When you think of Enmore Road you think cheap and cheerful - Turkish, Indian, Thai and Italian eateries all interspersed with the odd pub, the Enmore Theatre, hair dressers, grocers and even a brothel. It's not one of this citys prettiest streets and to be honest, it's kind of good that it isn't. I've mentioned before how Newtown has slowly come of age over the last year or so with the openings of places like Bloodwood, lifting the game and offering a little bit more to the plates and palates of us Inner Westies.
A relative newcomer, let's say around three weeks or so, has quietly slipped into the area unannounced. The oddly named Pickwick's has opened in a former shopfront where Razor's Edge used to be (a zealous local has politely corrected me), the walls stripped back to expose layers of paint on brickwork from years gone by, retaining the rustic floorboards and adding a mismatch of recycled wooden chairs and compact tables crammed into a relatively small dining room. Way up in the high ceiling is a sole fan that struggles to cool a room full of diners gasping for air and fanning themselves with whatever they can find.
The menu is a collaboration by chef and owner Sophie Lee-Jenkins and the guy that trained her, Rob Murphy (ex Aria & Garfish). It has a limited bunch of dishes that take flavours from France and sprinkle them with a little native Oz, changing from week to week as the seasons and market inspires them. Come for brunch and you'll get croque monsier or pulled pork sambo's. Come for dinner and you'll get something like this ...
Spiced pork shoulder cooked for ten hours, delicately pulled over wild rocket with matchsticks of apple and radish, ribbons of cucumber, walnut dressing and a little crackling. Gor-juss.
Then there's the scampi with its creamy sweet flesh and salad of julienned papaya, capsicum, mint and coriander. Sadly the finger lime was so minimal it virtually went unnoticed but what I did get was mostly hidden in the head cavity.
The kingfish is a hearty chunk of firm flesh balancing on kipflers, green beans, tomato plus black olives, soft-boiled egg and white anchovies. Perfectly cooked and simply delicious. My roasted free-range spring chicken is just as beautiful with the creamy and slightly cheesy saffron risotto, topped with a soft-poached egg, semi-dried tomato and watercress.
Aside from a few French and Australian cheeses, you can end your meal with two sweets (more coming soon) that feature a couple of interesting ingredients. The vanilla cheesecake is topped with a layer of grape jelly and swirls of lemon thyme honey decorate the plate with a scoop of vanilla bean icecream and the odd leaf of lemon thyme. The flavours go together perfectly.
The flourless chocolate cake leans towards being more bitter, than sweet, it's soft and creamy and served with a scoop of wattleseed icecream flecked with orange zest. The squiggle of gel made from lady grey tea adds a slight smokiness to the bitter chocolate. Another winner.
Something tells me Pickwick's will be well embraced by many of the locals and the food it dishes out is a breath of fresh air amongst the grunge and fast food outlets this strip is known for. Here's hoping that when the liquor licence comes on board an air conditioner moves in as well.
As for the name Pickwick's, it may sound unusual to some but readers of Jasper Fforde will get the drift. Chef Sophie Lee-Jenkins mulled over the name for over a month and finally decided on the name of the ditsy clone dodo character in one of Ffordes' novels.Pickwick's129 Enmore RoadEnmore 204202 9557 2607Tues 8am-4pmWed-Sat 8am-11pmSun 8am-5pmBYO corkage $4 pp