Gabriels on the Bay

Licensed $-$$
Stewarts Bay Lodge, 6955 Arthur Highway, Port Arthur
03) 6250 2771/6250 2888
Open: Breakfast and lunch daily, dinner Thursday through Sunday.

How far would you travel for a good feed of fish ‘n chips? However far that might be, I reckon you’d have to go a very long way before you found better and better-value battered fish than we enjoyed the weekend before last at this waterfront restaurant only a short walk from Port Arthur.

Gabriels is on the site of Phil and Michael Kelly’s original restaurant but, rather than the rustic charm of the old timber-clad Kelley’s, it is a spacious and modern, glass-and-timber pavilion offering views of Stewarts Bay and surrounding bushland from the restaurant, conference rooms, roof deck and outside dinning settings. On a shimmering winter’s day, the views were beautiful.

So to the food.

There are three different chefs on rotation to cover the week’s breakfast, lunch and dinner services and function catering. The chef on the day of our visit was Warren Gilholm who some readers might remember from the best days of Kaos Café in Elizabeth Street.

The fish and chips of the day was three generous pieces of sweet and moist, perfectly cooked blue eye in a superb light, crisp and evenly tanned batter plus exceptional chips and a nicely dressed salad with a lemon cheek and tartare on the side. Nothing oily, chips not burnt or soggily limp and batter that was fresh, properly adhered to the fish and crunched to the bite but didn’t shatter. At $20 it was as good as I’ve had and represented excellent value.

Lamb and rosemary sausages, of good commercial quality, came topped with tasty caramelised onions and served on a pile of exceptionally silky and buttery potato mash, so good I finished eating it by the spoonful.

Less successful was the ‘Chef’s pie of the day’ – a smallish, round pie with an OK pastry shell and a strangely unappetising chunky cubed beef and chopped green olive filling, the dish ‘saved’ by the excellent chips and salad and an aside of house-made tomato and chilli salsa. Our lunch then finished with a fine cake made to a Stephanie Alexander recipe and good coffee.

The lunch menu also offers natural or Kilpatrick oysters, an open grilled salmon sandwich with brie cheese, a vegetarian lasagne and a house-made pork burger with the works. Some of these dishes reappear on the dinner menu along with an eye fillet steak and a few more innovative dishes such as hot smoked eel rillettes and Mexican-styled slow-cooked lamb shoulder.

The wines are reasonably priced with a good Tasmanian and small by-the-glass selections, the service is welcoming, friendly and country casual and the view makes up for any shortcomings.

But, with the exception of the Lucky Ducks Café on the other side of the peninsula, and before that The Mussel Boys at Taranna, the Port Arthur end of the peninsula has been sadly lacking in places offering quality food. In this respect, Gabriel’s fills a gap.

Lunch dishes $19/$20, dinner entrees $15 – $19, mains $28 – $38

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