Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Ester, supposedly an organic compound but there's a bit more to it than that. Taking the Sydney dining scene by storm last year, Mat Lindsay's Ester has already been named Restaurant of the Year by Time Out. The praise is coming in thick and fast and so are the punters. Ester is running white hot - and it doesn't look to be changing anytime soon. It was my third time lucky, trying to get a table and that is absolutely no exaggeration! It. is. getting. ridiculous. Why Sydney, why?

Ester, rather luminous a.k.a. the failings of my point & shoot

To be fair, I'm just going to put it out there and say Ester is good. Very good. I'm always astounded by the quality of restaurants that Sydney is producing, not just now but for the past few years whilst I've had this little blog. Even after travelling a wee bit, I always come back appreciating Sydney's gems (or should I say, gold mine?) just a little bit more. Having booked a month in advance (aye, with a heavy heart), and for a special occasion (naturally) - we were inclined to order the set menu. If you can stomach that much delicious food, you should definitely go the whole hog. It's well worth it if not for the generous portions. A veritable feast awaits.

Golden arches, indeed. Photo credit: Peter Bennetts for Architecture AU

Ester's origins were rather transformative (to say the least), with Anthony Gill Architects doing up the space from its humble origins as a loading dock (er, wow). With references to an old Greek taverna, it holds just enough industrial elements to cry out 'modern'. Ester sits on Meagher Street in Chippers as a beacon of light, bringing joy amongst the hipsters crowding the inner west. Thing's ain't looking half bad either; with neighbours in Brickfields, Freda's and  The Chip off the Old Block. Why not let the good times roll?

Roasted oysters (left) and duck and pistachio terrine (right). I could have oysters anytime anywhere, lightly roasted - they tasted quite different to what I'm used to (but in a good way). A few weren't too game on the terrine, I was just trying to save room for what lay ahead...

The menu certainly leaves on intrigued, to say the least. Reading as a quizzical list of ingredients - it serves as a checklist, rattling of some soon-to-be favourites. Already Ester has a few signature dishes, including their roast cauliflower which is a must-order, okay? Mat Lindsay's pride and joy sits as the centrepiece of the kitchen, a wood fired oven which is used to great effect throughout.  Most plates are designed for sharing and are the perfect accompaniment to some fine glasses of vino. No doubt you'll be craving to try more by the end!

Pippies/cabbage/nori butter. An early favourite, for sure. The tiny amount of meat (for all that shell) was coated with nori adding another element from the sea. A lovely and light dish.

Crispy pig's tails (left) and calamari/peas/green goddess (right). What that final ingredient was I had no idea...but have since done my research - a tangy dressing made with lots of fresh herbs. The calamari was cooked well and gelled together well with the other elements. The pig tails were tasty, for what meat there was (warning: bones)!

Cauliflower/almond/mint. A ha! So this was what all the fuss was about. A whole roasted cauli served with almond sauce, roasted almonds and mint. Quite impressive but also sneaky - was the half head thrown in the fire for the 'wow' factor? Nevertheless the flavours work really well, the slightly charred and textural cauliflower is a nice pairing with almond. Over boiled brassicas be gone!

Fish fillet/onion/saltbush (left) and chicken/garlic bread sauce (right). For the final two savouries you can't fault the cooking of the protein. It's nice to see the use of Australian natives (in saltbush). The garlic perhaps doesn't come through as hoped, but a little smear from a roasted garlic clove fixes everything


Salted caramel semi-freddo, dusted with black sesame sugar. Sharing is caring, but perhaps not the case here. Dive in - before it's GONE. Another recipe to poach from Gourmet Traveller

Ester has certainly added a dash of excitement to the dining scene in Sydney, just as Berta, Apollo and Nomad have also done (the list hardly ends there either...). Ester's made a cracking statement, all with their trusty wood fire oven and the team should be immensely proud. The food is the perfect stepping stone short of fine dining; the communal experience that we've grown to adore. What could be better than having a rollicking good time without the fuss? If you feel so inclined to recreate your Ester experience (because let's face it, you've already had a hard time trying to secure a table); catch the recipe for their famed roast cauliflower here on Gourmet Traveller. Make Ester your New Year's resolution.

"Three milks" - cow's milk panna cotta, sheep's milk yoghurt foam and goat's milk dulce de leche 

Thanks for reading!
Ester on Urbanspoon


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