Friday, June 3, 2016

The Fish House, Burleigh Heads (QLD) by Foghorn Leghorn

There are two things you should know about the Fish House in Burleigh Heads: it's expensive; and it's always full. Many places are one or the other, but very few are both, so evidently the Fish House is providing something that keeps people coming back to pay the steep prices. It could be the view, but across the road there are two restaurants with a better view, and they've been offering specials to fill their seats. The Fish House doesn't offer specials, so it's most likely about the food, and that's why we decided to devote some hard-earned shekels to eating there.

I'll say at the start that it was worth the expense. At the same time, we were surprised to find that the food experience fell down in a couple of ways that we didn't expect.

The Fish House, patagonian toothfish
Caramelised Patagonian toothfish with spring onion

One thing that the place offers, rarely seen elsewhere, is Patagonian toothfish from the Heard Island fishery. Before readers go all eco-warrior about this, I looked it up before we went. The Heard Island fishery is well-managed, and the catch quotas are set at a precautionary level. So this was a fish we definitely wanted to sample.

The Fish House, oysters

We had the choice of eating a la carte, or trying the daily menu. There was also the option of choosing a whole fish from the impressive display. We chose the menu, as it promised a good variety of dishes, including the toothfish. The waiter warned that it would take an hour and a quarter to get through the seven courses, which was fine by us.

The Fish House, kingfish
Working our way through the courses was fun. Mrs Leghorn doesn't like oysters, and the restaurant was happy to provide a substitute – raw kingfish with soy, citrus and ginger.

The Fish House, raw scampi
Raw scampi were also excellent. The range of raw dishes at the Fish House is another sign of how seriously they take their seafood. Cooking can hide any number of faults, but the quality of raw seafood is apparent immediately.

The Fish House, smoked oysters, smoked eel, smoked ocean trout
Smoked oysters and smoked eel were a bit meh, but there's only so much anyone can do with eel. The smoked ocean trout had us in raptures. It was as if someone had taken a beautiful piece of sashimi and added just a hint of smokiness.

The Fish House, school prawns
A few other things really stood out. The tartare sauce with the school prawns was sublime, as was the lemony fish soup.

The Fish House, fish soup
Lemony fish soup

The Fish House, risotto
The risotto was just as a risotto should be: al dente, creamy and presented in a risotto plate.

And then it all fell down. The amazing ocean trout set our expectations pretty high, so we waited eagerly for the final course. And waited. And waited. We weren't the only ones. As we looked around the restaurant, most tables were talking politely and not eating, because there was nothing to eat. It ended up being a full half hour between the arrival of the risotto and the arrival of the toothfish (see first pic).

The delay was only half the problem; the other half was the food itself. The toothfish portion was tiny, and covered in sweet goo - "caramelised", said the menu. What does toothfish taste like? I have no idea. All I remember is a lot of sugar, with a hint of fish. The texture of the fish (firm, flaky and moist) was wonderful, and promised great things, but it was impossible to get past the sweet goo. I tried to scrape it off, without success - whoever had assembled this dish was determined that we wouldn’t get past the sugar.

The Fish House, potato, salad
And how is it possible that a top-class kitchen can’t cook potatoes? They were overcooked, dry and tasteless. It was as if they had run out of potatoes, and had quickly borrowed a batch from a nearby student canteen. They reminded me of potatoes at a conference or a wedding reception.

By the time we finished the toothfish, we'd spent over two hours in the place, so we didn't feel like hanging around for sweets or coffee. I was also a bit hungry. We had declined the bread and butter offered at the start, thinking that seven courses would more than fill us up. It turned out not to be the case. So after a very promising start, we walked away a bit annoyed.

The Fish House, Burleigh Heads, Queensland
Oh well, there's always a next time, I tell myself. One day I'll find a toothfish that's allowed to taste like toothfish. If I save up enough money, I'll definitely head back to the Fish House, but I'll know to avoid anything labelled "caramelised", and to avoid the potatoes.

The Fish House, Burleigh Heads, Queensland


We really liked it
We really liked it but were surprised at some unexpected faults. The service is very good, they’ve found the professional staff that no-one else on the Gold Coast can find.


If you’re on the Gold Coast and you like seafood, this is one place you should really check out if you have the budget. Make sure you book, because it’s always full.  The dress code is strictly smart casual (no board shorts, singlets or swimwear).

Find it at

The Fish House
50 Goodwin Terrace
Burleigh Heads
4220 QLD Australia
Phone: +61 7 5535

The Fish House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 


Laura said...

I'll be in Burleigh in a couple of weeks time! I'm undecided yet whether I'll give this place a go. Any other recommendations? :)

Foghorn Leghorn said...

Hi Laura

Oskar's is another one at the top end of the market, and it's right on the water, with great views. Rick Shores is in the same building as Oskar's, same views. I haven't eaten at either, but they're meant to be pretty good.

At the budget end of the market, there's the Burleigh Heads Fishmonger, which is a really good fish and chip shop. They have a display of fish in the window, you choose how you want it cooked, they have BYO, and you can sit inside or outside. It can take a while for your meal to arrive, as it's a typical Gold Coast place where you, the customer, are just an obstacle between the staff and their surfing activities. But that doesn't matter if you're sitting outside on a nice day sipping a cool wine.

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