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August 23, 2023

River reboot: Jolleys Boathouse reclaims its place in the sun

New head chef Harry Bourne has transformed the Jolleys Boathouse menu, with a nod to its history and iconic residency on the River Torrens.

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  • Words and pictures: Claudia Dichiera

At 8:30am the sun shines brightly on the still River Torrens, glistening ripples moving slowly across the water.


Jolleys Boathouse
1 Jolleys Lane, Adelaide 5000
Wed—Fri: 12pm ’til 3:30pm, then 5.30pm ’til 10pm
Sat: 5:30pm ’til 10pm
Sun: 12pm ’til 4pm


The happy chatter of morning runners breaks the silence as they work for their morning endorphins kick.

The tranquil view from the riverfront tables at Jolleys Boathouse makes it a striking place for special occasions, anniversaries or an early morning CityMag interview.

“It’s absolutely stunning – stunning,” head chef Harry Bourne says as he overlooks the river.

“Every morning, I walk in here, I make myself a coffee, and I stand here and watch people walk by and I think ‘What a spot’ you know? It genuinely is that little kick every morning.”

Jolleys Boathouse

How’s the serenity?

Jolleys has reigned over this prime spot for decades. Original owner Belinda Hannaford rejuvenated the boatshed kiosk in 1987 and five years later sold it to current owner Barry Matthews, who has maintained the venue for the past 35 years.

Barry asked Harry to jump on board as head chef in March to reboot the iconic restaurant.

“Post pandemic, a few chefs came in and I think tried to make this place something that it isn’t. They tried to make it like fine dining,” Harry says.

“I think fine dining is genuinely dying a death in Australia. There’s some people that are excelling at it — [Restaurant] Botanic is excelling at the moment.”

Harry has worked hard to cater to a new era of Jolleys by highlighting its history.

“I wanted to try and get back to this notion — Jolleys was this classic South Australian restaurant. When I came here, there was almost no provenance on the menu,” he says.


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“The reason I moved to South Australia was because it was this basin of some of the best wine [and] the best produce in the country.

“So, it was trying to regain this idea of the rebirth of a classic. Understanding where it’s been to be able to know where to take it — which is important.”

Jolleys Boathouse

Hello, Harry.

The seasonal menu is classic European with a French influence, with choices that highlight South Australia’s best fresh produce.

“We’re making brioche everyday, we’re making choux pastry everyday,” Harry says.

“We have a lemon tart… we bake one for lunch, one for dinner everyday. Pretty much as the first guest comes in, it comes out the oven — it’s literally as fresh as it can possibly be.”

Other menu favourites are the potato rösti with smoked caviar, the Queensland mud crab roll and the parmesan gougère, all pictured below.

Jolleys Boathouse

Jolleys Boathouse

Jolleys Boathouse menu sees the light

Harry also wants to bring a thriving, supportive work culture to the Adelaide dining institution.

“A huge step is stamping out toxicity and allowing the staff the freedom and the relaxed confidence to be able to spend time at tables with customers, to be able to build relationships [and] offer more than just the robotic service style,” he says.

“There was a couple that was having their anniversary dinner and there was a conversation going on about how much they could spend and so they stripped back in terms of what they ordered, and so I was like ‘Fuck that! Let’s send them some extra stuff’.

“That’s hospitality. It’s making that moment special for those people.”

Harry’s wealth of hospo experience has helped him transform the restaurant.

The Birmingham-born chef has worked from corner pubs in England to Sydney’s Quay. He’s brought something from every experience into his work ethos today — knowing what to do, and what not to do.

His most impactful mentor was Bosco, owner of a small pizza place in Sydney named Love Supreme. Harry recalls his relationship with Bosco being “this monumental, life changing experience,” while also irritating “the shit” out of him.

“He was this person who could just break down barriers between people — what a beautiful example of what hospitality and what a restaurant should be,” Harry says.

“He said to me: ‘The thing that’s missing in the hospitality industry is hospitality’. Fast forward now to this restaurant, it’s something that we’re desperately trying to reinstall.”

Jolleys Boathouse is located at 1 Jolleys Lane, Adelaide. It’s open from Wednesday to Friday from 12pm until 3:30pm, then again at 5:30pm until 10pm, Saturday from 5:30pm until 10pm, and Sunday from 12pm until 4pm.

Connect with the business on Instagram for more.

Jolleys Boathouse

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