All we seem to be hearing lately is what latest ticket has just open its doors in Surry Hills. Sliders, taco’s and faux Reuben sandwiches embraced by inner city urbanites donning over-sized black framed specs, inked skin and rolled-up skinny jeans. Finally the Inner West is getting a flurry of openings to the likes of Spencer Guthrie and freshly-opened sixpenny in Stanmore village, bringing thoughfully-made and sustainable food to our plates.
James Parry (Mugaritz, Noma, Manly Pavilion, Oscillate Wildly) and Dan Puskas (Tetsuya’s, Zuma, WD-50, Alinea, Marque, Oscillate Wildly, Sepia) unite with pastry chef Julie Niland (Becasse, Rockpool, Marque, Fat Duck, Waterside Inn), between them creating a degustation menu that’s out to impress. No à la carte here, folks, just a six-course dego for $105 (add $55 for matched wines) or an eight-course for $125 (add $75 for wine matching). Both menu’s follow the same formula except the eight-course comes with a few little extra’s. I’d say go the eight-course. It only took us just over two hours to get through it. And we did, just without the matched wines and instead went with a fab Swinging Bridge sauvignon blanc from Orange.
And here comes the food. Wafer-thin potato chips vamped up with malted vinegar cause rather audible crunches while a perfect small loaf of house-made sourdough with mascarpone butter to lube things up tad.
The nibbles continue onto a share plate of garden pickles all the way from a plot in Bowral, consisting of spring onion, heirloom radish, carrot and cucumber with rye bread and virgin butter. Love the radishes. Love the butter. Most of us remember the good old knuckle sandwich term from the schoolyard and I couldn’t help but be chuffed at seeing an edible version of it. Toasted brioche filled with pork hock and apple and mustard seed jelly. Not quite a smack to the face. More like a caress to the palate. This one may scare a few diners – duck tongue on baby cos leaves. Somehow the soft and slightly crisp and rather fatty tongue tasted of pork rather than the actual bird it came from.
A little surprise plate came next. Day lilies pan-fried with scampi essence. All I can say is a big thanks to Stanmore council for allowing the chefs to pillage its park of the blooms for our enjoyment. I can only assume they did ask before taking. The texture of the semi-cooked flower is soft and a little yielding when you get to the stem and the flavour from the scampi shells is just divine.
Taking from the kitchen garden at the back of the restaurant led to the creation of garden beans – a summery bowl of fresh beans, peas and herbs swimming in sugar snap jus and white cheese. The cheese is comparable to tofu; soft and silky and made just before service so the rennet doesn’t set.
One of the stand-out dishes, in my humbled opinion, is this. Soft fibres of sweet mud crab delicately spooned with macadamia milk and feathers of camomile leaves. The occasional light crunch from tiny pieces of buttery macadamia, the creaminess, the sexiness. Holy crap this is incredible.
Roasted sweet potatoes may come with a sigh from some but the folk at sixpenny tart this root vegetable up with wilted sweet potato leaf all the way from Bowral, some bubbly whey sauce and dory roe playing peek-a-boo beneath. It’s like land meets sea. The next dish is another one that takes me to a heavenly place. Snapper, pumpkin seed cream and soft leek. The texture of the fish is the softest I’ve ever experienced, gently poached in pumpkin seed cream and topped with small mounds of earthy leek and crushed salted pumpkin seeds.
The Coorong hanger steak, sourced from South Australia comes perfectly undercooked with elk leaves, puréed elk leaves and smoked cabbage purée; smoked out the back of the restaurant. The meat is sensational and perfectly matched with the peppery leaves and cabbage. All pepperiness is gone when the sour lemon sorbet arrives. Formed into a wedge, the sorbet is made using maya lemon, candied skin and fresh citrus leaves.
A little pre-dessert comes in the form of more of those glorious little day lilies, this time gently pan-fried in honey. How can a flower taste so good? A fluffy white cloud of honey mead sorbet sits on caramelised banana and bitter cocoa consommé. This is our first dessert. Sweet, bitter and soft. Not bad. The frozen theme continues with Jersey milk ice cream with burnt butter and shards of cookie dough. I think it was at this point that we were both about to be tipped over the edge. The ice cream is so creamy that I can feel it lining my arteries. Seriously. And the thing that gave us the final kick over the edge was the jar of Aussie favourites. Mini specimens of lamingtons, ginger snaps, Kingstons, Monte Carlo’s plus Tonka chocolates. I couldn’t even fit a coffee in. Man, am I turning into a lightweight?