Never heard of a Johnny cake? You need to. These crisp little pancakes made from cornmeal are so addictive, you'll want a whole plate. This New England classic is one of the best things on the new menu at Harpoon Harry, now headed by Morgan McGlone of Belle's Hot Chicken. Gone is the old Latin American menu. Now it's Southern American, drawing on McGlone's tenure at Husk in both South Carolina and Nashville.
McGlone's version of the Johnny cake is like eating the top of a cornbread muffin, all golden brown and crunchy, with a soft and fluffy core in the middle. You don't even need the pimento cheese on the side, although it makes a great dip for the shoestring fries if you order them (and you should).
Deviled eggs with smoked trout and roe $7 for three
The downstairs bar menu has a little bit of everything for everyone. That means gas station boiled peanuts ($5) and freshly shucked oysters ($4 each) for drinkers, and bigger meals like market fish with turnips and bacon ($27) and dry aged 350g T-bone steaks ($40) for the stayers. Vegetarians aren't forgotten either. Options include fried green tomatoes with grilled okra ($16), salt roasted beetroot with goats curd ($17) and farro with mushrooms and black eyed peas ($20).
McGlone isn't just serving up Southern American classics. He's bringing back 1970s retro too. Deviled eggs are making a comeback in all kinds of restaurants these days. At Husk they serve up deviled eggs with pickled okra and trout roe. Here McGlone mixes smoked trout through the egg yolk to give extra richness, garnishing with trout roe for textural pop.
It's $7 for a serve of three but McGlone sends an extra when he realises we're a table of four. For something so apparently simple, they're incredibly tasty.
And photo note: all the shadows of blue are thanks to the blue neon sign above our table (shakes fist).
Crisp pork rinds $5
McGlone also sends out a complimentary serve of crisp pork rinds, the ideal accompaniment to beer. The curls of pork crackling are so full of bubbles they're light in weight, dusted in smoked paprika and salt that proves dangerously addictive.
Smoked chicken wings with AL white sauce $12
The custom-designed Silver Creek smoker originally installed for barbacoa is now being used by McGlone to smoke chicken wings and lamb ribs. The chicken wings have a terrific smokiness to them, embedded deep into the flesh. Drizzled across the top is AL white sauce, or Alabama white sauce, a barbecue sauce that uses mayonnaise as its base. Think mayonnaise mixed with apple vinegar, cayenne and other spices. It's a winner.
HH burger $15
The HH burger (Harpoon Harry? Hotel Harry?) is another winner. The hand-shaped beef patty is cooked to a juicy succulence. We find the burger bun a little on the chewy side but the melted American cheese and the sweet crunch of pickle is perfect.
We'd already ordered a side of shoe string fries so the side of fries to our burger is an unexpected bonus. Each one of them is super crunchy. Happy dance.
Lamb rib rack $21
The lamb rib rack is exactly that, a glistening xylophone of lamb served unadorned on a plate. The meat just falls off the bone, its fatty tender flesh imparted with smoke and sweetened with barbecue sauce. Across the top is a smattering of crushed peanuts and shallots.
Fried apple pie with cinnamon ice cream $12
There's only one dessert on the menu when we visit: the fried apple pie. Two apple turnovers are dusted heavily with cinnamon sugar. On the side is a scoop of cinnamon ice cream. You can smell the cloud of cinnamon as soon as this dish hits the table.
Inside the apple pie
Inside the flaky pastry are fat chunks of stewed apple cooked until tender. The warm apple. The flaky pastry. The rapidly melting puddle of cinnamon ice cream. It's comfort food on a plate. The apple pie reminds me of the McDonald's apple pie - in a good way. This is how the Macca's apple pie should taste if it was done properly with hefty apple cubes, lots of cinnamon and wispy layers of pastry that make a glorious mess.
Head chef Morgan McGlone on the johnny cake and deviled egg station
McGlone takes over the upstairs dining room from April 20. He's also excited about redesigning the room service menu. His ultimate goal is to put sandwich presses in each room so guests can make their own toasties from a bread and cheese kit sent up to them. Who wouldn't brie up for that!
Hotel Harry ground floor bar
40-44 Wentworth Avenue, Surry Hills
Tel: +61 (02) 8262 8800
Daily 11.30am til late
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4/10/2016 08:17:00 pm