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Fort Denison Island
DESPITE offering one of the most stunning views available in Sydney and sitting alone in a supremely tranquil setting, the restaurant at Fort Denison fails to take one’s breath away and leaves one with the parting thought of what could have been.
Given that the summer wind was kicking up a fierce gale, the outdoor seating area at Fort Denison was covered in a cheap, plastic marquee. Inside, a rough carpet bobbled and peeled like the cheapest wedding venue carpet, parcel tape struggling to hold down the uneven surface. The white tablecloths were far from perfect and the table at which we were seated had several food spills from the previous party.
We were seated in a restuarant at about 25% of capacity and yet the waiter informed us that there were no menus available and so we would have to wait until such became available. I wondered what the restaurant would do on a busy occasion - besides our table, only one table of four had menus out with the remaining three tables already dining. Four menus for a place with over fifty covers? Ludicrously poor form.
The waiter was polite, if uninformed. When asked what sauce accompanied the roast chicken dish, he reverted to the kitchen. Upon his return, he offered up a French name for the sauce only to be asked what was contained in the sauce - to which he shrugged his shoulders. It seemed the waiting staff were all rushed - thought quite what for was a mystery.
The food arrived - one fishcake entree, one leg of lamb entree and the beef tataki (which is essentially carpaccio of beef), as well as mains of fish and chips, chicken breast and the prawns with chorizo - and few people on the table were impressed.
The fish and chips was described as “from frozen” and its appearance did not belie that fact. The beef tataki was a tiny portion and it required a side of chips to make anything like a meal out of it - at $19 one might reasonably expect a larger portion. The chips - these are just French fries straight from a bag - no home-cooked or flavoured element to them. McDonalds do a better job with their fries.
The leg of lamb - all four square centimetres of it - was good. Again, however, it required a side in order to make it into a small meal. The fish cakes - two - were flavourful but sparse and the prawns with chorizo easily represented the most filling and tastiest dish on the table - but at $37.50 that would be a reasonable hope for the meal.
The entire party came away from Fort Denison feeling seriously underwhelmed. A short walk around the island did little to undo the sour taste at having just spent over $200 for six people to dine on a meal which had failed to satisfy the appetite of anyone at the dining table.
Any romantic notion of sitting on a fortified island in Sydney Harbour with views over the city, Opera House and Harbor Bridge whilst dining on exquisite cuisine is all well and good until one enters the tacky, plastic marquee and dines on the mediocre cuisine afforded to the restaurant’s patrons. By all means visit Fort Denison for the views - but shy away from the food.
This is a tiny little island in the middle of Sydney Harbour and I have passed by it on a ferry so many times and never set foot on it. I used to hear the cannon fire from there at 1pm every day. So one day I booked a tour just to be able to say I had been there.
It is only one of the many tours you can do around the harbour and you book them all the National Parks & Wildlife office in Cadmans Cottage (oldest surviving house in Sydney) next to the Tourist Info Centre in The Rocks.
And they leave close by.
Because the island is so tiny it's a half day sort of thing to do - and best to book lunch or breakfast to have at their cafe (you have to book) otherwise you will run out of things to do.
This island used to be called Pinchgut. Probably because they dumped recalcitrant convicts here to consider their sins while they slowly starved.
Or it may have been because of the hanged convict they left hoisted on the scaffold as a warning to others. He got thinner and thinner.
You get a twenty minute video of the history of the place which is interesting. About why it was turned into a fort and all that.
Fort Denison was originally used to house convicts from escaping. Most convicts in the early days could not swim and the risk of being attacked by a shark deterred prisoners from escaping. Fort Denison is located in the middle of Sydney Harbour, its a fabulous day out and a wonderful interesting attraction.
Fort Denison is open 7 days for lunch at the cafe or for picnics with a tour group. There are two tours daily to Fort Denison and tours can be booked by visiting the Sydney Harbour National Park Information Centre, located in The Rocks or by ringing +61 2 9247 5033.
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