Botswana Butchery, the New Zealand steak restaurant has opened up in Sydney right in the middle of the city. The menu is designed to be similar to the popular Queenstown steakhouse with a "Butcher's Block" selection of around a dozen steaks and 2000 wines to choose from. So what is it like?
Botswana Butchery first opened up in Queenstown, New Zealand in 2008. Mr NQN and I ate there in 2009 and enjoyed our meals although his most vivid memory was the huge cleaver door handles while mine was the steak. The Sydney branch has been in the planning for 2.5 years before it opened in late 2021. The Sydney Botswana Butchery is located at the MLC Centre, part of the 25 Martin Place precinct. It took us a good 10 minutes walking around to try and find it. We walked through Cabana Bar and finally asked a security guard who pointed at it and it's basically located opposite Cabana (which I'm referencing because their signage is huge).
The restaurant usually has an outdoor terrace area which we have booked a table at but as there has been a bit of rain earlier that day there's only one table out there having a celebration and they've moved us inside. When they tell us that we're sitting indoors I look at Mr NQN who only eats outdoors and ask him how he feels. He shrugs and says "I guess it's ok," which is probably code for saying "Well we are here already and have paid for parking so let's eat."
The restaurant is split across three levels and in total can accommodate 940 people. The first floor where you check in is the raw and cured bar and features their dry ageing cabinets for their beef. The second floor is where the main restaurant is located and there is a third level rooftop bar that has delicious snacky type of items from Wagyu katsu sandos, lobster rolls, Botswana fried chicken and caviar. In the main restaurant there are lots of high velvet chairs in chartreuse and black much like the Queenstown counterpart and most tables are by the window. "Are you sure you're ok?" I whisper to him. "We'll test out our boosters I guess," he says.
The Sydney branch like the Queenstown one is owned by the Good Group. The Head Chef is Darren Templeman of O Bar & Dining who works with the Good Group's Culinary Director Angel Fernandez of Dante NYC and Rockpool Bar & Grill. The three page menu is made up of cold entrees, wood grilled entrees, meat mains, salads, sides and butcher's block steaks and lamb and seafood as well as a range of butters and sauces to go with the steak. There's also a Siberian caviar service with caviar bumps to 50g serves with all the trimmings. The signature dish is the lamb shoulder for 2 for $90 although I had a hard time convincing Mr NQN to have this as he isn't a big lamb eater.
Our waiter is very friendly and full of personality. He recommends his favourites with aplomb and although there isn't a lot of detail about the steaks which we overheard another waiter giving another table. He also doesn't tell us that there are truffles available to shave over the steak today which is a shame as we didn't hear about that until it was too late.
Botswana Butchery Spritz $22 and Summertime $23
We start our Friday night with cocktails. We have the Botswana Butchery Spritz with Campari, orange juice, Pampelle, lemon juice & Prosecco as well as the Summertime with Beefeater Gin, limoncello, lemon juice, hibiscus syrup and basil. Both are fantastic with a nice, balanced tartness.
Caramelised Pork Jowl $29.95
The food comes out in a timely manner and there is no lagging between courses but also doesn't feel rushed. The caramelised pork belly is cured then steamed with a mild harrisa marinade and then charred on the wood grill. It is served with diced sweet pear diced and Corner Inlet squid with aioli. I think I was hoping for a bit more sweet glaze on top and I'd call this charred more than caramelised.
Hiramasa Kingfish $29.95
My favourite entree is the kingfish which is served not as slices as it is everywhere. Instead it is presented as a timbale, finely diced with wood roasted zucchini and piquillo peppers and topped with smoked Yarra Valley caviar and house-made kimm bugak (deep fried seaweed sheets with rice paper) and an almond gazpacho with white soy. It's clean, refreshing and delicious hitting many textural and flavour points. Darren explains, "The whole kingfish is dry aged for two days in our dry aging fish fridge situated at the raw bar within the downstairs part of the restaurant, (all the raw fish is prepared and served from this point, including oysters , sashimi etc) this allows the fish to not be so wet in texture to allow for a better mouth feel and to carry extra flavour within the condiments."
Fresh Malfadine Pasta $32.95
The pasta is a vegetarian offering with mafaldine pasta made by Fabbrica with dashi poached zucchini, radish and greens from Epicurean Harvest in Hartley in the Blue Mountains. The sauce is a lightly creamy chickpea miso broth with hemp seed pangrattato. The pasta is al dente and it's a substantially sized dish.
500g CopperTree Farm dry-aged Friesian stud Rib-eye Pasture Fed, Budderoo, NSW $95
Onto the main drawcard, the meat. There are almost a dozen steaks available from NSW, Tasmania and Victoria and they range from Angus, wagyu and Friesian stud. We go for the 500g CopperTree Farms dry aged Friesian stud Rib-eye as we love dry aged beef and they use matured, retired Friesian stud dairy cows. We pair this with scoops of truffle and bone marrow butter and lemon chive butter. The steak is cooked perfectly medium rare as we ordered it. It's charred on the outside and pink inside and even Mr NQN who grew up vegetarian remarks on how delicious the steak is. It has a wonderfully intense beefy flavour to it. The butters are also good - the truffle and bone marrow my favourite out of the two. The steak goes particularly well with the sides we have chosen.
Grilled Maxim mushrooms, garlic & parsley butter $15
Although our waiter is slightly concerned about my excessive love of sides, I have to order potatoes, mushrooms and greens to go with my steak. I'll start with my favourite side and the item I was slightly obsessed with. It's the grilled Maxim mushrooms named after the producer Maxim who grows organic mushrooms in Maroota, NSW. These are king mushrooms and are just about the perfect accompaniment to a steak (along with potatoes naturally). These are superb and the sauce that they come with is a glossy sauce made with parsley, garlic, beef jus and butter and I end up dipping the steak into this sauce (murmuring "They've got to make this into a steak sauce") as a luscious umami condiment.
Duck fat potatoes $15
I was hoping, as the waiter suggested, that the duck fat potatoes would be crunchy but they're just not and the potatoes will change as of next week to a less starchy, lower sugar potato for the duck fat potatoes.
Roman beans, almond tarator, espelette $15
We also enjoy the Roman beans with almond tarator (a dip made with almonds, tahini and garlic) and piment d'espelette pepper for a delicious green and an alternative to a green salad to go with the steak.
Local Mango Parfait $17.95
There was only room for one dessert as we were very full by this stage. The dessert menu has items like chocolate tart, crème brulee, pavlova and affogato but we were drawn to the local mango parfait which a semi circle of frozen mango parfait, diced mango, green peppercorn syrup, a honeyed d’épices biscuit and ice cream. I switched out the durian ice cream for the browned butter or beurre noisette ice cream and although Mr NQN grumbles that he would have preferred the original durian ice cream he still finishes every bit on the plate.
So tell me Dear Reader, are you eating out in restaurants now? Do you tend to book indoor or outdoor tables? What is your favourite side for a steak?
Shop 8.05 MLC Centre, 19-29 Martin Pl, Sydney NSW 2000
Open 7 days: 11am–11pm
Phone: (02) 8311 4300