#navbar-iframe { display: none; }

« Home | Mohr and Mohr, Surry Hills » | Chinese New Year Parade 2006, Sydney » | Chocolate psychology » | Australia Day lunch » | Caffe Gasparo, Burwood » | Pyrmont Growers' Market » | Bread Story, Broadway, Ultimo » | Chinese New Year Eve: The Feast » | Get Fed » | Grate stuff »

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Oscillate Wildly, Newtown

The November 2005 edition of Australian Gourmet Traveller ran a reviewer competition open to all readers--the winning entrant would join the reviewing team for the Australian Restaurant Guide 2007 (cue Homer-Simpson-like daydream coupled with hopeful hyperventilation). Alas I didn't win (obviously... otherwise I'd be writing this in giant font, not tiny) but I thought I'd share my entry anyway. And of course congratulations to the winner, Melbournian Brett Seargent. I'm so jealous!

The brief: Write a 500-word review based on a real and recent experience in an Australian restaurant.

Oscillate Wildly, Newtown
Oscillate Wildly, Newtown

I'm not sure whether he's Korean or Chinese, but the boy is Asian, his pants are around his ankles, and he's relieving himself with glee.

The cheeky mural adjoining Oscillate Wildly's outdoor bathroom always makes me smile. Apparently the mural was painted by the previous owner, and it's stayed there ever since.

It's this kind of dauntless honesty which exemplifies the Oscillate Wildly experience. Heading back to my table means stepping into the kitchen and conducting a brief sideways crabwalk past hissing pots and pans. It feels strangely exciting and awe-inspiring too.

Oscillate Wildly is undoubtedly small. The floorspace fits thirty patrons at a squeeze but rather than claustrophobic, it's cosy and comforting and warmly intimate too. There's a black and white chequerboard floor, wrought iron chairs and a gentle flicker of candles on each table.

Central to the experience is the smoothly efficient owner and maitre'd Ross Godfrey. Like the host of a thirty-person dinner party, Ross flits from table to table throughout the evening, topping up water bottles and making small talk with guests. It's generally a couples brigade, huddled together over a rapidly emptying bottle of wine (the restaurant is BYO) with a smattering of tables filled with urban arty professionals.

There seem to be plenty of regulars which isn't surprising, as Saturday nights are often booked out weeks in advance. Amidst the gentle hubbub and inevitable Smiths soundtrack, Ross welcomes newcomers, explains the menu without a hint of pretension, and cracks open paper-bagged wine bottles with ease. His laughter is heard from various corners of the room, but in the next minute he is standing beside you, preparing to lay your main meal onto the table with an ironic flourish. Oscillate Wildly, Newtown

Friendly service aside, the food is the real star here. Kangaroo may be stuffed with cloves, oxtail made into agnolotti, or quail stuffed with pistachio. The offerings are adventurous and different, but thoughtfully considered rather than excessively fanciful.

The rich gamey fattiness of crisp fried duck is offset by roasted chunks of celeriac and a dark fruity reduction of creme de cassis and raspberries. Fat discs of fresh scallops are seared briefly and scattered with a birds nest of crunchy twigs made from leek. And home-smoked salmon isn't just marketing-speak. It really is smoked on the premises. "My flat upstairs stank of mesquite chips all day," Ross says with a smile.

Desserts take equal billing in the tastebud tantalising stakes. A chocolate terrine is richly decadent with thick comforting layers of panforte and strong espresso flavours. It's an adult dessert, strong and robust without being sickly sweet.

A delicately wobbly panna cotta is its polar opposite but similarly alluring. Soft and satiny, it's infused with warming nuances of cardamon and crowned with a sticky brittle of chilli and almond.

Elements of the menu change every two weeks with a completely new menu every two months; which gives me greater cause to smile than the cheeky boy out the back.

275 Australia St, Newtown, NSW, (02) 9517 4700.
Unlicensed and BYO (corkage $3pp).
Dinner, Tue-Sat. Major cards.

Prices: entrees, $15; main courses, $23; desserts, $10; 3 courses, $45.
Vegetarian: one entree, one main.
Noise: medium.
Wheelchair access: no.

Plus: creative menu at laughably affordable prices, delightfully warm and welcoming host.
Minus: limited table space.


Related GrabYourFork posts:
Oscillate Wildly, October 2005
Oscillate Wildly, January 2005
10 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Anonymous on 2/16/2006 05:09:00 pm


  • At 2/17/2006 9:18 am, Blogger Julia said…

    That's a great review Helen, you should be very proud of yourself. Thanks for posting your entry.

    I remember Matthew Evans raving about Oscillate Wildy and along with your review, I really must get along to this restaurant! It sounds fantastic, especially with those kinds of prices.

  • At 2/18/2006 1:09 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Have you got a problem with the Smiths!

  • At 2/25/2006 6:37 pm, Blogger PiCkLeS said…

    you've convinced me! I'm going to make a booking!

  • At 7/06/2007 7:08 pm, Blogger Steph Bond-Hutkin said…

    Make that 2 months to make a booking! I just called (6th July) and they are booked through until late September. Good on them :)

  • At 7/09/2007 4:57 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I ate here with my husband after reading your review and we both loved it. It's an exceptional place, just as you described - we actually booked 2 more visits on the spot and we've now been back 3 times. Each time we go, we book another table for 2 months time. He's so busy he's actually discouraging new customers!

  • At 7/10/2007 6:56 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Steph - I had heard about the two month waiting period. Now you have to wait for the reservations book to open further. It's becoming like the French Laundry!

    Hi Jax - Kudos to him that he has such a waiting list. It must be a nightmare, but on the other hand, isn't that every restauranteur's dream?

  • At 1/17/2008 3:54 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hi Helen

    Just read a little paragraph in this week's Good Living that Oscillate Wildly has shifted exclusively to a degustation menu, at $95 p/person for 8 courses

    An interesting new direction. I never got around to trying the lauded 3 course, so would love a review on the new menu if you do happen to go in there anytime soon.

  • At 1/19/2008 6:54 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Anon - I read that update with interest too. It's certainly an ambitious move, but I have a feeling it will succeed. I'd be curious to see where the new menu heads, and I would definitely give an update should I get a booking!

  • At 9/26/2008 10:22 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Firstly, a bit of gushing fan congratulations on such a brilliant and authorative blog!!

    Now down to business. Have you tried the OW degustation yet? It is in my books a true revalation of how good food can be. Check my review on my blog (http://verdanticity.wordpress.com) and book yourself a table ASAP!!! (Hint i got a Tuesday night booking with only a month's notice).

  • At 9/30/2008 11:41 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi verdanticity - Aww thanks. I'm touched that you get so much enjoyment out of this blog :)

    I still haven't made it to OW and the waiting list does require even more foreplanning and organisation. But thanks for your post - it's definitely whetted my appetite!


Post a Comment

<< Home

      << Read Older Posts       |       >> Read Newer Posts