If you’ve eaten at the Four in Hand, the jewel of the Inner East pub dining circuit, you’ll know about Colin Fassnidge – the chef with a light touch, a dirty mouth and a penchant for pig. Fassnidge has now added the Paddington Arms to his resume, alongside the Four in Hand. And if that’s not enough, he’s about to open a casual place in Surry Hills called 4Fourteen.
But for now, here’s the Paddington Arms. It’s a fairly quiet pub at 8pm on a Wednesday. There’s one table of locals out the front watching UFC and having a beer. Out the back, in the restaurant decorated by fresh cut flowers and jars of pickles, there’s a couple smooching in one of the big cushy booths.
Now, bowing to public opinion has never struck us as a characteristic of Fassnidge’s. So, colour us surprised when we’re told the Arms have taken certain items off dishes because there have been complaints from diners. Apparently the people of Paddington have their knickers all twisted about hot English mustard. And not in a sexy way. It’s a shame, really, because a special of slow cooked brisket with a tangle of bitter leaves could really use the lift a big spoon of mustard could provide. Man up, Paddo.
It’s a good thing they haven’t taken to the streets about bread, otherwise we wouldn’t be able to finish this story. Here, thick pieces of toasted Iggy’s sourdough are smothered with crab-and-herb laced mayonnaise – excellent with the Denis Pommier petit Chablis – while Welsh rarebit (everybody’s favourite spicy cheese toastie, which also needs more mustard) is a welcome addition to a pub menu and perfect with a Cooper's pale or a White Rabbit.
We’re guessing it’s the hand-sized crisp onion rings with spicy mayo and the hotdog replete with soft bun and pile of fries that fly out the door rather than the delicate poached figs with buttermilk ice cream and crunchy biscuit crumbs soaked in amaretto. But hey – we could be smoking crack.
The more excellent chefs out there put their names and knives to invigorating this town’s pub food, the happier Sydney food fans will be. But while the Four in Hand still stands strong around the corner, you’ll find us there.