If you think that raw beef with coffee and raspberries is weird, wait until you see the potato crisps with brown butter mousse for dessert. But here's the thing. They both work. Brilliantly. Because these aren't attention-seeking wild and wacky flavour collisions engineered for token shock value but two of the most eye-popping highlights at the newly opened Bar Brosé in Darlinghurst.
Head chef Analiese Gregory checking dockets
Running the kitchen is Analiese Gregory, the New Zealand-born young gun with a smoking CV that includes The Ledbury in London, Restaurant Le Meurice Alain Ducasse in Paris, Quay in Sydney, Bras in the Aubrac, Mugaritz in San Sebastian and her own pop-up in Morocco.
Most recently she was in the kitchen at ACME with head chef Mitch Orr. It's this team behind ACME (Andy Emerson, Cam Fairbairn, Mitch Orr and Ed Loveday) with which she has partnered to create Bar Brosé. The site - in the space that was once The Passage - is owned by Loveday and Emerson.
It's a long and narrow space, subtly divided into three dining areas. The first two sections have a view into the kitchen. The final section runs alongside the bar which also has counter seating. A private dining alcove at the very back is dominated by an impressive octagonal table.
Moonlight Flat oysters $4 each
The menu is loosely French, but just like ACME, there's a fair amount of modern interpretation as well as a casual sense of fun. We start with classic oysters, freshly shucked Moonlight Flat Sydney rocks from Batemans Bay served with a red wine vinaigrette. Little details, like the polished pebbles, seaweed tendrils and a petite wooden spoon, are all noticed.
Rita and Rudolph Trossen "Schieferblume" Trocken Riesling 2014 $14
Brian "Gris" pinot gris $14
Raspberry and yuzu soda $6
The drinks menu is expansive with cocktails, sake and 24 wines by the glass including orange wines. I love that the beer list includes the South Korean Cass too. Don't drink? The housemade sodas include fig and thyme or raspberry and yuzu - the latter is super refreshing, A lightning bolt lemon garnish is guaranteed to make you smile.
Brawn terrine with pickles and bread $16
The terrine changes every week. This week it's brawn, or pigs head. You can have it served cold or warmed in a fry pan.
We go with warmed, of course, the thick slab lightly coloured to a golden brown. It's a hearty starter, soft nuggets of meat on crusty bread contrasting with the gentle acidity of pickled onions, rhubarb and king brown mushrooms.
Onions, rhubarb and mushrooms with the lightly pan-fried terrine
And the plate itself is awesome. How beautiful is the pike illustration? It's the little details that show a greater commitment to a complete dining experience. I heart the classic simplicity of the wooden-handled Opinel knife, the impossibly light ceramic serving bowls and even the water glasses that are deliberately imperfect.
Late night sandwich $14
The late night sandwich was borne out of Gregory's post-service snacks to ACME staff, a toasted ham sandwich that proved so popular she was implored to add it to the Bar Brosé menu. They use an aged Christmas ham and glaze it with pineapple and mustard. It's then sliced and sandwiched between two slices of bread with 'nduja and comte cheese.
Aged Christmas ham, 'nduja and comte cheese
It seems like a ridiculously simple thing but even here there's a commendable balance. The thin shavings of ham are kicked up with the spiciness of 'nduja, an Italian spreadable pork sausage, mellowed out by the languid ooze of comte, a French cheese made from unpasteurised cows milk.
Comte gougere $6 each
The comte gougere are giant-sized. Don't expect dainty bite-sized canapes. Gregory has morphed these into the size of a dinner roll. The recipe is said to be based on the comte gougeres made by Roger McShane, Tasmanian editor of Gourmet Traveller and the appetite behind Food Tourist, although Gregory has deliberately super-sized them.
They're pillowy soft, the layers inside resembling a cellular wall under a microscope. But you're probably too busy closing your eyes to notice. It's like biting into a cloud of cheese.
Kingfish, quince juice, capers and geranium $18
Raw kingfish isn't new to Sydney menus but Gregory's use of quince juice offers a refined twist. Its more complex than the usual lime or yuzu, adding notes of apple and pear against the puddle of geranium oil. The kingfish is firm and thickly cut. Capers give a salty pop.
Aged beef tartare, coffee, pickled raspberries $18
Tartare is usually hand chopped into cubes but the fine slices of aged beef work just as well. That's because there's a real intensity of beefiness in the meat balanced by shaved fresh shiitake mushrooms, pickled raspberries and a splash of sesame oil. Hidden underneath it all is the coffee, the silkiest puree that tastes like a cafe latte, in a good way. Together it marries into one incredible flavour combo. I could eat this everyday for a year and still not get sick of it.
Blooming onion $12
I love that we move from a sophisticated beef tartare to the crowd-pleasing joy of a blooming onion. We pulled off each onion petal - sweet and sticky beneath a superbly crisp batter - and dunk into the accompanying sauce, laced with a fermented habanero chilli hit.
Spaghetti carbonara (no cream allowed) $20
The spaghetti carbonara (no cream allowed) is, we presume, a hat tip to Mitch Orr, adamant that carbonara should never include cream. And who needs cream when Gregory has laden this with bucketloads of egg yolk and cheese. The sauce almost solidifies as we eat, the strands of spaghetti clinging to each other in a tight embrace.
The usual bacon is swapped out for pan-fried guanciale because if you're going to overload on egg yolks and cheese you may as well add rendered crisp and salty pork bits to the mix.
Potato gnocchi, lap cheong, chilli, kombu butter $20
The potato gnocchi is another heavy dish. The gnocchi themselves are impressively light, panfried so the edges caramelise. Gregory's Chinese heritage comes through in this dish, with a jumble of lap cheong sausages, chilli and choy sum vegetables tossed through the mix. At the bottom is a pool of umami rich kombu butter.
Crisp potato, brown butter mousse, salted caramel $12
There are four desserts on the menu but I only have eyes on the crisp potato because however it turns out, I know it will be memorable.
And you know what? It's one of those life-changing moments. We're taken aback by its appearance at first, like the world's fanciest Monaco bar. We can see the outline of the potato slices on top and the sighing puddle of brown butter mousse in the middle.
Cracking into dessert
Oh. My. God. It's heartstoppingly good. The thin crisp of potato tastes more like a tuille, snapping into pieces as we press down with our spoons. The brown butter mousse is laced with salted caramel. Eaten together it's like a mindblowing collision of a millefeuille, toffee shards and the echo of potato chips that veers constantly between savoury and sweet.
And I even like that this dish comes with wooden spoons so there's less of that cold metallic sensation that can sometimes feel so clinical against your tongue.
Brosé fennel sencha, fresh seawater, nori, wild fennel $6
I'm not one to normally order tea but then the Brosé fennel sencha isn't your usual tea. Pictures on Instagram of a van filled with wild fennel hand-picked by Gregory had to be ordered. The tea takes some time to arrive but that's because it's brewed and then decanted so there's no danger of your tea over-brewing. Love.
There's a mild licorice flavour to the tea rounded out by a savouriness that comes from nori and fresh seawater. It's an ideal digestif to round off the meal.
Four people = $155 excluding drinks. Warm and professional service. I'll be back for the tartare and that potato crisp.
Analiese Gregory on the pass
231A Victoria Street, Darlinghurst
Bookings for 6 of more email firstname.lastname@example.org
Wednesday to Saturday 5pm til late
Sunday 3pm til late
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4/05/2016 12:03:00 am