Down To The Woods

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Chuffed to bits. That's how chef Hamish Ingham should feel about his new-ish hotel restaurant, The Woods.  Ingham has forged a name for himself through Bar H that has been a rather conscientious worker on the Sydney food scene with it's Chinese fusion menu. The Woods is a pretty major achievement then: the entire restaurant from woe to go has been re-done from scratch, seats over 100 and has a menu (and wine list) that's no slouch. 

In the beginning, there was garlic & native thyme flatbread. Fresh out of the wood fire oven (you'll start to see a recurring theme here), this was the perfect start to kickstart the appetite. That, and a glass of white wine!

Enter me/us. The restaurant fit out by Michael McCann is pretty nice with a definite organic kind of feel to it, and on a pretty big scale. It has the interesting details of black scrawlings on the ceiling of recipes and ingredients as well as that weird and wacky spider-like chandelier of table lamps. Off to the right side is a largish private dining room that would be ace for corporate functions (or if you're feeling very generous). The centre of attention though is definitely the open plan kitchen where Ingham leads a pretty tight outfit. Smoke may be a-billowing but they hardly break a sweat (figuratively speaking). If you're up for a pre-dinner tipple, Grain Bar is a hop, skip and a jump away.

My restaurant photos basically paled in comparison, my little compact really struggles in these low light joints. So this is the wide-angled profesh version for y'all Credit: The Woods Restaurant

The menu is only a one pager but boy did we deliberate on which dishes to order. As a homage to the restaurant's 'raison d'être' (whipping out the scanty french again), we consciously ordered as many grilled, roasted and smoked dishes as we could. I think we did a pretty good job of it. Let your eyes be the judge...

How many times can you include the word 'wood' in a menu? Apparently 7! Wood grilled prawns, tahini yoghurt & sesame salt (left) and Wood roast baby beetroot, smoked labne & hazelnut (right). Shared to the tiniest crumb these were sort of like an amuse when we were through. The prawns were tasty with that tahini sauce (tahini should be used so much more in Oz I think). The beet salad was so perfectly harmonious, such a picture and hazelnuts, oh my!

Grasslands beef fillet, parsnip chips, smoked eggplant & black garlic. There's not that much in the way of complexity here but it is all about execution. The eye fillet was a beautiful medium rare and that black garlic/eggplant puree was a head turner with it's KA-pow of smokiness. The crumbed parsnip had a pleasant tang about them too

We were well on a roll now - here's the whole line caught fish grilled over apple wood. Tonight's fish was a gloriously sweet J.D. (John Dory). Yes, the fish looked rather mangled but man it tasted good. Charred on the grill just the right amount, the flesh was still soft and juicy. WINNING 

Give me a 'D'...

Get a load of this! This has got to be one of my favourite dessert photos :D Sheep milk pannacotta verjuice & green grapes (I know it don't look it haha). More a crème than a pannacotta, the texture is what got to me. All the gelatine was basically used to make the jelly layer on top. A verjuice sorbet and a dusting of icing sugar - this dessert was LUSH, without being sweet

Wood roasted pear & almond pudding (left) and Smoked chocolate, caramelized banana & burnt butter (right). This pudding is well worth the wait, fresh out of the oven the pear is delicious with the vanilla ice cream. The requisite chocolate dessert is a jaunt in molecular gastronomy. Powdered burnt butter?! Eep! The airy sponge and honeycomb-ey chocolate shards were decent but this dessert as a whole lacked punch

So word out on the street is that it's pretty good. Señor Durack, Time Out and Gourmet Traveller's blessings can't be a bad thing. I can't quite believe I've missed The Woods for all these months because it's definitely a keeper.  I think the whole package is pretty tight; the food coming off of those grills is still smokin'. 

Thanks for reading!
The Woods on Urbanspoon

Cider Fest Rules

Sunday, 19 May 2013

There's something completely wonderful about sitting in front of my laptop to blog with a mug of tea on a Sunday morning. Love it! Yesterday, a dozen of us made the "pilgrimage" to the tiny town of Batlow, a town in country NSW renowned for apple growers. What better excuse to go than for the annual Batlow CiderFest. Psyched!

Random photo spot! Autumn leaf cover in the park

The appropriately designed info booth!

It was a windy bus-ride through the rolling hills of country NSW (listening to this and this). When we arrived we were buffeted by some icy winds...Man, it was cold. The day hovered at a chilly 5 degrees, with only patchy sun shine. Let's just say some of my fellow festival goers were forced to do some emergency thrift shopping! 

Boutique cider company, The Apple Thief's Charlie Ostaszewski - a little self promotion never hurt anyone!

The whole she-bang was all that I could have hoped for. Pioneer Street was closed off and furnished with long tables with stalls down the edges. Lots of local producers were showcasing the region's best produce - apples, root veg and preserves. Cafe Nest of Tumbarumba provided the morning's requisite coffee. A bag of roasted chestnuts makes the perfect snack for market perusing too ;) Throughout the day there was entertainment on a make shift stage including some lovely acoustic versions of Bon Iver and Jack Johnson tunes. Very suited! And so we embarked on an apple themed dining and cider drinking odyssey...

How do you like them apples?
Crushed as cider (hello). Here is the before and after shot! As a charitable initiative, apples were being peeled and cored in aid of Prostate Cancer research, a very worthy cause. These apples were some of the fresh and juiciest apples I'd ever tasted. Molto Buono! 

The mission of the day was to taste each of the ciders and rank them (as you do). My personal favourite was the Small Acres Pear cider - a small company that I had never heard of until yesterday. I haven't seen it sold in mainstream shops either, this needs to change. The subtle flavours of these ciders make them go down very easy! Batlow Premium Cider's Cloudy Cider was also a huge seller, and actually sold out at some point! The Apple Thief, a relative newcomer on the scene was a bit of a hit amongst festival goers with their Apple Cider cocktail of a mix of ciders, mint, fresh apple and Absolut Wild Tea. I found their Granny Smith cider to be quite tart, preferring the William Pear and Pink Lady ciders instead. We were becoming quite the connoisseurs by the end haha!

Savoury before the sweet: spit roast pork bun with apple sauce (left) and the Cheese Kransky dog with onion/balsamic sauce + ketchup (right). The Kransky was amazing, can I just say. With all the oozy cheese throughout the snag - AAAH. The pork was also very good but I could have done with a bit of cabbage or other greenery

Definitely couldn't go past a warm apple pie on a day like this. The apple pie on offer by Batlow's local Wilgro Orchards. The best part about this was probably the caramelized apple ice cream we bought to have it with! People thought we were mad but a pie without ice cream just isn't the same! The pie itself was perhaps a bit dry, the filling was basically cinnamon apple layered on directly without that gooey sauce that we want! Some rhubarb or blueberries would have made it 1000x better

Some more jammies for sale at the CiderFest. This particular stall had the most delicious chocolate coated toffee apples - they were sold out in no time at all! A clear winner for the little (and big) kids

By the end of the afternoon, I felt a twinge of sadness to be leaving. The community atmosphere was so wonderful to see, hundreds of festival goers from near and far gathering to share a common experience on a cool Autumn's day. It was the perfect opportunity to have a chat with the farmers, support their efforts and enjoy some farmers. I did my best to sample a bit of everything and squeeze in a spot of shopping too!

An afternoon street scene (left) and the Tumut Town Band (right) that put on a right show for us! Aren't their yellow jackets and feathered hats snazzy?

I walked away from the festival with some decent loot, including 2kg of Pink Lady Apples for $5 (the best)! My self made 'show bag': pear and apple ciders from Small Acres Cyder (from Orange, NSW), Wilgro Apple Cider Vinegar, jams from Yesteryear Preserves (Cowra, NSW) and Batlow's own Pink Lady Apple(s). 

What can I say other than it was a good day. I knew before I had even gone that I'd have a ton of fun at this event and it did not disappoint! Mark it in your diaries for next year :)

Thanks for reading!

Chiswick, darling

Friday, 3 May 2013

To the next place! You must know that I eat my way much faster than I can write...On this occasion I have found myself in the company of the Eastern suburbs poshies at Chiswick in Woollahra. The old Pruniers restaurant site had sat deserted for some years before Matt Moran waved his magic wand over the place. With a nifty looking overhaul and a kitchen garden out the back, what's not to like?

Manicured lawns and a country townhouse revival has made Chiswick a welcome 'addition' on Ocean Street Source: GQ

It was a hump day (Wednesday) night that we dined here and the place was rather full as well. Must be alright then! What's lovely about this place is the vibe. Chiswick is a sun drenched restaurant, with all those floor to ceiling windows. Channelling the Hamptons and country chic, Chiswick is like a little oasis that everyone happens to know about. Set back from the street, for a moment you can enjoy yourself without traffic as accompaniment. This suburban eatery is just screaming Sunday lunch. Moran was very mindful of the 'ladies that lunch' clientele and is pretty much pitch perfect on that score.

This was definitely a publicity shot, when is this place ever empty...? The wooden white chairs are quite stark, also comfortable! Note the green laser cut green wine bottle glasses. A nifty idea I first saw on The Thousands (here) Source: Daily Addict

Now here's the low down on the edible stuff:

Just so you know, I had the House Ice Tea and found it to be super watery with next to no 'tea' flavour. Quite disappointed! I should have had a cocktail. What's lovely to see is the kitchen's prominent use of fresh herbs from the kitchen garden, and boy does it make a difference. The plan was to do a little Chiswick tasting menu. The plug on Masterchef S3 (the Moran family farm etc) was a good nudge in the right direction!

Moran's steak tartare, gaufrette potatoes: this had a nice hum with the onion. The potatoes, although they looked fantastic they were too oily and not crispy enough

Veal sliders (left) and Crisp buttermilk chicken, chilli slaw, mango chutney (right). That buttermilk chicken was superb. Juicy meat and crispy outside, KFC is left for dead here. The harissa had just the right hit of spice. The veal patties were nice and tender and the pickles were perfect. The bread however, should have been toasted, it was a bit dense otherwise

Wood roasted Moran family lamb, green olives, fennel. This was a massive show stopper, with the dramatic knife thing going. And with good reason too, the lamb was so succulent and falling off the bone, lit-er-ally. GAH. A total highlight of the meal. The sauce on top wasn't even necessary (also, a bit tasteless), the meat just shone. The cherry tomato and fennel salad with dill was a nice addition

Hand cut chips, lemon thyme aioli (left) and Chickpea, eggplant, cumin yogurt, coriander, oregano (right). Man, those chips were gooood (and very filling haha). The aioli made is a big win. The chickpeas were a bit of a Middle Eastern curve ball, but very tasty all the same!

Black forest slice, chocolate, cherries, vanilla ice cream (left) and Mango and vanilla bombe alaska, red currants (right). Now, we expected to see some fireworks here i.e. some flaming bombes but we were sadly denied this pleasure. Anyways, the bombe had a beautifully silky meringue layer and a coconut macaroon base. The black forest was rather a refined number, with vanilla ice (a bit too icy actually) and a base that reminded me of Baci chocolates. Chunks of cherry in the filling and a layer of tempered chocolate on top. What more could we ask for?

We left a very contented table. Chiswick is a great spot, perfect for 'occasion' lunches and/or dinners. The only downside really is that food costs a mint. Without an alcoholic drop in sight we still paid over $50pp (hopefully this will become more and more acceptable as I start earning more dollar$). Chiswick's food is like (professional) home cooking wearing a pretty sundress. The food has minimal frills but is decidedly delicious. Give it a Sunday afternoon whirl.

Thanks for reading!
Chiswick on Urbanspoon


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