Mr NQN and I don't take Valentines Day that at seriously-proof would be our visit this year to The Stuffed Beaver with friends Queen Viv and Miss America. Our irreverence for it, apart from being a chocolate eating day, is because just a couple of weeks later, is our wedding anniversary. Celebrating it then, when not at the mercy of a Valentines Day menu seemed the least stressful choice.
That is, unless you forget your own wedding anniversary!
It was only the day before that we realised that it was Mardi Gras and whilst it conjures up images of colourful floats and fun for many, it reminds us that it is our wedding anniversary as we got married on the Mardi Gras weekend six years ago. "Where do you want to go?" Mr NQN asked me and I turned to my restaurant "to eat" list. The Bridge Room popped up and by a stroke of luck, we could get a table the next evening on Saturday night.
Formerly an Indian restaurant, ex Rockpool executive chef Ross Lusted has taken over the premises. He and his wife had previously travelled the world setting up Amanresorts and decided to return home to Sydney. Ironically, when he worked at Rockpool he used to walk past this space and admire it hoping to have it as his own one day. The restaurant is a joint collaboration with the Fink Group which also own Quay. Lusted is in the kitchen which looks out onto the restaurant.
The restaurant is one long room and the decor is about ceramics, muted colours and Scandinavian style furniture. As we are dining early, it is relatively quiet. A waiter hands us a menu and service is deferential although a couple of staff appear to be quite new and not very confident when giving recommendations. Also, we weren't told of the specials that night which we only notice when the table next to us is given them but the expertise in other staff make up for this.
Salad of organic heirloom carrots $22
We select some of the more creative choices for the entrees (and do you find that entrees tend to be more creative on menus?) and the heirloom carrot salad is ordered. It is a dish made up of orange, purple and yellow carrots cooked either ash grilled, baked in salt or raw. Each has a different texture, taste and sweetness and there is also some shaved bulls eye beetroot that resembles prosciutto on top and carrot wrapped sheeps milk curd cylinders. The dish is fresh, delicate and interesting.
Spanner crab, picked and shelled $28
The spanner crab, a generous portion of lovely fresh crab is served with peas, skinless cherry tomatoes, lemon cream dollops, thin slices of avocado and a chiffonade of basil right in the centre. I had eaten around the outside before discovering the flavour packed basil which might have been better distributed more evenly as Mr NQN comments that it was a bit strong in basil (he just scooped up a big lot of it). To give the crab some acidity was the lemon cream and verjuice which was served as little pieces of clear jelly.
Ash grilled duck, pressed fig, green Iranian raisins $44
We went for rich for the mains as it was a cold and wet day and as we ate we looked out the window and felt sorry for the Mardi Gras'ers! The duck came as two cuts of duck, dry spiced with a distinct flavour of star anise, slow cooked over coals with a neat parcel of Tuscan cabbage, a plump white fig and thinly sliced cedro, that sweet citrus Italian mustard fruit.
Darling Downs 6+ wagyu sirloin $44
Although the duck was fabulous, this dish was the one calling to me. It was cold outside and the rain was omnipresent and going for this seemed like the best way to deal with it. It was a wonderful piece of succulent, tender Darling Downs 6+ wagyu sirloin, sliced into five pieces cooked medium rare (we didn't even have to ask), served with a thin, folded over piece of beetroot, luscious pieces of bone marrow, thin shavings of tender veal tongue all finished off with a red wine sauce and strands of grilled parsley. To one side there is also some finely chopped egg yolk and fried onions.
Burnt caramel cream, candied beurre bosc pears $16
We asked for recommendations for the dessert and this one was recommended as not necessarily the showiest but the best tasting whereas the other dessert we ordered we did because it was pretty and intriguing. This one comes out in a bowl of burnt caramel cream, not quite like a creme brulee or a creme caramel but something in between with a thin toffee top. On top of this are paper thin slices of candied beurre bosc pears, slivers of pistachio, mint salad and some shredded basil which gave a slightly savoury aspect and balance to the sweet and creamy caramel cream.
Chai masala, rose petal and barberry biscuit $17
This dessert was pretty and featured a chai masala ice cream which was rich with chai spices. The scoop was placed in the centre of a curled around barberry biscuit which was sweet and crunchy in texture. There were also balls of watermelon, slices of figs and blood plums, finely shredded mint and orange blossom pashmak on top.
It's only 8pm by the time that we finish (we presume that the kitchen is used to getting meals out quickly with the pre theatre crowd) and we contemplate staying for another hour or two when we catch sight of the sheets of rain outside.
So tell me Dear Reader, do you tend to order three courses or do you try and stick to one or two? And do you find that entrees or starters are more interesting than mains?
The Bridge Room
44 Bridge Street Sydney NSW 2000
Tel: + 61 (02) 9247 7000