There we were in Balmain, with me wondering why things were so quiet in the streets and why some restaurants weren’t even open. State of Origin night, I learned.
Football or food?
You can see how interested this one is in what the rugby league world is doing. When it comes to football and food, the former kinda doesn’t even exist.
There’s a time and place where I’d be happy knocking back a beer with a meat pie or hot dog, sans the footy, but this night kicked off on another level. Plus I couldn’t turn down an invite.
Freshly shucked Sydney rock oysters (4 each) with Hendricks & cucumber granita, anyone? And how about a glass of Tuscan Poggiotondo Vermentino (12) to sip along the way? The granita, by far, is the hero with this one. Yes, a few of the oysters were still attached to the shell, but a bit of spooning fixed that in no time; and thanks, chef Leigh McDivitt, for leaving the brine in the little fella’s all the way from Wapengo on the South Coast.
As for that Tuscan vino, the crisp and dry finish feels like it’s made for such seafood. It’s perfectly matched by the vivacious Amanda; front of house extraordinaire with a damn fine nose and palate for booze and food matching.
So this is One6Eight, the collaborative effort by Leigh and Amanda McDivitt and good mate Paul Hargrave. Once in the CBD, the newish location is opposite Gladstone Park on the Balmain peninsula. It’s awash with red from the wall and doors, to the seats and butterflies that flutter from the rear of the long and narrow space.
Leigh sends out a little teaser of kingfish ceviche; a few petit mouthfuls that are light on the palate yet enlivened by a deliciously cooling horseradish ice cream. Very noticeable horseradish, yet none of the familiar burn.
The seafood party continued with some plump seared scallops (20) resting beneath a copse of red mizuna and scattered with pork dust. Yep, sexy pork dust. A torched prawn flags its blackened uropods, beckoning you to grab hold and take a bite. What sets the dish alight is the burnt apple purée; yes there’s fresh apple in the as well, but that purée is pure magic.
Amanda poured me a glass of Moriki Shuzo ‘Suppin Rumiko’ saké (35) to complement the leatherjacket cheeks (18) I chose. The saké is traditionally handmade in a factory south of Osaka; it’s dry, a little sweet and packs a punch with its 21% alcohol content.
As for those leatherjacket cheeks, the flavours and textures are delicate and clean, spruced up by the chervil-heavy sauce and smokey avruga caviar. Can’t forget the vongole popcorn – crisp and lightly spiced on the outside, soft and yielding on the inside.
Main courses turned from the ocean and landed on terra firma with two meaty options. The hop-smoked wagyu flap (36) is the first, served with grilled baby leek, carrot and golden ale gel. The other is New Zealand spiced venison leg (38), perfectly cooked with tiny king brown mushrooms, chocolate gnocchi and vibrant pea powder. The chocolate is barely noticeable in the gnocchi, but the tuile disc sure does have a sugary, chocolate punch.
A little vegetable action came in the form of Romanesco cauliflower (9), tenderly cooked and doused in burnt butter vinaigrette with a light smattering of toasted pine nuts.
One veg we simply had to try were the hand cut chips (12) cooked in aged beef dripping. Yes, as good as it sounds. Soft-yet-crisp on the outside and fluffy on the inside; doused in a snow of parmesan.
A line-up of raspberry sorbet and Jack Daniels “Tennessee Honey” ice cream (16) wrapped things up with a little sugar. An intense salted caramel fudge & pine nut praline with dark chocolate honeycomb made things a tad rich, but nothing a good macchiato couldn’t deal with.
The richness continued in the textures of chocolate (16); a swaying wedge of mousse cake with chocolate soil and chocolate tuile. Some much needed yuzu ice cream lightened the load with its zing; as did the yuzu gel.
hnf & co dined courtesy of One6Eight