Back in our August Food Awards issue, Time Out sent out a call to arms for casual diners to step up and bring it. And Sydney answered with a whole bunch of new restaurants offering great value food in the kind of places in which you’d actually want to kick back in.
Bar H, one of the many amazing new places on offer, is brought to you by husband-and-wife team Hamish (chef) Ingham and Rebecca (restaurant manager/sommelier/architect) Lines. Between them, they boast an amazing résumé including Billy Kwong (Hamish cooked there for nine years), Bécasse and Pier.
You’ll find Bar H on the old Wall Café site. Wall Café used to do a great coffee, an OK sandwich and was always buzzing with people. Bar H offers brekkie too, so you’ve got all the joy of Wall, only with Hamish’s crazy-good cooking (jamon and soft boiled egg!) and top notch service. The site’s had a full refit, too, and while they’ve kept the big open window near the coffee machine and open kitchen, they’ve levelled the pit seating so it’s now one big space, rather than a warren of nooks and crannies. Our only criticism of the design is the seating. A co-diner commented that the seats by the window at Bar H are ‘hour seats’ – tolerable for long enough to eat in and get out. Short of taking a little cushion, you’re going to have to suck it up – especially if you have long legs. And no, the seats at the bar are no better. But you’re here for the food and you’re here for the wine and you’re here for the service. Your arse will just have to cope.
The menu is broken up into bits and pieces, rather than entrée-main-dessert. Start with some roasted almonds, fragrant with Sichuan pepper and sweetened with sesame, and lardo on toast: grilled, garlicky sourdough laden with ribbons of pork fat. We’d be happy to eat the latter for breakfast, lunch and dinner and happily, you can. We're loving the creamy, rich chicken liver pâté topped with shavings of foie gras, too, served with a mix of sweet onions and pickled cherries, but the dish needs toast, rather than the rusk-like crackers it’s served with. Under the category ‘salads and things’ you’ll find the sashimi of mulloway dressed with olive oil and soy, with pickled beetroot and fragrant with orangey citrus. Order it – it’s one of our favourite dishes of the year (see Best of 2010 feature). House-made ricotta and heirloom tomato salad is sweet and refreshing but probably not the most exciting offering on the menu, though the fact they’re making their own ricotta is pretty damn excellent. We’re quite taken with the thin slices of pickled ox tongue scattered with even thinner slices of crisp, raw, peppery breakfast radish and drizzled with a light salsa verde-ish sauce of herbs, gherkins, capers, lemon juice and olive oil, too. For dessert, go for the bay leaf custard covered in a delicate, runny verjuice-tainted caramel – it’s slightly reminiscent of the sauternes custard at Marque, only lighter and more savoury.
The Ingham/Lines tell us Bar H will also be opening a basement bar early next year. We can’t wait.