Newtown’s latest addition is all about sophisticated food in casual surrounds with a Kiwi accent
Newtown’s latest King Street restaurant may well be our new retreat. Despite being located on one of the inner west's most hectic main drags, enter the doors and the vibe transports you to a world far removed from the noise outside. The name refers to baches, which is what New Zealanders call holiday homes and beach houses. As such, there’s a surfboard propped up against the wall, and low-key tunes playing on the stereo. Where are we again?
The surrounds are laidback – think pastel-painted tongue and groove detailing versus raw plaster walls, high tables and white stools. It all gives the impression of a local restaurant with decent food and good vibes. Which it is... but then you look into the open kitchen, and the team, led by former Bistro Moncur executive chef Darrien Potaka (a Kiwi himself), is killing it. That’s the thing about Bach: this is seriously sophisticated cooking, prepared in an environment that allows you to relax.
A special of tuna crostini needs a permanent place on the menu, because the idea it may be fleeting is just too much for this reviewer to bear. Fresh tuna is cooked confit (slowly poached in oil) before being whipped with house-made aioli to create a sort of ultra-creamy, salty, tuna taramasalata. Piled high onto a little slice of granary toast and topped with pink strands of sour pickled onions and crisp capers, it's light and moussey and exactly what you want when you walk into a restaurant hungry.
On first sight, the pâté looks simple – a slice laid on the plate beside a few pieces of bread, a pile of caramelised onions and another of finely sliced red cabbage. But then you pick up the bread, and it’s soft, and warm. The pâté, as you spread it onto the bread, has the texture of thick cream, and the cabbage has been lightly fermented. The onions, rather than saccharine sweet, have been naturally sweated down for hours, creating real onion caramel (a rare thing to find, and something you won’t forget when you do). This is not your average pâté plate; there is serious thought here: crisp, sour cabbage; sweet, melting onions; buttery pâté and warm, malty bread. There can only be love here.
Whatever you do, order the pasta. Not only is it rich and flavoursome, but at only $18 for a massive serve when we visit, it's also damn good value. A barely cooked egg sits atop the heap, and a generous grating of cheese adorns the top. The waitress tells us to toss it all together with the provided tongs – these apparatus appear with almost every dish, making each one so easy to share and eat. Why did nobody think of this before? As the egg emulsifies the sauce in front of our eyes, we see the fine, beautifully laminated pappardelle and button mushrooms come together. You don’t even consider the inclusion of meat, because it just doesn’t need it. A creamy, porcini-infused base creates incredible depth of flavour, and the silky pasta is some of the best you’ll find in Sydney. And unlike many restaurants doing pasta of this standard, here you can literally just pop in for a quick bowl and a glass of wine. It’s that sort of place.
The grain-fed steak is tender and melting, but they don’t ask us how we want it done, so be aware that it will probably come cooked medium. Served with crisp fried onions, smoky braised lettuce and – ohhh, hello again – a smooth caramelised onion puree, it is a triumph of textures, and unstoppably eatable. Texture is, we suspect, why they chose grain over grass-fed meat, which has a tougher texture, but bags more flavour. The broccoli side is tossed with nutty black butter and toasted sliced onions. It’s a good dish, but it’s more about the butter than it is about the broccoli, Which, in this instance, is fine by us.
As for dessert, skip the ‘jelly tip’ (a popular ice cream in NZ, and a reference to Potaka’s homeland) and go for the hokey pokey brûlée: a simple crème brûlée with two big chunks of honeycomb sitting on top. It pays to nibble shyly at the honeycomb, as this is sticky stuff that transforms into chewy toffee in your mouth.
For drinks, there’s a good range of New Zealand’s Monteiths beers and ciders available, and with prices this low (a schmiddy of Monteiths Golden Lager on tap is $5 when we go in), you can afford to sit back and sink a few. In fact, the waitress tells us you can even just come in for a drink without eating. (But with food this good, why would you?).
Bach is a place worth visiting: it’s fun, it's affordable and it's just a good time. It’s not a New Zealand-themed restaurant, but the vibe will make you feel like you’re hidden away somewhere special. Potaka is planning for the menu to be more New Zealand-focussed as time goes on, but frankly? We don’t care what type of cuisine he's serving up if it always tastes this good.