Tuesday a few weeks ago, my companion and I were traipsing around city hall and Darling Harbour after she'd finished work for the day. As we lazily explored the wharves towards Pyrmont we spoke nostalgically of holidays gone, a recent review of Bronte Road Bistro, bad cruise dining experiences and ridiculously unaffordable 60 dollar steaks.
At 7 in the evening as the air suddenly chilled, we straggled over the metro bridge towards Sugaroom located at the very end of Harris St. For those who are unfamiliar, Sugaroom is an old sugar refinery cum-bar/restaurant which was established by Greg Anderson, a chef who trained under Matt Moran, did a stint for Greg Norman on his private yacht and regularly writes short columns for a local newspaper. A few years ago when it was but a mere budding restaurant, it was hailed as a cheap and unpretentious, accessible modern Australian diner of sorts. I hate to tell you this Greg, but your vessel has busted quite a leak and now your ship is sinking.
As we were seated, napkins were graciously unfolded and complimentary bread (both plain and linseed) were brought out with a ramekin of soft cultured butter. A few minutes of negotiation resulted in our ordering of the baked eschallot tart, crab gazpacho, barramundi and confit pork, all to share. Silly Jane decided to go out on a limb and try the Leeuwin Estate sbs from WA which was listed as $12/glass and $52/bottle. An exorbitant amount to pay for something that brought to mind oh so romantic memories of eating grass in my childhood years. I'm trying to avoid using the word SHIT here. Granting them the benefit of doubt, when considering it for their wine list, perhaps they thought it would pair well with an extremely bitter green salad. Or maybe someone doesn't quite understand the notion of 'Surf and Turf'. Either way, fish with fermented barnyard grass anyone? For the entirety of the meal it sat to the furthest corner of the table, taunting our wallets and poor choice.
The waitress was lovely however and presented us both with an amuse - a warm shot of cauliflower cream with a bare dusting of cumin. Entrees were delivered: my "Baked eshallot tart with goats cheese, beetroot and chervil" and Jane's "Roast quail with Israeli couccous [sic], figs and pomegranate dressing"..? Gazpacho.. Roast quail.. I can see how the order could have been bumbled had my companion spoken in anything other than her Sydney born and bred accent. We were both starving and were too impatient to notify them of their blunder and so we dug in anyway.
Oh! What a mistake that was! Two sweet but tiny quail legs poked out from beneath a tasteless halved green fig under a scattered mound of hard Israeli couscous. The pomegranate dressing made for a more interesting middle-eastern influence on paper than on plate and the resulting dish was robust with a two-toned flavour that played discordantly over our palates like an expectant car crash.
We turned to the eschallot tart tatin with a little more gusto. Surely one could not manage to fuck up something so simple?
The puff pastry was granular from the white sugar sprinkled over the top instead of being deeply rich and caramelised. The eschallots themselves were bland and still retained their undesirable outer layers of skin which had become so leathery during the cooking process that as I went to cut into one, the inner bulb popped out and launched itself halfway across the plate while the rest remained, completely unaffected by the knife.
Always the optimist, Jane ordered a scotch to make the night appear a little more palatable. It arrived in a timely fashion, along with a table of four who were seated right beside us in the almost empty restaurant. An awkward silence ensued as we became suddenly aware of ourselves speaking in hushed tones. Then the mains arrived. "Pan-roasted barramundi, peas, baby leeks, tarragon and truffle dressing" with "pork confit with candied fennel, cauliflower puree and salsa verde" but wait.. What is this? LAMB?! I spun around uncomfortably with an unimpressed expression on my face to stare at all three waiters huddled around the door chatting to one another until one finally came over. The offending lamb was removed and eventually replaced with pork as we'd initially ordered.
The barramundi was the highlight of the entire meal. Its juicy and succulent flesh coupled with wondrously crispy and well-seasoned skin. Tiny dices of boiled potato marked the plate with an equally tiny number of trimmed baby leeks leaning against them, pointing towards the ever so bleak sky. Peas encircled the fish, complete with a creamy yet very subtle truffle dressing and a drizzle of voluminously green tarragon oil.
I wish I could say that the pork was worth the wait. Despite the earlier setback and my love for all things pork however I was utterly disappointed. The so-called 'candied' fennel was simply roasted and lacked in any sort of seasoning. Salsa verde was fibrous and tasted horribly of mint toothpaste. A streak of thick cauliflower puree ran across the plate, a vector to the rounds of pork and jus. The thought of pork confit causes me to subconsciously lick my lips. The thought of pork confit, shredded, moulded, reheated and dry, not so much.
Dessert is always the last chance for redemption at any establishment. The "Eton mess with balsamic reduction and almonds" arrived in a tall parfait glass, overloaded with sickly sweet strawberry puree and was a fairly clear representation of the rest of the menu. Not very well executed.
Service: friendly but faulty
Atmosphere: bring your own party
Value: stay at homeJane's word of the day: uninspiring