It was 1999 and Matt Walshe was managing the Canberra Southern Cross Club (CSCC), along with a hole-in-the-wall business called Southern Cross Fish & Chips.
The idea was simple. The club itself, while not the fanciest of buildings, occupied prime real estate in Yarralumla by the lake. If all you could manage were good fish and chips, the location would do the rest.
Fortunately for the lake, the pressure was off as the fish and chips were fresh and delicious and Southern Cross Fish & Chips soon became a go-to for a casual family outing.
In 2014, responding to a need to scale up, it became Snapper on the Lake.
“We felt that better reflected the focus – an offering of crunchy, golden, fresh fish and chips in a magnificent lakeside setting,” Matt said.
Customers didn’t skip a beat, and the new digs with a slightly bigger kitchen and a simple courtyard with some tables and chairs became a sort of local institution.
On sunny days, Snapper on the Lake was booming and soon was maxing out its capacity to produce the top-notch fish and chips that kept its loyal fanbase coming back.
“We couldn’t do more than we were doing, neither expand on the menu nor produce more volume, even though the demand was there,” Matt said.
“From this perspective as well as a member perspective, we knew it was time to go all in and really make the most of this special offering we’d tapped into.”
Dreaming big, in 2015 the team developed a masterplan for the site – but they had overshot the mark.
“It was a grand, grand plan we presented to the NCA (National Capital Authority), it was magnificent. A little too magnificent,” Matt laughed.
“We presented it to the NCA and they sent us back to the drawing board.”
In 2019 the team went back to the NCA with a scaled down version of the plan. It was sensible and achievable, with enough panache taken from the original grandiose plans while retaining all the relaxed charm that had lured in a steady stream of business for years.
The plan was rubber-stamped for commencement in March 2020 when COVID-19 hit and it had to be staged in two parts.
Part one included a significant upgrade to the carpark and major infrastructure upgrades.
Their partner, the Canberra Yacht Club, was relocated to a refurbished space on the eastern side of the venue and the old marquee that had been there for more than 20 years was removed, all of which allowed for part two – a reimagining of Snapper on the Lake.
“We swapped out ‘on the Lake’ for ‘& Co’ to let people know that they can still get that same experience that earned us our following, but now they can tap into a more diverse collective offering, depending on what their day calls for,” Matt said.
Snapper & Co. saw the installation of a new state-of-the-art kitchen, internal bar and indoor dining for up to 80 people.
Downstairs, patrons find a complete outdoor dining offering in three parts.
With spectacular lake views and a la carte service, The Deck at Snapper & Co. offers an elevated dining experience including seafood, charcuterie and cheese boards, salads, pizzas, burgers and desserts.
A far cry from the few scattered tables and chairs it used to be, patrons can enjoy a relaxed experience in the expanded courtyard, which includes the Container Bar, a gelato bar, cabanas, a casual dining menu and of course, unrivalled views.
Matt says none of this comes at the expense of the third space – the lawns.
“We know what we’ve always done well,” Matt says.
“You have other options now, but if you just want to throw down a picnic rug and tuck into that golden, crunchy, fresh fish and chips that we’ve always hung our hat on, you’ve got it.”
Snapper & Co. will be trading Christmas Day – walk in from 11 am to 5 pm. Visit the website for more information.