There’s nothing like a trusty seaside kiosk. These shanty-like structures can be a beacon of hope as you explore a coastline: a spot for a quick coffee, ice cream for the kids, or to pick up some fish and chips. The quality can be a bit hit and miss, but it’s the risk you take because sometimes you know that you’ll strike deep-fried, buttery, crispy gold.
Wandering up Henley Beach, Joe’s might initially look like one of these typical, run of the mill kiosks that seems as though it could have been there since the dawn of time. But as you get closer, you’ll notice the exterior has a fresh lick of paint, bright beach-themed murals and some sleek new branding and signage.
I’ve seen line ups out the door and up the esplanade before, but as we arrive today there’s only a hint of summer peeking through the clouds and so we’re seated within minutes. It’s when you walk inside that you notice the real changes undertaken early last year.
Floor to ceiling windows offer a panoramic outlook to the beach below. Bright white walls and ceilings and light timber floors and furniture make the internal dining space feel much larger than it looks from outside and hints of light blue and just a few strategically positioned plants and hanging pots are the only real design elements. But with views like this, Joe doesn’t need embellishments.
With a group of friends and kids in tow, we shuffle in to bench seating and kick off the Joe’s experience with a sample of cocktails – Mimosa’s are an essential part of any good Sunday brunch, but it’s the Passionfruit Mojito with a mix of rum and lime with fresh pulp and mint leaves that makes us realise that Joe means business. And then a Grenache Rose from McLaren Vale producer Mazi stands out amid a short but very well-selected list of wines from SA.
Wedged into soft corn tortillas, three freshly coated and fried fish fillets are presented in a taco stand. Beneath each of these golden treats is a medley of fresh salsa, with avocado and jalapenos, and a squeeze of fresh lime that offers a little zing to these tasty morsels.
Then we’re ready to see how this kiosk fares in the fish and chip challenge, and thankfully Joe delivers here too. Two generously sized fillets sit atop an equally generous pile of golden chips. A crisp exterior coating of batter hides a silky, piping hot centre of flaky fish that breaks apart with minimal encouragement. This is utterly delicious and moreish, easily eclipsing any other beach kiosk fry-up I’ve tried in recent memory. A good tartare and fresh salad complete the package, both scoring tops marks, too.
The next dish features silky sheets of thickly sliced pasta, with finely shredded blue swimmer crab that clings to each piece, courtesy of a tomato-based sauce. Someone has gone a little heavy on the garlic in the kitchen which overpowers the taste of the crab in this one and it seems to be missing promised parmesan, but fresh basil leaves provide some recovery, giving a little fresh flavour to this otherwise hearty (and garlicky) plate.
And last on the list of mains is a chicken salad, but this one is far from typical. A balsamic maple dressing coats a melange of ingredients including kale and couscous, toasted pepitas, cherry tomatoes, rocket, radicchio, avocado and pomegranate seeds. This might sound a little healthy until mixed with mouthfuls of crispy fried pieces of chicken in a delicious darkened batter. From this point forward I’ll only eat chicken salad if it’s deep-fried, thanks.
Taking a step away from savoury, a stack of fluffy buttermilk pancakes sits on top of a berry compote, loaded with juicy blackberries. On top, lightly caramelised slices of banana and whipped mascarpone come together in delicious unison with a generous slather of maple syrup. These are some very fancy pancakes, complete with edible flowers.
In place of a typical dessert menu, Joe’s has maintained one part of their traditional kiosk offering, where you can go and help yourself to a selection of packaged ice creams. Maxibons with mint get the tick of approval from the kids as they run off down to the beach to make the most of the surf and the sun that has just broken through the clouds. The parents keep our seats inside, wrapping up what has turned into a very long and salubrious brunch with a Riesling from KT Wines.
It’s clear at this point that Joe is well and truly ready for another delicious summer to arrive. And after the year we’ve had, aren’t we all?
Joe’s Henley Beach
Corner of South St and The Esplanade
Ph: 8235 0111
Open: Seven days, 7.30am to 3pm