When Bar H first opened doors in 2010, it set the tone for a new Sydney: mid-priced restaurants offering high-end food – a lot like Melbourne has done for years. Now? It's the new normal.
Since then, chef Hamish Ingham and his partner Rebecca Lines built up their little patch of Foster Street. In turn, other businesses sprung up around them. There’s craft beer and whisky speakeasy the Wild Rover, Tio’s Cerveceria, hole-in-the-wall espresso bar Corduroy and Nomad, offering local wines and small plates.
But tonight you’ll find us at this corner restaurant, which just keeps evolving. And not in an, ‘Oh my God - we need to get more tattoos and start keeping rooftop bees’ kind of way. No, they just do things they’re interested in. At the moment, it’s Chuka cuisine, which is basically Japan’s version of Chinese food. Ingham also has a pretty keen fascination with native Australian ingredients. (Tokyo via Sichuan with a detour through rural Victoria? Okay.)
Check out the tempura saltbush. Whole branches of the scrubby plant are deep-fried and served with a cheek of lemon. Pluck the tender velvety leaves and run them through a side of spicy mayo. There’s certainly no arguing with a pair of large, creamy steamed buns. They're served with a generous quenelle of soft churned butter(itself infused and whipped with rendered pork fat) and topped with black salt, chilli flakes and two types of fennel product. It's a hot sex bomb of flavour.
The restaurant’s experienced a few other nips and tucks: downstairs, previously Ingham and Lines’ office, is now a private dining area (or overspill area on Friday and Saturday nights) while they’ve tried to make the banquette seating a little more comfy. The bar seating is still awkward (you can’t really dangle, or even put your feet on the floor) but that doesn’t stop the place being absolutely rammed on a Tuesday evening.
They’re throwing down big flavours at the H. Kipfler potatoes, fizzing hard with Sichuan pepper, are usually coated in duck fat (ooh, delicious) but Ingham is kind enough dress them in olive oil for a vegetarian dining companion.It’s worth noting that while they do their very best to look after veggos here, the menu is not really filled with meat-free options. Unless you really, really like your greens, in which case the big old broccoli steak – sassed up with a purée of black sesame, dressed with tamari – more than suffices. That rule applies to dessert, too. Face eaters, be pleased with the custard tart and its short, lardy pastry. Carrot fanciers, stick to the yuzu curd with apple sorbet and whiskey caramel.
We’re professional over-orderers here at Time Out HQ. But we take it one step too far when we order the ramen on top of everything we’ve just inhaled. And we’re sorry for that. Because it's delicious. And yet there’s no way we can eat more than a couple of spoonfuls before pushing it away. So don’t take a leaf out of our book, for we are idiots. Instead, tackle the menu like a genius. Order the steamed buns and pork butter. Then, tackle that bowl of ramen, a mess of wide, flat noodles, slices of rare duck, fat scallops, sea greens and purslane enriched with an egg yolk.
We’re cheering you from afar.