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Monday, May 18, 2009

Etch Dining, Sydney

EDIT: Etch Dining has closed

Lolly tray. It's these two words that make my heart skip a beat, as we make arrangements for lunch at Justin and Georgia North's latest restaurant, Etch.


Housed in the InterContintental Hotel, on the former site of Mint Bar & Dining, we enter to find a dining room that is large and airy, a sea of dark wooden tables bathed in natural light. Overhead are several enormous drum lightshades lined with floral flock paper, whilst down one wall is a series of avante garde black-and-white portraits.

Glass shelves of wine glasses almost form a sculpture in themself. Miniature blue lamp shades dot the length of one wall, and in one corner of the room, a waist-high urn filled with soft and lush black ostrich feathers adds a touch of whimsy to this European-style saloon.

Widely known for his commitment to sustainable produce, Justin says, "My vision for Etch is to bring together the finest quality and sustainable produce at great prices for city workers to enjoy all day from midday to late at night with the one seasonal menu running continuously."

Etch is already a hit with business lunchers, it seems, with the dining room full on an early weekday--mainly men in suits balanced neatly with our own table of female food bloggers, a group that includes Christie, Darcie, Jen, Lorraine and Suze.

The menu, printed on heavy paper, is divided into appetisers, entrees, mains, sides and desserts.

Fried goat's cheese $9
with vanilla and lavender scented honey

Is it any wonder that cheeselover Suze goes straight for the fried goat's cheese. The two golden orbs are simple in appearance, but sophisticated in taste and texture. The thin crisp shell gives way to a creamy goat's cheese that is buttery and soft, and not as feisty as goat fearers might believe. Delicate sprigs of lavender add colour and prettiness, their flavour subtle but apparent in the pool of vanilla honey.

Crispy spiced local squid with sweet paprika mayonnaise $9

The cone of deep-fried skate nobs has now been replaced with crispy spiced local squid. The squid is unbelievably tender, and its cheerful presentation in a paper cone is matched by the chirpy saucer of sweet paprika mayonnaise that, from a distance, looks just like a fried egg.

Shaved Serrano gran reserva $12
with peppered melon, chilli and mint

The arrival of the shaved Serrano gran reserva brings plenty of nods of approval, not just for its elegant presentation, but because all of us had expected the melon to be rockmelon, not watermelon. The watermelon is sweet and refreshing against the smooth saltiness of the Serrano.

Sardines on toast $12
Vintage sardines with celery gazpacho and green apple tartare

I'd opted for the vintage sardines on toast, not just because I was excited for my mother who can finally lay claim to a vintage pantry. The sardines are vintage courtesy of natural aging in the tin, a process my mother has been performing long before it apparently became du jour.

This dish, however, is far and away much more refined in appearance and texture. The sardines, with their lustrous metal jackets, have a slightly subdued saltiness to them, their flaky consistency offset by the thin crisp shavings of bubbled toast, the tiny squares of sweet green apple, and the cool foamy shot glass filled with celery gazpacho.

Roast rump of pork with crackling $32

The roast rump of pork is a substantial serve of three fat juicy slices atop of mound of buttery polenta and swathed with gravy. A roof of crackling tiles is resoundingly crunchy.

Basque style cassoulet with herb crumbs $18

The Basque style cassoulet is a rich and hearty serving of pork belly, pork sausages, haricot beans. Quite a heavy dish that is thick and salty, it's enlivened with the light sprinkling of toasted herb bread crumbs, adding colour and crunch.

Vichy carrots $6

We share two side dishes. The vichy carrots are a lustrous orange, glazed with a parlsey butter, but it's the fried Provencal potatoes that are the table favourite, deep-fried knobs of potato dabbed with a sticky sweet garlic mayonnaise and covered with ribbons of slinky prosciutto. It's deliciousness in every mouthful (or three).

Fried Provencal potatoes $9
with aged prosciutto and smoked garlic mayonnaise

Caramelised pork belly and roasted Queensland scallops $23
with sherry gel and sweet corn puree

Caramelised pork belly is a thin but decadent plank of porcine goodness. Cooked to a fork-yielding tenderness, its richness is complemented by two fat discs of just-seared scallop. Two apostrophes of yellow sweet corn puree and dots of sherry gel add visual impact and a complexity of sweetness.

Salad of local Heirloom tomatoes $18
with fried zucchini flowers and herb emulsions

I'm quite enamoured with the green polka dot theme of my Heirloom tomato salad, a dish so striking it looks like artwork on a plate. Light and delicate zucchini flowers stuffed with ricotta lay on a bed of juicy sweet tomato wedges. The dish is refreshing yet hearty and zingy with flavour.

Cauliflower, cepe and macaroni cheese $28

Macaroni and cheese? This is about an adult a version as you can get. Suze continues her cheese theme with the cauliflower, cepe and macaroni cheese. Deceptively filling, there's plenty of flavour from the cepe or porcini mushrooms, the dense cheese-drenched macaroni and cauliflower topped with a gratin of breadcrumbs.

The interlude between mains and dessert is the perfect time to visit the bathroom. The dressmaker's mannequin in the women's bathroom is quite a sight, particularly with its proud adornment of angel wings.

It's also a good opportunity to check out the second dining alcove, tucked in-between the main dining room and the bathrooms. Here there's a sense of greater intimacy with floor lamps lighting individual tables and a fireplace with a dramatic shadow effect from the lampshade within (see pic at top).

Caramel date tart $15
with burnt butter ice cream and Earl Grey tea syrup

We'd heard much about the caramel date tart and this doesn't disappoint. The tart is smooth and silky but it's the Earl Grey tea syrup we can't get enough of. The trails of gold have such an intensity of Earl Grey tea flavour we're quite beside ourselves. Burnt butter ice cream is creamy and almost toffee-like.

Baked chocolate delice with mandarin $15

The baked chocolate delice is an airy but intense wedge of chocolate cake, although its presentation sparks some debate about the appeal of its aesthetics. The thick brushwork of chocolate leads some of us to think the inevitable, even if it does provide contrast for the accompanying mounds of mandarin flavoured gelee, mousse and creme.

Etch lolly tray $15
Lemon and vanilla marshmallows, salted butter caramels,
peanut brittle and violet fizzy rock

Ahhh... the lolly tray. Such fanciful simplicity makes me wonder why no other restaurants offer similar revelries of childhood joy. The four pots of lollies take us to new levels of hyperactivity, a sweet journey that starts with soft and fluffy lemon and vanilla marshmallows and ends with the tongue-tingling sherbet shard of violet fizzy rock. In-between are squares of the most elegant salt flake-dusted butter caramels, and chunky shards of aerated sweet and salty peanut brittle.

The empty dining room

We're the last to leave the dining room, but it feels like time has flown on by. Good food should never be rushed, especially when it ends with a lolly tray.

Reader question for the boys: Is there a mannequin in the men's bathroom or is it just the girls who get all the fun?

Etch Dining (CLOSED)
Intercontinental Hotel
62 Bridge Street, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9247 4777

Open Monday to Friday 12pm - late
Saturday 5pm - late

Related Grab Your Fork posts:Etch, Sydney - Fishing for a Difference: Justin North, Matt Moran & Matt Preston

Becassé, Sydney - Vin de Champagne Awards (Sep10)
15 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 5/18/2009 01:27:00 am


  • At 5/18/2009 6:02 am, Anonymous Simon said…

    The food looks so elegantly presented.

    Was there anything for you that was a stand out favourite, other than the lolly tray?

  • At 5/18/2009 7:41 am, Blogger Eat drink and be Kerry said…

    Love the lolly tray - such indulgent excitement!

  • At 5/18/2009 2:12 pm, Blogger Simon Leong said…

    Etch seems to be the talk of the town at the moment. nice review and pics as usual

  • At 5/18/2009 4:40 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Wow! the food is so well presnted. I am on my phone calling my babysitter to arrange for next appointment.......

  • At 5/18/2009 6:10 pm, Anonymous chocolatesuze said…

    lolly tray! om nom nom fizzy candy = win!

  • At 5/18/2009 7:16 pm, Anonymous kay said…

    yummy!!!.. from the top to bottom haha.. (mainly looking at mains and entrees haha)

  • At 5/18/2009 9:37 pm, Anonymous Arwen from Hoglet K said…

    The Earl Grey syrup would be worth trying to replicate. You could serve it with lots of cakes and icecreams

  • At 5/18/2009 10:51 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    oh *droooollll* I want to go Ettchhhhh XD!! Mmmmmmm at cheesy balls and ALL of the dishes! I'm actually leaning towards the tart or delice for dessert... Did anyone lick the chocolate smear ;)?

  • At 5/19/2009 2:29 am, Blogger Yas @ hungry.digital.elf. said…

    Ahhh coool! I haven't managed to go yet!
    Thanks for the great review, now I really got to go!

  • At 5/19/2009 11:05 am, Anonymous poptart said…

    the men's toilet is the one attached to the intercontinental hotel so there wasn't much that stood out from memory but this was within 1 month of etch's opening so they might have gotten something installed by then.

  • At 5/19/2009 11:10 pm, Blogger Forager said…

    Looks delicious and lovely photos. Interesting pairing of the jamon with watermelon instead of rockmelon..

  • At 5/21/2009 12:06 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Simon - Oh it was all good, and I don't often say that. I was really happy with my choices - loved the sardines on toast and the heirloom tomato salad. Also loved Suze's picks: the fried goat's cheese and cauliflower macaroni. The Earl Grey tea syrup also divine.

    Hi Kerry Heaney - The lolly tray was so much fun. Really think more restaurants should introduce this, but do it properly like Etch :)

    Hi Simon Food Favourites - I think Justin North has always been the talk of town, and with good reason. Really do admire his approach to seasonal and sustainable food.

    Hi Ellie - lol. Enjoy your night off. You deserve it!

    Hi chocolatesuze - It was good that everyone had their own personal favourites in the lolly tray. We should go again :)

    Hi Kay - lol. You should go, and the desserts were great.

    Hi Arwen - I agree. Would love to know how to make it myself. It was truly divine.

    Hi FFichiban - lol. No, noone did! We all enjoyed the tart but maybe the delice will win you over on the day!

    Hi Yas - It's great and I love the decor too. You need to go so you can tell me what's inside the men's bathroom. lol!

    Hi poptart - Hmm when we went the toilets were part of the restaurant, at the back. I'm sure I will be disappointed but I thought it wouldn't hurt to ask!

    Hi Forager - I would never have thought to pair watermelon with jamon but it was great. The presentation is a good idea for dinner parties too :)

  • At 5/27/2009 10:51 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Agree with all the comments and the dining experience is beautiful, but mention should be made of the relatively reasonable prices - particularly the winelist.

    Oh, and there's nothing remarkable about the mens toilet, except it's clean!

  • At 6/02/2009 1:55 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Anon - lol. Thanks for the mens' bathroom insight! I had a feeling it would be unadorned. And we refrained from wine at lunch but thanks for the mention about the wine prices - worth noting!

  • At 11/01/2010 8:44 pm, Blogger Miss Feathers said…

    The meals looked amazing. It sounds like Etch will be next on my list. And a bathroom that has angel wings- I'm there!


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