Few chefs could convince us that a deconstructed clam chowder is a good idea. But Nick Stanton is that prodigy. He’s the young meat-loving chef with razor sharp techniques who made even the porkiest bar snacks at the Woods of Windsor a fine dining proposition. Now he’s at Nieuw Amsterdam – Hardware Street’s slinky new American-style bistro and late-night cocktail bar – and he’s using those same skills to make the fanciest brisket, doughnuts and grits fritters you ever did see.
That New York chowder is a pretty plate of clams, thick-cut bacon, acid-bright cherry tomato bombs and carefully turned potatoes and carrots, all united by a bright and creamy clam-stock liquor. It's pretty far flung from Manhattan's tomato-based soup, but those flavours are united and hence the dish is not defeated. And damned if Nieuw Amsterdam isn’t just a bundle of unexpected like that.
For starters you’d never know the beautiful split-level venue was recently sticky Irish boozer Pugg Mahones. They got the Jameson and sweat smell out, but they’ve kept the bones, adding a smooth marble bar to the backdrop of brick arches, dark buffed wood and the outline of a New York City skyline upstairs. Downstairs it’s a dim-lit stand-alone bar which joins Boney, Le Bon Ton, and Loch and Key in doing a dawn service.
Yep, rock up before 5am and they’ll happily sling you some salty pork hock nuggets (gelatinous balls of meaty crunch), pints of Belgium’s fruity Leffe beer, and bourbon and cola Old Fashioneds. You’ll want the latter. Bartender Sean McGuire updates the bogan’s best pal with a lime, black pepper and cola syrup, stirred down with bourbon and bitters over a hunk of ice.
That’s the great thing here – you get just as good an experience upstairs or down, and at either end of the day. In charge is Michael Roszbach – ten-year veteran of Thai restaurant-cum-cocktail bar Cookie – and all that experience shows itself here in the winning trifecta of great service, good booze and solid food.
At lunch it’s all about chunky Reubens, big barbecued prawn and edamame salads and $22 meat trays. Again, this is soul food in name only. Our silver tray holds sticky hunks of charcoal-roasted beef brisket with a boat of rich jus, and mashed potato so buttery it practically pours off the plate. Crunchy relief comes from pickled cucumbers and a cabbage salad peppered with coriander, chilli and fried shallots. It's not complicated stuff, but you can taste that the kitchen gives a red hot damn.
At dinner, things turn to the usual share plate format with extra snacks and sides. We're coming back for the fluffy little bite-size waffles, triple-stacked with chicken terrine, a neat quenelle of silky pâté and shards of chicken crackling. It may be the perfect beer snack. And did we mention the pumpkin doughnuts? A sextet of golfball-sized cakes that are all crunch, fluff and cinnamon, for dunking in whipped cream made boozy with bourbon.
Nieuw Amsterdam has a lot of plates in the air, but they’re not dropping a one. Come early for dinner. Stay late for disco. Anytime is the right time.