A quick look at the Customs House Bar would probably lead you to believe it’s a watering hole to many-a-boozers that work in any of the office towers that throw shadows on this green corner of land known as Macquarie Park.
This may be true, but let’s not forget those out-of-towners that are staying at the Marriott that fills the airspace above the bar, or anyone else that isn’t wearing suited attire. We are on the edge of tourist central, after all. That would be Circular Quay.
I do love this part of town. Those old sandstone buildings that glow warmly in the afternoon sun, the stately Port Jackson fig trees and the strip of pavement known as Macquarie Place that’s a nice mix of cafés, bars, tailored clothing and gift shops.
We’re here to see what goes down at this particular establishment halfway through the working week. I guess the outdoor area is inviting enough with its shady umbrellas, scattered benches and tables, white picket fences and wine barrels. And when you’re done with work and you’ve been distracted by the smell of beer as you head to the Quay to get your bus/train/ferry home, what’s to prevent you from stopping and sneaking in a schooner or three?
Dozens of beers are up for grabs, and special mention needs to be made about the well-learned staff that are happy to offer suggestions or tid bits of information about any given brew. In addition to the beer is an Australian-heavy wine list slightly diluted with vino from our neighbours across the Tasman, and some bubbles from France.
Drinkers and diners evidently prefer to be outside beneath the trees, brollies and hanging artificial foliage than try to squint at each other in the dark and virtually empty dead space that surrounds the side and rear of the grand old bar inside. And you’ve got to love an outdoor dining area that’s smoke-free.
And what of the food? Let’s just say it isn’t your typical Aussie pub grub that’s all about the schnitty, parmi or beer-battered flake. Although I do have a soft spot for those now and again. It isn’t excessively gastropub, either. You can still get your burgers and pizzas, but you just need to expect to see things like brisket, wagyu and pequillo peppers scattered about here and there. The menu may be limited, but there’s bound to be something on there for the peckish boozer.
The pulled pork steamed buns (24) come presented on a long wooden paddle with a sriracha-like sauce that’s there for the dunking. Some dunking was a given as the meat fibres were screaming for some moisture that may have been left behind on the roasting tray. Still, they’re some tasty little numbers.
A salad with a little difference is the warm heirloom tomatoes with buffalo mozzarella (17). Tender chunks of a variety of tomatoes; served-up slightly warm in an enamelware dish topped with soft cheese and fresh leaves. A preserved lemon dressing adds a tangy and salty layer with pops of vibrance from a confetti of flower petals.
The same presentation is applied to the Cajun quail skewers (19) with the same kind of salad – sans the preserved lemon dressing – and the addition of sliced radish and ribbons of cucumber. The little skewers of quail breast are well-cooked and very mildly-spiced, with nutmeg standing head and shoulders above the other marinade ingredients.
We couldn’t help but make a Vegemite reference to the intense richness of the beef short ribs (21). Some may be put off by the flavour comparison, but others would relish gently tearing away the collagen-rich meat that literally dissolves on the tongue. And no bones, either. Just galangal-braised slow-cooked meat juiced-up in gravy and scattered with pine nut salt.
A side salad comes with the ribs; similarly-flavoured to the heirloom tomatoes, but some hidden roasted baby beets and carrots lurking beneath the leaves make all the difference.
hnf & co. drank & dined courtesy of Customs House Bar & 6dc Lifestyle PR