Heathcote Reserve, 56 Duncraig Rd, Applecross
Ph: (08) 9315 7700
Soothing, Nourishing & Delicious
The story of Heathcote’s tranquility is historically impressive – and there is probably nowhere better to contemplate it than over a plate of fine food served in the iconic red brick building overlooking the Swan River.
Called Goolugatup, or ‘place of children’ by the Noongar people who used it as a meeting and birthing place, the point was given its current name by WA’s founder, Captain James Stirling. History has it that GC Heathcote, a midshipman on the HMS Success was the first European to set foot there in 1827.
A hundred years later the impressive red brick structure, with its clock tower was designed to accommodate 76 ‘recoverable’ mentally ill patients. The tranquility of the site and quality buildings were deliberate elements, thought to be soothing to troubled minds. In 2000 the site became a historical precinct and is now home to a museum, art gallery and the Blue Water Grill Restaurant.
The river vista and the high ceilinged, wooden floored historic architecture still engulf visitors in a sense of wellbeing and tranquility. They lend an effortless sense of class to the restaurant, allowing it to be casually welcoming and still impressive.
Chef Brad Leahy echoes’ this sense of comfortable quality in his approach to the menu.
While one of the most popular dishes on the menu is the beer battered gummy shark with chips and tartare sauce, there are also plenty of options for more adventurous taste buds.
The apple brandy glazed pork belly from the salads and starter menu came with a salted apple puree and rhubarb espuma (froth) that provided a cleansing counterpoint to the pork, and the beautifully fresh almond crumbed scallops were balanced well by their accompanying salty dried pastirma (beef) and rocket salad.
Restaurant manager David Keane is a true believer in matching specific wines to specific dishes, and offers many wines by the glass to encourage specific selections. Pairing the 2009 Arneis First Drop with the scallops and the 2008 Paringa Estate Chardonnay with the pork belly were both good calls.
The starters range in price from $15.50 to $22.00, while the mains range from $18.50 to $42.50, (including a small weekend surcharge) and there are share plates, salads, homemade gourmet sauces and grill options also available. While there are only a few vegetarian and gluten free options on the menu, the chef encourages people with specific diets to simply ask for something off menu, to have a dish crafted to suit their tastes and needs.
Most of the mains include two cuts of meat or types of seafood and two vegetable elements, and it is in the balance and design of the dishes that Leahy’s training as a fine dining chef (at Fraser’s Restaurant) shines through.
The two dishes we tried were the grilled lamb loin with braised shoulder, sweet and sour eggplant, haloumi fritter and salmoriglio (a tasty Italian sauce) and the chargrilled wagyu sirloin and bourguignon braised shin with gratin potato and green beans (from the specials menu). In both cases it was the secondary cut that stopped conversation as we savoured the flavour.
Asked about it, Leahy smiled and said: “Well, there’s not much of a challenge in just grilling a great cut. To get the best out of the secondary cuts you’ve got to understand the food, to know what it can handle and what it can’t take.”
His other passions include making every element of every dish work in terms of texture, flavour and in the aesthetics of plating up and consistency. In his words: “Not only does every dish we serve on one day have to be of comparable quality, it is also important that if someone enjoys a dish and comes back next week and orders the same dish, they should get the same dish.”
There’s something comfortable about knowing that there is an experienced perfectionist in the kitchen that adds to everything else about Blue Water that is soothing, nourishing and kind of therapeutic.