Restaurant veterans Matthew Kemp and Lela Radojkovic have crossed the bridge to set up digs in Crows Nest. For those that loved the early, more casual years of Balzac, Burlington Bar and Dining is a welcome return and to others who like the double cloth and heavy silverware... well, there’s still Balzac.
This menu’s broken up into entrée or main size servings which means you can go classic a la carte or get a bit funky on them and make your own mini degustation. Or even just order a bunch of stuff and share it around the table – everything’s very reasonably priced and the serves are quite generous. Start with the chilli punched spaghetti with clams and bacon – the juice from the clams enriches the sauce and there’s no more pleasant sound on earth than a fork hitting a bowl full of clam shells. Smooth, big bodied white bean soup is spoon on spoon of pure tastiness and sees sweet fried prawns bobbing away like little islands.
The space is spare with nude light bulbs, thick napkins and bare wooden tables. It’s immensely comforting and as relaxed for a long lunch as it is for a quick bite on the way home from work. And it’s fun, too. Lela mans the floor and keeps everything snappy while Chad Muir bangs the pans under the watchful eye of Matt.
The brawn (that’s a terrine of jellied pigs head here, studded with pieces of carrot and topped with watercress) is served with crisp slices of sour dough toast and a celeriac remoulade as well as a sprinkle of crunchy little pig’s ear beignets(a little like a fritter) which is about as down-home and earthy as you get with fresh flavours, great textures and not a wasted bit of oink in sight.
And talk about choice – the wine list is composed in such a way that you can order by glass, carafe (250ml or 375ml) or bottle with a great selection of French, Spanish, Italian and Australian varietals, including a buttery vouvray and a big, peppery Spanish tempranillo. But the beef is the crowning glory here. Served on the bone and so aged it’s almost obscene, it’s got a really wild gaminess and such beautiful mouth feel that it’s as close to raunchy as a piece of meat on a plate gets. The fat marbled through it is so squishy and flavour rich that it could just about stand to be served on its own with a piece of toast. Instead, you’ll find a stout little jug of bearnaise sauce (a classic French sauce of egg yolks, reduced vinegar and herbs), the bone full of flavour and bits of meat and excellent for gnawing on and a big bowl of hand cut chips which are crisp and golden on the outside and fluffy on the inside.
Desserts are a bit less exciting than the savoury gear, but are still worth a look, particularly the blackberry Eton mess complete with pieces of poached peach, sweet little blackberries, chunks of meringue and cream, not to mention shards of dark amber toffee.
If this is the beginning of a Sydney dining trending towards simplicity, bring it on.