The Boatshed Woronora in Sydney’s south has been a community mainstay for more than 80 years. But the cafe and canoe-hire outlet copped a lot since a change of ownership in 2020, from lockdowns to floods. Now the “Wonnie Boatshed” – as locals affectionately call it – has reopened. And its owner promises things are better than ever.
Granted, times have been tough. First came Covid restrictions, then La Niña. The bright blue boatshed on the river flooded three times in the span of six months, destroying 80 per cent of stock and appliances, damaging infrastructure and shuttering services. All of that, after it had just gone through a fresh refurb in 2020.
“The whole community was affected, not just us. Many people lost pontoons or jetties or downstairs bedrooms. Some have lost whole houses due to black mould,” owner Nicola Gilfillan tells Broadsheet. “But nobody lost life. It always helps keep things in perspective.”
Community support made things a little easier, Gilfillan says. Like when a few local kids set up a lemonade stand to help raise essential funds for the Boatshed while it was closed. “Sometimes those acts of kindness crack you wide open,” Gilfillan says.
Once the water receded it was time for The Boatshed to get back to business. After some more renovations, Gilfillan says. “We got back in the trenches and fixed, replaced, restored, repainted.”
Now The Boatshed has reopened with a fresh look and – most excitingly of all – a commercial gas kitchen, allowing the team to add new dishes to the menu, catering to locals and visitors to nearby Royal National Park.
The new design is bright and white, with sail-shaped recesses in the newly rendered walls, long upholstered benches, and polished concrete flooring leading all the way out to the deck.
On the menu, the classic Boatshed Platter share plate remains – with three tiers of pancakes, waffles, fruit, mushrooms, avocado, bacon, eggs, toast and more. Other cornerstone classics, including eggs Benedict and the nourish bowl, are a hat tip to the locals Gilfillan describes as “the lifeblood of the business and the local community of Woronora”.
Then there are newcomers from the revamped kitchen – star dishes such as handmade linguine with tiger prawns, chilli and confit garlic; pan-roasted salmon; and battered fish and chips – and weekly specials.
The Boatshed remains something of a midweek hideaway, despite being only five minutes’ drive from Sutherland train station. “It can be so peaceful and like a sanctuary during the week, then so busy, like a noisy bustling city restaurant, on the weekends,” Gilfillan says.
But don’t expect it to remain under the radar much longer, as new customers are drawn to the breezy refurbed spot in rain, hail or shine. “It’s glorious on a sunny day and has a moody beauty on rainy days.”
Originally published on Broadsheet, February 1, 2023.