As a child, my parents would often bring my brother and I here for lunch over the summer, on warm sunny days when it was a treat to sit outside and marvel at the beautiful view of the water and mountains. It seems that all of The Boathouse restaurants have lovely views, and that’s probably one of the things that draws people to the restaurant. I have to admit that, being influenced by the sunny weather and clear blue sky one day, I suggested to Emme that we visit The Boathouse in Horseshoe Bay… simply because I wanted to bask in the sunshine and enjoy the setting. We had tried to go to it on a different day and been turned away, with words from the waitress telling us of a two-hour. However, on this occasion, Emme and I went early enough that we avoided any lines and were given a table right away by the window.
The first and probably most obvious feature worth mentioning about the Boathouse is that it has a spectacular setting. You have a clear view of Horseshoe Bay and the beautiful mountain scenery – and everything lights up and is coloured a lovely orange hue at sunset. It really is quite a stunning view. The main reason I wanted to go, as I mentioned before, was just for the setting. I suppose it can be more or less of a draw, depending on how much you choose to be influenced by the weather. In any case, we were glad to have the setting we wanted… although we both noticed that many people in the dining room that night had less-than-acceptable table manners.
Out waiter was friendly enough and fairly knowledgeable about the menu. Just when I had decided on getting one of the specials of the day – which I actually can’t recall exactly anymore – he returned to our table informing us that they couldn’t serve it. Both Emme and I were kind of in disbelief… You don’t have your own special of the day? What do you mean?! Why is it even listed as a special then, or listed on the menu at all, if you can’t serve it? He said they didn’t have the fish for it. Riiight… That did not really start off the dining experience well, but I chose something else and Emme was lucky enough to get served exactly what she asked for.
The Maple Roasted Chicken that Emme picked ended up being quite a good choice. The mashed potatoes, she claimed, were really the highlight of the meal, what with a wonderful fluffy texture and pleasing, but not over-powering, garlicky aroma. The chicken itself was very good; succulent and sweet from the maple, with some fresh and dried herbs adding new dimensions of flavour. This dish was a hit.
I wish I could say the same for my dish. The Seafood Grill that I ended up getting instead of the special of the day was, despite a light sprinkling of dried herbs (chives?), very bland overall. The seafood chunks (shrimp, salmon, and scallops) looked like they had been marinated… but upon tasting there was no hint of the sauce. The salmon was tough and chewy, and the shrimp a bit rubbery. The scallops were the best part, what with their subtle sweetness. Thankfully they escaped the perils of overcooking that the shrimp and the salmon suffered. The spaghetti squash upon which the skewers rested was… well, okay I suppose. It didn’t taste like anything, which is really the problem. Any sort of additional sauce probably would have done wonders to enhance some of the flavours of the dish.
At the end of the meal, Emme and I were waiting for our evening tea to arrive… and the waiter, rushing crazily towards our table with two boiling hot teapots and two teacups precariously perched in the crook of one elbow, ended up actually spilling a good deal of hot water on my bag (which I hung from the side of my chair), the table, and actually a bit on my [napkin covered] lap, too. I tried to brush it off, just being grateful that I wasn’t scalded by the hot water, but Emme was quite taken aback… and probably with good reason. After spilling and splashing hot water everywhere, the waiter didn’t apologise or come back to clean up the spills. He gave a light-hearted “Whoops!”, dropped the pots and cups to the table, and took off again, not to be seen for another twenty minutes. Even before this incident, though, the service throughout our meal had been… nonexistent. Perhaps this would have been more forgivable if it had been busy, but the fact of the matter is that it wasn’t. At all.
On our way out, we also noticed that a lot of the food was not truly “fresh”… or, should I say, not “cooked to order”. A huge amount of dishes were already cooked and being hot-held under the hoods of grills in the kitchen. Also, there were a couple of buckets of condiments by the pick-up area where servers grab dishes (for toppings like chives, or cheese, etc.) and we saw – repeatedly – servers just grabbing condiments with their bare hands to throw on dishes. Maybe I shouldn’t have been as bothered by that, but… how often do servers wash their hands? It just didn’t seem very sanitary. At the very least, the chefs should be putting those final touches on dishes – not the servers.
I wish I could say better things about the Boathouse – and this one in particular, since I’ve got good childhood memories involving the place – but this one dining experience was a flop. The Maple Roasted Chicken was great, but the seafood dish – which should have been the Boathouse’s strong point, in terms of food – was overcooked and underseasoned. The ambiance suffered only because of the type of other diners around, but is otherwise fantastic on a sunny day or warm summer evening when you can sit on the patio. The service was… questionable, to say the least. Definitely not the best. And value? Well, the Boathouse is classed as one of those supposedly “upscale” restaurants (like Joey restaurants, Moxie’s. or Earl’s type restaurants are supposed to be) so it wasn’t cheap. For a less than satisfying meal, I can’t say that I got the most bang out of my buck. Emme’s dish, on the other hand, was a better deal… But other choices on the menu also seemed a bit overpriced for what they were offering. Portion sizes are skimpy, and if you finish hungry like both Emme and I did, you’re probably better off going somewhere else for a more filling meal.