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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Eathouse Diner, Redfern

Low-key, cheerful and a little bit cheeky, Eathouse Diner is the kind of hangout everyone wishes they had in their neighbourhood. We follow the pointing finger instructing us to "eat here" and find ourselves in a deliberately kitsch American-style diner that is already half-full barely 15 minutes into service.

Turquoise walls trimmed with black-and-white check can't compete with the main focal point of the room, the curved Formica bar in shiny sports car red, complete with red and silver stools and a tilted mirror above shelves that are groaning with alcohol.

Chocolate cherry tart

At one end of the counter are bowls of fruit, ready for cocktails, at the other end is a happy jumble of water jugs and glasses, and cake platters of dessert.

Eclair and sponge finger moulds

You'll have to thread your way through the eclectic collection of second-hand chairs and tables to get to the bathroom, but you'll probably end up stopping at the glass cabinet filled with vintage memorabilia and trinkets that is either a trip down memory or a history lesson in design in product packaging.

If loitering by the display case doesn't prolong your absence from your fellow guests, then the collage of old newspaper clippings dotted with cutouts of nude female photos in the bathrooms definitely will.

Snowdrop Ice Cream vintage packaging

There's no food menu here - everything is listed on the blackboard by the front, a chalked-up list of specials that changes regularly.

The range of spirits, cocktails, wine and beers do appear on a laminated menu. We order a range of drinks but the Monteiths crushed apple cider ($7) is the most popular, served in a squat handled beer mug and clinking with ice. Cocktails arrive with fluorescent swizzle sticks, although we notice that some are bent from re-use.

Campari and ruby red grapefruit $8.50

Arnold Palmer $5.50
Fresh lemonade with homemade iced tea

Mojito $14.50

Duck liver pate with sweet 'n' sour onions $18

There are nine of us dining tonight and we elect to share all our dishes as a group. Duck liver pate is the first to arrive, and the smoky aroma of charred bread wafts irresistibly over us as the dish is placed on the table. We spread the thick hunks of bread with duck liver pate, highlighted with dabs of caramelised onion slivers.

Kingfish carpaccio with ruby grapefruit, fried garlic and radish $16

Kingfish carpaccio is the perfect appetiser for summer, velvety fillets of kingfish sweetened by segments of ruby red grapefruit and elegant matchsticks of crunchy raw radish.

Blue swimmer crab salad $22

I'd been skeptical about the blue swimmer crab salad, let down by far too many in the past, but this version ends up being one of my favourite dishes of the night. A tumble of mint leaves, witlof spears and fine shreds of red cabbage is generously draped with shreds of succulent sweet crab, tossed with a light and creamy dressing.

Rare beef with heirloom tomatoes, lentils and balsamic reduction $25

Rare beef is another highlight, a tower of melt-in-the-mouth slices of meat piled over perfectly cooked lentils and juicy heirloom tomatoes.

Jerk spatchcock with beans 'n' rice and mango salsa $27

The jerk spatchcock is a huge portion of bird, covered in a spice rub that will leave your lips tingling, and served on a massive mound of beans and rice. I'm not convinced on the soggy rice until I realise it reminds me of Chinese-style glutinous rice steamed in banana leaves, often stuffed with cooked mung beans. Once I make this connection, I eat the now 'sticky' rice quite happily.

A side of mango salsa adds a touch of the tropics but overall the rice and bean combination seems a little heavy for a Sydney summer.

Pan fried barramundi with kipfler chips and zucchini herb salad $28

Later that evening I notice that the pan fried barramundi is one of the first dishes to sell out. It's a classic case study in the art of simplicity, a fillet of barramundi seared so the skin is crisp without overcooking the flesh, partnered with roasted kipfler potatoes and a tangle of slippery zucchini ribbons and flat parsley leaves doused with dressing.

Caramel pork hock with hazelnuts and watercress and and apple $20

It will come as no surprise that caramel pork hock was the one dish I nominated for inclusion in our order. Two bowls of this is just right to share among nine committed pork fans but I'd struggle to see how one person could eat this entire dish on its own. Reminiscent of Thai moo krob, chunks of pork belly are deep-fried to a satisfying earth-shattering crunch, livened by watercress, paper-thin discs of radish and whole roasted hazelnuts.

The Eathouse Mess $9

There are a total of five options on the dessert menu and we take great delight in telling our aproned waitress we'll have "one of each, please". As soon as I observe out loud that The Eathouse Mess doesn't look very messy at all, an attack of eager spoons quickly proves otherwise. There's still not enough cream to make this a mess, in my opinion, and whilst we enjoy the fresh raspberries, the peaches have an odd fizz to them that leaves everyone pulling faces.

Banoffee pie $9

Banoffee pie comes not as a slice of a larger pie, but an individual tart. This can never be a good thing when it comes to optimal base to filling ratio, and I'm left craving more dulce de leche than I can find beneath the layer of cream and chopped bananas.

Chocolate and cherry tart $9

A wedge of chocolate and cherry tart has the slight bitterness of cocoa married with the sweetness of cherries, flanked by two fresh cherries and a dollop of cream. 

Banana split $9

The banana split is a fancier version of that childhood favourite, three scoops of ice cream studded with roasted whole hazelnuts, chocolate sauce, wafer and secret rivers of dulce de leche. I'm on the hunt now for a banana split bowl just so I can recreate this at home, complete with the resort staple cocktail umbrella.

Strawberry and chocolate sundae $9

To my surprise, the strawberry and chocolate sundae vies for dessert favourite with the banana split, a parfait glass jammed with chocolate sauce, ice cream and fresh strawberries. A dribble of melted ice cream oozes sexily down the side.

Forget the fuss and kerfuffle of over-stylised restaurants. Just bring us good food and plenty of spoons.

View Larger Map
The Eathouse Diner on Urbanspoon

306 Chalmers Street, Redfern, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 8084 9479

Opening hours:
Monday to Saturday 6pm-10pm
Closed on Sundays

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29 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 1/25/2011 01:57:00 am


  • At 1/25/2011 4:47 am, Blogger joey@forkingaroundsydney said…

    Love a good diner, especially a kitschy one. :-)

    Caramel pork hock is always a goer, and the desserts are well priced. Mmmm.

  • At 1/25/2011 7:18 am, Blogger Monica ^o^ said…

    I drive pass this place everyday on the way home from work, but still haven't try it out yet, can you believe it ?!?
    The carpaccio looked yummy and also the rare beef...mmmmm....Must make a visit soon :)

  • At 1/25/2011 7:24 am, Blogger Unknown said…

    Love the look of that caramalised pork hock. Sounds like a great little discovery.

  • At 1/25/2011 8:25 am, Anonymous Emily@NeedsMoreSugar said…

    I always go past this on the bus to work/home and loved how retro-funky it looked, but never went in.

    Now I know they have banoffee pie? DING DING DING - SOLD.

  • At 1/25/2011 9:07 am, Anonymous Tina@foodboozeshoes said…

    Wow - SO many desserts. I've been meaning to go here for ages...! It doesn't seem very American, does it?

  • At 1/25/2011 9:08 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    It's funny that the decor, drinks and desserts are super retro and the savouries are rather modern (and very interesting, I must say).

  • At 1/25/2011 9:21 am, Anonymous chocolatesuze said…

    oh man how awesome was that pate. seriously i could eat 5 platefuls of the stuff mmm pate

  • At 1/25/2011 10:27 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    This place looks great. I'm going to add it to my list. I'm definitely with you on the banoffee pie front.

  • At 1/25/2011 10:46 am, Anonymous johm@heneedsfood said…

    A quirky place with some serious not-so-American food. The stack of rare beef looks divine!

  • At 1/25/2011 10:46 am, Blogger Rita (mademoiselle délicieuse) said…

    Little paper umbrellas always give a summer holiday feel to anything it adorns. More dessert please!

  • At 1/25/2011 10:51 am, Blogger lividlili said…

    Everyone says this place is "low-key" but those dishes and prices are anything but. Especially with Big Boys next door serving up superb fresh fare at a third of the price. Still, I'll give it a go, I suppose.

  • At 1/25/2011 11:23 am, Anonymous Simon @ the heart of food said…

    "One of each, please". The options you have when dining out in large groups is great, huh?

  • At 1/25/2011 1:39 pm, Anonymous Hannah said…

    That looks like exactly the kind of fun and casual setting in which I'd be happy to just *be*, and eat, and laugh. I'd also be tempted to go straight from the pate and carpaccio to the desserts... I haven't had a banana split since I was about ten!

  • At 1/25/2011 4:09 pm, Blogger Georgia said…

    Ooh, I have been wanting to go there for the longest time! Beautiful pictures - the food looks divine! Thanks for reminding me to get over there pronto.

  • At 1/25/2011 7:26 pm, Blogger Mel said…

    Kipfler chips? Why have I never had these before - they looks very tasty. Looks like a great cafe and I certainly wish there was something just like this in my 'burb.

  • At 1/25/2011 10:35 pm, Blogger Jen said…

    I would have expected the food to be more kitsch judging from the decor, but it still looks fantastic. The carpaccio and the crab salad are calling me.

  • At 1/26/2011 12:14 am, Blogger Karen | Citrus and Candy said…

    That barra was so simple but so good. A hot day like that just screamed for fish. And who would've thought something so simple as a strawberry ice cream sundae was the most memorable dessert?

  • At 1/26/2011 10:08 am, Anonymous The Young Foodie said…

    Mmmm...the cocktails and the Pate look delicious! I might have to drop by the next time I'm in Sydney!!

    -The Young Foodie

  • At 1/26/2011 10:25 pm, Blogger YaYa said…

    Those pink laminated tabletops bring back so many memories! The food looks fantastic!

  • At 1/27/2011 10:46 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Eathouse change their menu frequently. On one visit, we had a fantastic fried chicken with a side of corn.
    Their cocktails are great too.

  • At 1/27/2011 6:30 pm, Anonymous Kay said…

    Every single photo is just mouth watering. How I wish that place is just around the corner and I could just go and grab some Chocolate Cherry Tart and those Rare Beef.

  • At 1/27/2011 9:36 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Oh what?! I didn't go to the bathrooms haha fail. I am craving that pork oh so very much mmm (so could had done it by yourself I know :P)

  • At 1/27/2011 10:35 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    This place is amazingly good, I was there a few weeks back and tried the caramel pork, barramundi, and crab salad omg i cannot beleive how good each dish was! Everything was so full of flavour I cannot wait to go back! We were so full we skipped desert but not for long!

    Chris V

  • At 1/30/2011 4:03 pm, Anonymous sara @ Belly Rumbles said…

    Not a fan of Eaton Mess, but that one looks great, not a mushy mess in a bowl.

  • At 1/30/2011 6:02 pm, Blogger ragingyoghurt said…

    everything looks wonderful! very sad i didn't get to visit eathouse diner before i skipped town. :(

  • At 1/30/2011 9:57 pm, Anonymous divemummy said…

    what a great little eatery.

    Unlike my Dad, I have never been a fan of banana splits but I could be persuaded by the addition of roasted hazelnuts and rivers of dulce con leche.

  • At 1/31/2011 9:18 am, Blogger gastronomous anonymous said…

    would you be appalled if i told you tha i ate the whole bowl of caramelised pork belly on my own? gonsky! all my own - i was appalled!

    love this litle place... great food :)

  • At 2/03/2011 10:22 am, Blogger susan said…

    That place looks awesome. I remember when redfern had no shops that were ever open and everything seemed to boarded down. How times have changed.

  • At 2/08/2011 12:58 am, Blogger Gianna@TheEmptyFridge said…

    shoot, now i have to persuade 4 others to come with me - just to try all those desserts also!


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