Jolleys Boathouse has been a mainstay of Adelaide’s fine dining scene ever since it was co-founded 33 years ago by architect Barry Matthews, who still runs the restaurant today.
Even Oprah Winfrey has dined at Jolleys, which has outlasted many of the city’s other fine dining restaurants.
Over the past three decades the restaurant has only had three chefs – most recently Tony Carroll who, after a successful 20 years, left to open Fishbank earlier this year.
Incoming chef Jack Ingram has been appointed to create a new menu that still focuses on fine dining, but in a restaurant that has been renovated with a more approachable feel — inviting everyday diners and not just special occasion bookings.
Matthews leases the venue from the Adelaide City Council and says the century-old building has been structurally rebuilt with a completely new fit out, completed in partnership with the council. “It’s a major rebirth of the building,” says Matthews.
“It hasn’t had any major structural work for probably over 100 years and it really needed preserving.
“We also decided to casualise the experience, where you don’t have to come in and have a three-course meal. If you want to come in and have a half-a-dozen oysters and a glass of wine, you’re more than welcome.”
Ingram was the perfect fit to fill the vacancy left by Carroll, with a background in casual fine dining on Kangaroo Island.
Originally from Dorset in southwest England, Ingram trained at British Michelin-starred restaurants before a backpacking trip spurred him to move to Australia.
He moved from Melbourne to Kangaroo Island in 2015 to take up the role of executive chef at Southern Ocean Lodge. Then, with his partner Vanessa Cu, launched his own Kangaroo Island restaurant Sunset Food & Wine.
The couple was forced to shut Sunset earlier this year, with the Island’s tourism industry impacted first by bushfires, then the coronavirus pandemic.
“One thing led to another, we came over to Adelaide and then this job came up,” says Ingram.
“I was very interested because it’s such a beautiful restaurant and I really like the location.
“Jolleys wanted to slightly casualise what they were doing, not in terms of the food offering, but the feel of the restaurant in general.
“It still is a romantic restaurant, but the owners wanted to make it more approachable and not only for special occasions.”
The restaurant has also recently appointed a new general manager in Peter Morelli, who has had an illustrious career in hospitality for brands including Penfolds, the Adelaide Festival Centre and SkyCity.
“It was probably a good thing I didn’t really know much about the place at first,” says Ingram.
“I hadn’t even eaten here before, so I didn’t have the pressure of how it needed to be or what the customers expected. They asked me to write a new menu, so I did one in a similar style to Sunset; that’s kind of the food I cook.
“I love the location. It’s in the city but it feels like you’re away from it all, which is awesome.”
With an entirely new kitchen team, Ingram has designed an à la carte menu of casual fine dining with plenty of Kangaroo Island produce. However, he’s tried to steer away from some of the more ubiquitous dishes.
“There’s so much great produce here in South Australia so everyone tends to use the same ingredients – which is completely understandable – but I’ve tried to steer away from dishes that everybody does, like the kingfish sashimi.”
The menu features lesser-used fish varieties, such as Tommy ruffs and snook, as well as kangaroo, and Kangaroo Island lamb.
“It’s always been a busy restaurant and there’s a lot of regulars, which is a good thing for a restaurant. We’ve had regular customers who’ve come back and say that it’s great that something new is happening,” says Ingram.
The chef still has the lease to Sunset Food & Wine, which is currently closed. He hopes someone will eventually take on and reopen the venue.
“Right now, it’s in hibernation, but it’s such a great location on Kangaroo Island and I want it to still be a restaurant. It’ll be great if someone becomes available who can do it.”
New coronavirus restrictions may affect Jolleys Boathouse’s operating hours. Check with the restaurant ahead of visiting.
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