The name sucks. Everyone knows it, no one's denying it, and there's no point harping on about it. And yet you can't avoid it because GastroPark (shudder) is the restaurant that Sydney can't stop talking about. It occupies the old Baron's site, which was home very briefly to Blanco, followed by Steak Haus (Beach Haus, the bar for holidaying Euro clubkids, is still upstairs) and is the project of Grant King - the russet-haired Kiwi and ex-head chef of Pier.
There’s a certain leap of faith you have to take when reading King’s menu. Sweet, smoky hunks of gleaming tuna belly, say, impaled on a polished tuna bone ($9). If you’re feeling really adventurous, King can occasionally get his hands on some tuna marrow, too. This is just one of the many snacks offered on the first part of the menu. If there are a few of you, order all of them because there isn’t a single fail here. A plate-sized parmesan wafer ($6), bejewelled with capers, anchovy, tomato and olive, looks like an edible fascinator, served rising out of a big river stone. A single, foot-long grissino ($11) is wrapped in air-dried wagyu beef short rib, sprinkled with dried olive bits and rests like a sabre on a piece of polished marrow bone. It’s not really something you can share. Same goes for the glistening veal sweetbreads ($9), skewered with a rosemary spear, doing a highwire act over a rich, dark mushroom and onion consommé. Toast fingers of brioche come topped with fresh fig and fine shavings of foie gras ($18) – it’d work just as well at the beginning of the meal as it would at the end. Liver for dessert? At GastroPark we say yes. The magic doesn’t stop with the snacks, either. Floor managers Martijn de Boer and Timothee Servajean give the casually laid-out room all the decorum of a triple-clothed restaurant. They even supply magnifying glasses for reading the comically tiny wine list.
An entrée of many duck bits (salted breast, smoked tenderloin, duck ham, duck jelly – $26), interwoven with fine ribbons of tagliatelle and finished with just a few tiny marigold petals, is right up there in terms of dishes-thatmake- your-fellow-diners-jealous. The snapper ($38) looks more like a Miro than lunch, the fillet cooked with the scales lifted and crisped so it resembles a fish with its hackles up. It’s joined by slicks of squid ink and a bubble of squid crackle and is probably the most beautiful dish to have graced a Sydney restaurant in some time.
There’s also the lamb ($38) – a beautiful mess of loin and crumbed shoulder, with thin slices of pickled cauliflower and baby kale leaves, some dressed, some deep fried. And if you’re really keen, you might consider ordering a side of potato churros ($8). They’re long tentacles of potato dough, deep fried and served with aioli. There’s no momentum lost with the desserts, either. A chocohoneycomb globe ($20) – yours to smash with the cutlery of your choice – is made all the sweeter with the addition of nip-sized cookies’n’cream macarons. Oh, but there’s the vodka espresso – nitro style. Soft, snowy flakes of boozy, coffee-flavoured granita are a great set-up if you intend to head out after your meal.
Forgotten about the name in the face of all this goodness? Yep, us too.