PROFILE BY BEST RESTAURANTS
Watch out, Surry Hills – with the likes of casual fine diner Bloodwood on the scene, Newtown may be giving you a run for your foodies' hard-earned money. Ex-Claude's trio Claire van Vuuren, Jo Ward and Mitchell Grady have joined forces in the kitchen of the relaxed yet refined eatery in the heart of boho Sydney.
The lego-and-light bulbs artwork by the bar is a sneak peek at what lies beyond the long, skinny entrance area – a funky dining space with exposed brick walls, yellow-tinted pipe work and colourful reclaimed front doors floating overhead.
Our sprightly waitress is oh-so enthusiastic at the day's lunch offerings and keen to explain the menu is best a shared affair. The polenta chips' fluffy insides belie their crunchy shells, served alongside a pungent gorgonzola dipping sauce. Cuttlefish flesh scarred with chargrill marks has just enough bite, its subtly burnt bitterness echoed in the accompanying shredded radicchio and fennel salad, set off with salty green olives and fragrant herbs. The confit Jerusalem artichoke tart is rich yet delicate; the fine, flaky pastry soaks up a flavoursome onion soubise.
The food here is polished, its varied Asian and European influences heralding a true modern Australian approach. Nonetheless, the restaurant's unpretentious atmosphere begs diners to return to its friendly surrounds to try ever-evolving signature dishes, like the Bloodwood trifle that mixes seasonal fruit with pound cake and crunchy meringue pieces. Or, simply sipping a coffee at the bar's banquette seating and people-watching Newtown's colourful passers by is equally appealing.