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Friday, June 12, 2015

Firedoor, Surry Hills

150 day dry aged rib eye on the bone at Firedoor, Surry Hills

You could say that Firedoor is the hottest restaurant in Surry Hills right now - dotted with food journalists, celebrities and chefs every night of the week - but that would ignore the real reason they're here: Lennox Hastie. His obsession with fire is at the heart of Firedoor. This is a kitchen without gas or electric stoves, a concept not seen before in Sydney. This is a kitchen where all the action centres around the wood-fired grill.

Firedoor by Lennox Hastie, Surry Hills

It's taken four years for Firedoor to happen. In 2011, Hastie signed on with the Fink Group Owners of Quay and Otto), providing consulting advice while scouting the perfect spot for his Sydney restaurant. There were a number of close deals that fell through at the last minute. No wonder everyone has been busting to get in since Firedoor opened.

Firedoor is an extension of Hastie's most recent work at Etxebarri (pronounced Etchebarri), a fire-driven restaurant in the Basque region of Spain headed by chef Victor Arguinzoniz. The off-the-beaten-track Etxebarrie gathered such a reputation, it earned its first Michelin star and was included in the World's Best 50 Restaurants list during Hastie's five-year tenure as sous chef.

Before Etxebarri, Hastie worked at Michelin-starred restaurants Le Manoir Aux Quat' Saisons in Oxfordshire, Maison de Marc Veyrat in the Rhone Alps and Restaurante Martín Berasategui near Sans Sebastian.

Wood fired bread at Firedoor by Lennox Hastie, Surry Hills
Wood fired bread $7

Food by fire? The wood fired bread is the poor man's proof of triumph with simplicity. The bread is baked in the wood fired oven, a dense and satisfyingly chewy sourdough marked with air bubbles. Its greatest asset is the crust, a little blackened in parts from the burning wood, but so smoky in intensity it's mind-blowing. There's a burnt sweetness to the crust that has me puzzled by its familiarity until I realise it reminds me of the blackened edges of a blowtorched marshmallow. Dip the bread in olive oil and slather it generously in butter. I could eat this solely for dinner and be happy.

Moreton Bay Bug at Firedoor by Lennox Hastie, Surry Hills
Moreton Bay Bug with green apple and roe $19

But that would mean you'd miss out on everything else, a concise offering of dishes designed to share. The Moreton Bay Bug might be a struggle to share based on its size, but the smell of apple wood when it hits the table is impressive. There's a great deal of sophistication with this dish, the plump curl of bug meat lightly infused with smoke resting on a bed of mullet roe puree and the sharp sweetness of a Granny Smith apple.

Bone marrow with uni and capers at Firedoor by Lennox Hastie, Surry Hills
Bone marrow, uni, capers $25 each

How do you make roasted bone marrow even better? Hastie trumps everyone with the addition of sea urchin. The petals of sea urchin add a buttery lushness to the fatty goodness of bone marrow. Capers give a salty pop. Each bone is huge too, filled with a gluttony of marrow along its length. You'd definitely want to share one between two unless you'd pre-planned and packed a defibrillator.

Cauliflower with tallow and hazelnuts at Firedoor by Lennox Hastie, Surry Hills
Cauliflower, tallow, hazelnuts $18

Roasted cauliflower comes with the added grunt of tallow, the half-head first poached in milk and then grilled and basted generously with dry aged beef fat. A tumble of roasted hazelnuts give textural crunch.

Pink snapper fish head at Firedoor by Lennox Hastie, Surry Hills
Pink snapper fish head $32

The pink snapper fish head is a one-off special for tonight, the head cut in half and cooked over the wood fire grill. The snapper comes from Port Lincoln in the Eyre Peninsula of South Australia. There's plenty of sweet and tender flesh to be claimed from the fish head, especially the prized nugget from the cheek. The fish eye, too, is particularly good.

Chef Lennox Hastie at Firedoor, Surry Hills
Head chef Lennox Hastie pulling the fat off the rib eye

The sound of a screeching bandsaw in the kitchen is enough to command our attention in the otherwise quietly humming restaurant. Calmly running a side of beef through the whirring blade is head chef Lennox Hastie, cutting the rib eye steaks to size.

Lennox Hastie trimming the rib eye at Firedoor, Surry Hills
Trimming the rib eye

There should always be a steak on the menu at Firedoor.  At the moment they're offering a beef rib on the bone dry aged for at least 150 days by Victor Churchill.

150 day dry aged beef rib on the bone at Firedoor by Lennox Hastie, Surry Hills
150+ day dry aged beef rib on the bone

The beef rib is cut to a standard size 500g but occasionally they'll have bigger portion sizes available. We ask for an 800g steak that is presumably the prompt for the bandsaw frenzy.

Chef Lennox Hastie on the woodfired grill at Firedoor, Surry Hills
Chef Lennox Hastie on the wood fired grill

After the steaks are trimmed, they're cooked on the wood fired grill. It's the only source of cooking heat in the open kitchen. It's Hastie's sole domain. He watches over the grill like a hawk.

Chef Lennox Hastie stoking the woodfired grill at Firedoor, Surry Hills
Stoking the grill

Observing Hastie at work is both fascinating and addictive. The grill is fuelled only by wood coals that he replenishes from the two wood-fired ovens. He nurtures the flames by gently blowing on them, and then raises or drops the grill platform according to the required heat. It's a non-stop process that requires constant attention, intuition and patience. It's like watching an old fashioned romance as Hastie courts the grill.

Chef Lennox Hastie cooking the beef rib the woodfired grill at Firedoor, Surry Hills
Cooking our 800g rib eye

Hastie juggles several dishes on the grill. The kitchen is remarkably calm, without the clash of saucepans or the boom of orders from the pass.

150 day dry aged beef rib on the bone at Firedoor by Lennox Hastie, Surry Hills
150+ day dry aged beef rib on the bone 800g $188

Our 800g steak is one helluva behemoth, blackened on the outside but a hearty medium rare shade of pink in the middle. The meat is soft and tender but it's the intense meatiness that hits you most. Dry ageing beef for 40 to 60 days isn't uncommon, but letting that cut of beef sit undisturbed for over five months is a whole different ball game.

The flavour intensity here is off the charts but the meat closest to the bone is where things get really interesting. There's a distinct blue cheese pungency that takes you by surprise at first, overwhelming the palate with a bang. This is a steak that's gone to funky town.

Add pockets of mouth-filling fat and you're got a steak for serious meat lovers. The blackened edges are my favourite bit, charred and smoky, and worth prising from the edge of the bone. This is a steak that will sort out the real carnivores from the wannabe paleos.

Banana ice cream with smoked ganache and wild honeycomb at Firedoor by Lennox Hastie, Surry Hills
Banana ice cream, smoked ganache and wild honeycomb $17

There are usually two sweet options for dessert plus an artisan cheese board. We dig the banana ice cream, superb in its delicate smoothness, but struggle with the smoked ganache that feels chalky in the mouth. The wild honeycomb is delicious, the aerated shards easily disintegrating into crumbly stickiness.

The bar at Firedoor by Lennox Hastie, Surry Hills
The bar at Firedoor

A daily changing menu means there's usually at least one reason to revisit Firedoor to see what's new. Book early or rock up as soon as they open to snag one of the few tables set aside each day for walk-ins.

#FOOD in Virgin Airlines Voyeur magazine
Hashtag Food by John Lethlean and Helen Yee in Virgin Airlines Voyeur magazine

And if you find yourself flying Virgin Airlines this month, you'll be able to read my words on paper in Voyeur magazine. John Lethlean and I were both approached to describe our jobs: restaurant reviewer for The Australian for him; blogger for Grab Your Fork for myself. It was a unique chance to clear up a few myths about food blogging as well as compare the different way I approach my work to Lethlean.

Grounded without any chance of a holiday? Relax. You can read it online here.

Click to add a blog post for Firedoor on Zomato

23-33 Mary Street, Surry Hills, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 8204 0800

Opening hours:
Lunch Friday 12pm-3pm
Dinner Tuesday to Saturday 5.30pm-10.30pm
26 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 6/12/2015 01:29:00 am


  • At 6/12/2015 6:48 am, Blogger Ramen Raff said…

    Been wanting to go here since it opened! I want that bone marrow in my life right now and with uni?? Yes! Haha. I'm interested on the concept of cooking with wood fire only and how different types of wood can affect the flavour. Will read your Virgin Airlines piece with John Lethlean!

  • At 6/12/2015 7:39 am, Anonymous John | heneedsfood said…

    Cooking over fire or coals at home is one thing, but doing it for a full restaurant is another. This is impressive stuff!

    Nice one with the Virgin article!

  • At 6/12/2015 9:21 am, Anonymous Monique@The Urban Mum said…

    Looking forward to reading your article in Voyeur, congratulations! I love the idea of a wood fired-grill, the smell must be amazing. I used to love walking into the Centennial Pub in Woollahra and you would be hit with that glorious aroma. I have to say the bread at Firedoor would probably have to be banned from our table, I could eat that all night and would then miss out on all the other fabulous flavours...x

  • At 6/12/2015 10:31 am, Blogger Jacq said…

    ooh I've heard good things about this restaurant - the steak sounds amazing and I need that bone marrow!

  • At 6/12/2015 10:43 am, Blogger Steph Bond-Hutkin said…

    You are the best Helen - keeping my tummy happy for years now!

  • At 6/12/2015 10:52 am, Anonymous chocolatesuze said…

    holy crap i thought that bone marrow looked amazing and then i see there's also sea urchin on top? SOLD!

  • At 6/12/2015 11:38 am, Blogger Simplicity by Sarah said…

    That beef is calling my name .. it looks like it's cooked to perfection!

  • At 6/12/2015 1:17 pm, Blogger Cassie | Journey From Within said…

    oh my that beef rib! I'm salivating!!

  • At 6/12/2015 1:47 pm, Anonymous Laura said…

    Wow Helen - it looks just as good as I've been hearing on the grapevine, I have Porteno in mind for my hubby's birthday in July but now Firedoor is seriously tempting me! The half cauliflower looks stunning! Laura

  • At 6/12/2015 3:00 pm, Anonymous Racy_staci said…

    Yum! Dying to try the funky town steak. Great article for Virgin too. Thank you for letting us be apart of your food adventures. Deliciousness is out there!

  • At 6/12/2015 5:34 pm, Anonymous ChopinandMysaucepan said…

    Dear Helen,

    Your article on Voyeur mmagazine is so eloquently written. I simply cannot think of a more enduring ambassador for our food blogging community.

  • At 6/12/2015 9:03 pm, Anonymous Maureen | Orgasmic Chef said…

    What an interesting concept. As more and more people are looking for new and innovative ways to cook, these people are bringing us real, tasty food. Well done!

  • At 6/13/2015 7:07 am, Anonymous Napoli Restaurant Alert said…

    Looks good but also looks very pricey? Was that $19 for a single bug? And $25 for one bone marrow? All sounds delicious though.

  • At 6/13/2015 1:10 pm, Anonymous Nagi@RecipeTinEats said…

    This reminds me of Ester. But it's gone all the way. I have to go! (Not an attempt to be "cool". But because I'm so curious!)

    PS Congrats on your Voyeur piece! Will you post it so everyone can read it?

  • At 6/13/2015 5:27 pm, OpenID nessyeater said…

    I can really sink my teeth into the bone marrow right now if it is right in front of me!!!! :D

  • At 6/13/2015 7:22 pm, Anonymous Hannah said…

    "This is a steak that will sort out the real carnivores from the wannabe paleos." 👏👏👏👏

  • At 6/13/2015 10:44 pm, Anonymous Berny @ I Only Eat Desserts said…

    Congrats on another piece published :) I was chuckling at John's sass but nodding and agreeing to everything you were saying. Totally on the same page with you with blogging being a labour of love - there is no money nor much recognition in it but you do it because you love what you do.

  • At 6/14/2015 10:10 am, Anonymous Bianca@forfoodssake said…

    Is it sad that out of everything I got most exciting about the woof fired bread. I think there's something wrong with me!
    Congratulations on the Voyeur piece Helen!

  • At 6/15/2015 3:09 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Ramen Raff - That bone marrow is such a superb combo, and yes cooking just with woodfire requires such an impressive level of skill. Happy reading :)

    Hi John - For sure, and he does it with such calm efficiency. And thanks :)

    Hi Monique - Haha it was very hard to stop eating the bread. Okay I didn't. It was so good!

    Hi Jacq - I don't think anyone else in Sydney is doing a steak anything like it. Definitely worth visiting.

    Hi Steph - Aww you are far too kind. Thank you so much for your support over the years!

    Hi chocolatesuze - It definitely had your name all over it!

    Hi Simplicity by Sarah - The steak had so much flavour. And beautifully cooked too.

    Hi Cassie - Worth ordering. Definitely share with friends!

    Hi Laura - Ooh it would be perfect spot for your hubby's birthday I reckon - make sure you book well in advance!

  • At 6/15/2015 3:18 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Racy_Staci - Couldn't ask for a better dining companion :)

    Hi ChopinandMySaucepan - You are far too kind! Glad you enjoyed the piece :)

    Hi Maureen - And the lovely sense of irony is that the new way of cooking is very old indeed!

    Hi Napoli Restaurant Alert Some dishes are on the expensive side but I do appreciate the quality ingredients used for each dish.

    Hi Nagi - I love that woodfire is becoming more and more common in commercial kitchens. There's so much flavour and nuance in each dish.

    And I've already posted a link to the article in the post :) Click on the hyperlink above.

    Hi nessyeater - You and me both!

    Hi Hannah - Bahaha ;)

    Hi Berny - lol it was a little intimidating knowing that the contrasting op-ed was going to be written by John Lethlean but I tried to focus on just being honest about what food blogging is all about - something fellow bloggers are familiar with, but Voyeur readers may not realise. Glad you could appreciate where I was coming from!

    Hi Bianca - Not at all. Woodfired bread is a magical thing. And thanks so much :)

  • At 6/15/2015 12:17 pm, Anonymous Gourmet Getaways said…

    Love the ambience and the unpretentious kitchen! We would love to sample the Moreton bay bug and bone marrow plates. Mouthwatering!!!

    Julie & Alesah
    Gourmet Getaways xx

  • At 6/15/2015 12:53 pm, Blogger gaby @ lateraleating said…

    Thanks for the heads-up, this place looks awesome! Also great write-up in the Virgin magazine, loved the love letter analogy :)

  • At 6/17/2015 5:24 pm, Anonymous Amanda@ChewTown said…

    I've been wanting the visit this place ever since it opening. I've jut sent it to Scotty and it looks like we're going - thanks to your awesome write up and photos. Thank goodness we have you to kind all the cool places for us ;)

  • At 6/17/2015 5:25 pm, Anonymous Amanda@ChewTown said…

    Ok... my spelling is not normally that bad! Chalk it up to it being 5:30pm and I've not had lunch

  • At 6/18/2015 12:05 am, Blogger Vivian - vxdollface said…

    Ermahgerd I really want to go here but the dinner bookings are closer to supper.. will need to wait for the hype to die down a bit.

    Whoa 8hrs to post but then again yours are lengthy so it makes sense, I thought my 3-4hrs was long! Well done on the article feature :)

  • At 7/04/2015 10:15 pm, Anonymous Sara | Belly Rumbles said…

    Having been wanting to try here from the moment I heard about it. Now I am burning with anticipation to visit ;)

    Also well done on Virgin interview, going to check that out now via the link.


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