Brown Autumn leaves sweep up suspended in the air collected by a giant gust of wind as if an invisible net had collected them from the sea. Couples, singles and groups walk past us, many carrying vintage purchases in one hand and a dog in another. There's a light chill in the air when the sun disappears and it's the day of the annual Garage Sale Trail throughout Sydney and Mr NQN and I are not vintage shopping, but meal shopping, at Watts on Crown in Surry Hills.
Open for just over two months, I had met the chef and owner Hamish Watt when he was the chef for the Botanic Gardens Restaurant. Formerly of Rockpool in Sydney and London's Kensington Place, he was kind enough to share his recipe for the perfect apricot stuffing (which still remains in our household as our favourite roast stuffing). He still does Sunday roasts here and the emphasis is on value for money with mains less than $30 to attract locals. It is also open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and during the day everything is cafe style while at night, it turns into a bistro with white tablecloths.
The downstairs room is welcoming and nicely decorated without feeling overwraught and we sit down at a table by the window. Upstairs is chic and sleek and there's a little grass lined balcony for street watching. Hamish's wife Tiffany works the floor with a friendly and easygoing manner. Prices are indeed excellent with entrees around the $14 and $15 mark and the mains have fish choices at $24 and the rump steak topping out the menu at $28. Service is very friendly and attentive.
Scotch egg with mustard mayo $7
We started with a couple of items from the "small plates" menu. You don't often get scotch eggs on a restaurant menu (nor haggis, which was on the website's menu) so curious to try it, we ordered it. It comes split in half with a pot of mustard mayonnaise. The outside is a satisfyingly crisp and crunchy sausage meat and the inside is a boiled egg and there are crispy pieces of deep fried parsley on top.
Figs and prosciutto
The figs are fat and juicy and come enveloped with crispy prosciutto. On top are deep fried basil leaves and collected at the bottom is a syrupy balsamic glaze. There is a lovely sweet and salty contrast and I can't help but think that I might put this on a pizza at home.
Ceviche with seaweed and sesame salad, wasabi dressing $15
The ceviche is tangy and fresh with lemon and comes on top of a generous portion of Japanese style seaweed salad which is one of my favourite salads. The seaweed salad balances the tangyness of the ceviche very nicely and around the edge is some wasabi dressing for a little kick.
Char grilled squid with black pudding, rocket and green chilli salsa $15
The char grilled squid comes as a generous portion of squid with a slice of black pudding, a rocket chiffonade and a green chilli salsa. The black pudding and squid go together very nicely and if I could wish for anything, it would be some more of the black pudding for the amount of squid (but I am a black pudding fiend! ;) ).
Roast kangaroo fillet with rhubarb, braised red cabbage and agro dolce sauce $26
The roast kangaroo fillet is what they are known for and they serve it here with sweet poached rhubarb which imparts a vanilla fragrance, some fabulously food braised red cabbage, wilted spinach and crunchy macadamia nut halves. The kangaroo is served more cooked than I prefer it as it is best served rare or medium rare but it isn't tough at all and the agro dolce sauce is a nice accompaniment to it giving the lightly gamey meat sweetness.
Eton Mess $11
"Do you have enough room for dessert?" I ask Mr NQN. For Eton Mess, he certainly does and it arrives looking divine. I like it when you still get some crunch from the meringue on an Eton Mess and this one is served with the sweet, stewed rhubarb with vanilla and star anise and little meringue drops and larger swirls. Finishing it off are dollops of rich, whipped cream and sweet syrup. I think that if he weren't sitting in the window, Mr NQN might have licked the plate ;)
We've been busy watching these two adorable French bulldogs playing with their owner outside. The female one loves food and attention jumping up for food and cuddles constantly while the male sits quietly at the owner's feet. Hmm, no parallels here of course! ;)
So tell me Dear Reader, have you ever licked a plate in a restaurant?
NQN and Mr NQN dined as guests of Watts on Crown
Watts on Crown
368 Crown St, Surry Hills NSW 2010
Tel: +61 (02) 8068 0461
Open 7 days a week, breakfast, lunch and dinner
Bookings recommended for dinner