In the 1990s, back when going out to a restaurant was something we took for granted, there was still something special about a night at Jameson’s On the Pier.
As the only truly waterfront restaurant in Batemans Bay, Jameson’s was the place for celebrations – engagements, wedding anniversaries, birthdays and date nights were all marked by lunch or dinner literally on the pier by the northern edge of the Clyde River.
Nick and Pat Jameson ran the show, welcoming hordes of Canberrans each weekend eager to enjoy their famous seafood platter or crème brûlée.
Now 72, Nick remembers those times fondly – first as a chef in the tiny kitchen that served the popular restaurant, then later as the jovial host.
“We used to have a lot of fun, particularly at New Year’s Eve,” he said. “We were the first ones to put on fireworks.
“We put them in a punt and the landlord and I would go out and light them. There was one time he was in a hurry and he just lit everything at once. We had a one minute display and it was lucky we didn’t go up with it!”
It was a long way from Nick’s start in an English catering college.
After a two year full-time course, Nick joined a hotel company and began management training that took him through every department.
“I started as a waiter, then went into the kitchen and then accounts,” he recalls. “Then I went to Paris for 18 months.
“I was 23 in Paris. The kitchen was in the basement and it was a coal-fired stove. If you see a chef wearing a sweat scarf, that’s why; it was very hot in those days.”
A friend’s wedding first brought Nick and Pat to Australia. They were so taken with the place they went back to England, obtained a permanent visa and returned.
Nick credits Australia’s laidback ways with his return to the kitchen.
“I was with a friend at Moore Park Golf Club when the kitchen burnt down,” he said. “The caterers just walked away.
“You know how casual Australia is. This bloke leans across the bar and says to my buddy, ‘you can cook, can’t you?’ and that’s how we became the Moore Park caterers.”
The golfing connection also drew the Jamesons to Batemans Bay. A former Moore Park pro, Barry Podmore, moved to the Catalina Golf Club and rang to let Nick know the catering contract was coming up there.
The rest, as they say, is history.
“We ran the restaurant at the Catalina Club for six years, then went back to the UK for a year,” Nick said.
“When we came back, we got the lease for Jameson’s On the Pier.
“Previously, the restaurant was run by the landlord. It was a fish and chip shop – the trawler used to come in and unload there.”
Nick and Pat had grander plans. Jameson’s was not fine dining, but it was a substantial step up from club food and it quickly gained a reputation as one of the best places to eat in Batemans Bay.
“We were catering for a big Canberra market on the weekend,” Nick said. “We knew we had to do seafood, being on the water, and that’s what we became famous for.
“Our seafood platter always had the wow factor and we introduced the dessert plate – we wanted people to enjoy the whole menu.
“We operated for 10 years and we were in the Good Food Guide for eight of those years. We couldn’t have done it without the fantastic staff we had, some of whom were with us throughout.
“Anyone who had visitors from overseas or interstate, Jameson’s was where they took them – we were the only place on the water and Pat was very good with customers.
“I came out of the kitchen three years into the venture, but I still influenced the menu.”
Despite the restaurant’s popularity, the long hours and hard work eventually took their toll.
“At the end of the day, when you are running a business like that, it’s very personal,” Nick said. “It was ‘Jameson’s On the Pier’, so one of us had to be there. That was part of the package.”
So Nick and Pat moved on, and the restaurant became On The Pier, operating successfully until work on the new Batemans Bay Bridge forced its closure in 2019.
Nick moved on to become a part-time commercial cookery teacher at Moruya TAFE for 17 years, moulding the next generation of chefs, while Pat found a perfect fit for her customer-first approach with a career in real estate.
With one daughter and three grandchildren in Batemans Bay, and another daughter in Canberra, the capital region has become their forever home.
“Although, whenever the grandchildren rile me up, I do threaten to go to Tasmania,” Nick said with a laugh.
But he still loves hospitality and the career path he’s chosen.
“I used to tell my students, ‘it’s your ticket to the world, you can get a job anywhere’, although not during COVID.”
Do you have memories, or photos, of nights at Jameson’s On the Pier? Comment below.