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Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Swine & Co, Sydney

Suckling pig at Swine and Co, Sydney

It takes four hours to roast a suckling pig over charcoal at Swine & Co. They churn through three to four suckling pigs each day; on Fridays they'll roast up to six. Tonight's pig? It weighs 11 kilos but they can vary in range between seven and twelve kilograms.

"Does he have a name?" I ask the chef at Swine & Co. He laughs in reply. "No, we get too many to give them names!" It's hard not to stare at the pig as its spins slowly over the glowing embers below. There's a point when the head is almost upright and it pauses briefly. It stops - and then there's a sudden jolt when the pig tips over, its ears flopping slightly as the pig goes around again.

House baked pretzel with cultured butter at Swine and Co, Sydney
House baked pretzel with cultured butter $4

Swine & Co has taken over the former Bavarian Bier Cafe site on O'Connell Street, the grand 1930s art deco space renovated into less of a schnitzelhaus and more of a porcine palace. The ground floor is swollen with suits on a post-work Tuesday. Happy hour drinks are in full swing: $10 for two Heinekens or $5 moscatos from 5pm-7pm weeknights.

The bar menu offers plenty to keep you amused between drinks. House baked pretzels are served warm from the oven. They're addictively soft but chewy, even better when slathered with the accompanying pat of cultured butter.

Chicken liver pate with brioche at Swine and Co, Sydney
Chicken liver pate $12
with brioche, brandy jelly and cornichons

The chicken liver pate is almost too cute to eat, a miniature glass pot of pate sealed with foil, petite brioche loaf, pickled cucumbers and cornichons clustered on a polished wooden chopping block.

Chicken liver pate with brandy jelly on brioche at Swine and Co, Sydney
Chicken liver pate 

There's a lovely blush of pink to the pate, crowned with a layer of shimmering brandy jelly. And if you're watching your budget, ordering this at the bar is cheaper than the restaurant downstairs by a few bucks too. Win.

Pleased to Meat You at Swine and Co, Sydney
Pleased to Meat You downstairs in the main restaurant 

You'll have to head down to the depths of the basement to reach the main restaurant. It's significantly darker and gloomier here, made even more ominous by the display of cleavers, knives and hacksaws by the entrance.

Cleavers, knives and hacksaws at Swine and Co, Sydney
Choose your weapon

Chefs in the kitchen at Swine and Co, Sydney
Chefs in the kitchen

The dining room might be all moody lighting but that just means more attention on the beacon of light that is the kitchen. The chefs can be seen working busily all evening and every now and then, the suckling pig flops over again.

Swine smash cocktail with candied pancetta at Swine and Co, Sydney
Swine Smash $14
Pancetta, Havana, mint leaves and pineapple

For pre-dinner drinkies it's hard to resist the Swine Smash. Candied pancetta?! Hello. We can barely hide our glee when these arrive, a Mojito mash-up with a slab of caramelised porky goodness jammed in on the side. If you rescue it quickly, it'll still be reasonably crisp... and yes, unbelievably delicious.

Bread and breadsticks at Swine and Co, Sydney
Complimentary bread basket

The complimentary bread basket provides plenty of distraction while we wait for our food. It's a bonanza of springy sourdough breads, dark rye, lavosh and breadsticks.

Crackling with goats cheese at Swine and Co, Sydney
Crackling with goats cheese, pumpkin and licorice

We're surprised with complimentary canapes to kick off our meal. Tonight it's curls of crackling topped with pumpkin, licorice and dabs of creamy goats cheese - a strange combo on paper but surprisingly it works.

Steak tartare with quail egg at Swine and Co, Sydney
Steak tartare $19
with quail egg, truffle, mustard and toast

Steak tartare is a picture of elegance, a just-cooked quail egg resting against a mound of hand-cut beef strips garnished with nasturtium leaves and mustard. I'm not a great fan of truffle oil but I appreciate the textural contrast, with mini slices of toast, shards of wafer and the crunch of toasted quinoa scattered across the plate.

Black pudding and Hervey Bay scallops at Swine and Co, Sydney
Black pudding and Hervey Bay scallops $22
with foie gras, lime caviar and quinoa

The black pudding with Hervey Bay scallops is a winner too. The black pudding has been seared to a crisp on the outside but is soft and juicy within, just like the scallops which have a glassy sweetness.

Crisp pig's tail with pine puree at Swine and Co, Sydney
Crisp pig's tail $19
with pine puree, grapes, pickled mushrooms and pistachio

I'm most impressed by the crisp pig's tail though, deboned and then flattened and roasted to a crackling level of crunch. It's noisily satisfying, with the richness cut by a bed of pine puree, grapes and the slight tang of pickled mushrooms.

Macleay Valley suckling pig at Swine and Co, Sydney
Milk fed Macleay Valley suckling pig $40
with celery salt and baby fennel 

Ordering the suckling pig is mandatory, although we find some parts of the skin more chewy than crunchy. The meat itself is wonderfully tender though, especially against the bone.

Macleay Valley suckling pig at Swine and Co, Sydney
Suckling pig

Pork belly with crackling at Swine and Co, Sydney
Pork belly $34
with crackling, pumpkin, Tuscan cabbage and pepper jus

The crackling on the pork belly, however, can't be faulted. The tile of blistered pork skin gives a resounding crunch with each bite, and the fat-ribboned layers of meat are so tender it almost falls apart in the mouth.

Brussel sprouts with blue lentils at Swine and Co, Sydney
Brussel sprouts $12
with blue lentils, fermented chilli and speck

For our veggies we went with Brussel sprouts, pumped up with more pig of course. I'm no stranger to caramelised Brussel sprouts with speck but adding the blue lentils gives it an even more satisfying meatiness. There's an incredible smokiness to this dish too that leaves us all trying to steal another spoonful when noone is looking.

Doughnuts with green apple sorbet at Swine and Co, Sydney
Doughnuts with creme anglaise and green apple sorbet $14

As soon as we'd walked in the dining room, staff had recognised Suze. "Back again?" they'd said with a smile. It was her fourth visit in less than three weeks. The kitchen insists on treating us with dessert and end up sending out three on the house, starting with a trio of doughnuts sitting on a lake of creme anglaise.

Fat, fluffy and dusted with sugar, the donuts create trails of evidence all over our lips and cheeks. The quenelle of green apple sorbet is my highlight, tasting just like the Japanese Hi-Chew candies you find in Asian supermarkets.

Chocolate mousse with earl grey marshmallows and honeycomb at Swine and Co, Sydney
Chocolate mousse $14
with homemade earl grey marshmallows and honeycomb

Chocolate mousse is more sophisticated in presentation, islands of rich chocolate mousse alternating with pillows of earl grey marshmallows and sugary highlights of bubbly honeycomb.

Creme brulee dessert at Swine and Co, Sydney
Creme brulee $14

But my favourite dessert is the creme brulee, looking more like a terrarium in its miniature glass jar. The wobble of custard in the bottom is more like a pannacotta. It's irresistibly smooth and creamy and we all join in the fight for meringue, fruit and toffee smithereens. A perfect end to our meal.

Lots of porcine pleasures to be had for all lovers of pork.

They've got the swine. You just need to bring the co.

Swine and Co, Sydney

Swine & Co. on Urbanspoon

Swine and Co
16 O'Connell Street, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9009 0990

Opening hours:
Monday to Friday 9am - late

Related Grab Your Fork posts:
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Woodfired pork - Porteno, Surry Hills
Crispy pata fried pork hock - La Mesa, Haymarket
Crispy pata fried pork hock - Sizzling Fillo, Lidcombe
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posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 4/09/2014 11:33:00 pm


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