Chef Danielle Alvarez is bringing back the hearth. It's hard not to stare as soon as you enter the dining room at Fred's, a scene that looks more like the bustling kitchen of Downton Abbey than Paddington's newest restaurant. The open kitchen is a heart-warming display of raw abundance: rounds of freshly baked fougasse spilling across the counter, a leg of lamb slowly spinning in front of a fireplace and a mountain of fat green broadbeans piled up high on a footed platter.
Chef Danielle Alvarez checking dockets in the open kitchen
Fred's is one of Sydney's most anticipated restaurant openings, conceived two years ago and finally opening last Tuesday. It's the newest addition to the Merivale restaurant group, led by a seasonal and produce-driven philosophy.
Counter seating at the prep counter
Farm-to-table cooking isn't new to Sydney but its integration as part of the dining room experience is deftly executed. If there's any seat I'd covet on my next visit, it would be one of the stools on the prep counter, directly opposite a rainbow of mis en place in ceramic bowls.
View of the open kitchen from the dining area
Realistically though, every dining room table scores a view of the kitchen.
Chickpea patties with pickled carrot and parmesan
Wood oven fougasse with butter and olive oil $6
Menu snacks include oysters, grilled school prawns, baby artichokes and grilled snow peas but we're happy with a serve of the wood oven fougasse - fresh out of the oven - with housemade butter and extra virgin olive oil. The bread is beautifully soft and chewy and we could have eaten twice as much of that virgin butter.
Wood oven squid and ink, celery, preserved lemon and dill $28
The wood oven squid turns out to be one of our favourite dishes of the evening, a trio cooked to an impressive tenderness.
Wood oven squid
A puddle of squid ink and the crunch of celery add a salty tinge, countered by the gentle acidity of a preserved lemon and dill dressing.
Coral trout in a fig leaf, pencil leeks, white asparagus and sorrel buerre blanc $46
Unwrapping the coral trout from its fig leaf packaging is like unwrapping a present on Christmas morning. The fish flakes apart majestically, served alongside seared pencil leeks and white asparagus. The sorrel buerre blanc is so luscious we lick the plate clean.
Spring lamb, laver, broad beans, gem lettuce and mint $44
Spring lamb is cooked to perfection too. A lamb cutlet arrives the perfect shade of juicy pink. Underneath it all is another slice of lamb, carved from the lamb leg that has been slowly spinning in front of the wood fire. An assembly of seared gem lettuce and artichoke exemplifies spring.
Berkshire pork, spigariello, fennel puree, honey and lemon gremolata $45
Our Berkshire pork involves a longer wait. We'd been hoping for a bubbly tile of crackling across the top (as seen on the kitchen hearth) but must have missed the first round. There's a glimmer of crunch on the skin but it's still a long way off. The pork flesh itself is succulent though, ribboned with layers of fat that are tasty without feeling overwhelmingly greasy.
Spigariello is an Italian leaf broccoli, thinner in stalk than broccolini, and more tender.
New potatoes, black garlic vinaigrette and fine herbs $12
And if carbs are your jam, then definitely order the new potatoes. You'll score a pile of squashed potatoes roasted in their skins and then glazed with a black garlic vinaigrette. The potatoes are terrifically waxy in texture with a buttery creaminess. The ingenious use of black garlic adds an earthy meatiness that is guaranteed to trigger addiction.
Chopping boards in the stair well
Menu prices are undoubtedly on the higher end, but so too is the cost of quality produce. There's a sense of specialness here though, including an appreciation of time and tradition in cooking.
Making cocktails at the bar
If you miss out on a dining room reservation, you can order from the full menu in the front bar. Downstairs you'll find Charlie Parker's, a cocktail bar that will be running a thoughtful selection of dishes above the usual bags of crisps and peanuts. Expect to find chicken liver mousse with currant jelly, veal tartare caesar, salt beef croquettes and sliced porchetta.
380 Oxford Street, Paddington, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9240 3000
Lunch Friday to Sunday 12pm-3pm
Dinner Tuesday to Saturday 5.30pm-12am, Sunday 5.30pm-10pm
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10/31/2016 01:34:00 am