and I hope it will inspire other culinary entrepreneurs. All Tables visits are unannounced and meals paid for. Bayviews Restaurant and Lounge Bar Hilder Parade beachfront, first floor, North Terrace, Burnie; (03) 6431 7999; www.bayviewsrestaurant.com.au. Open: Seven days, 8.30am until late. Cost: Three-course meal for two, with wine, about $160. There is also a children’s menu: fish and chips ($9); mini fillet steak with salad and fries ($10); napolitana pasta with cheese ($8). Drink: A reasonable selection of Tasmanian and mainland (particularly South Australian) wines, with one or two imports, many available by the glass. Reason to return: To come by day and fully appreciate the great location.
Sea change: In a great location, Bayviews has broken fresh ground and may well lead a new wave of dining for Burnie