Fire. Blazing fire to smoking ashes. And from these ashes rises the miraculous phoenix – except this isn’t any regular phoenix. This phoenix gives you food!
The Lansdowne Hotel suffered burn injuries in January this year from a fire that roared through the third floor, damaging the restaurant and bar underneath. Rest assured, no one was hurt, and it’s been confirmed that the flames didn’t start from a fault in the hotel. Get this. A woman set her partner’s suitcase on fire. Well the sparks sure flew out of that relationship! Six months later, Phoenix Diner has risen from the debris to reveal a freshly renovated look. The restaurant and bar are reminiscent of a New York loft, with an American diner inspired menu to match.
The usual crowd includes locals, backpackers, and many university students from the surrounding four campuses. They come attracted to the meal deals like $9 lunches and $10 dinners. What’s more, their happy hours come at similarly affordable prices set in the pumping atmosphere of a live music venue.
We start with beer battered onion rings ($5) that are house made and come piping hot. The accompanying bleu cheese sauce gives it a musky twist that I quite enjoyed.
The Americanised stuffed jalapeño poppers ($6) are served with a cream cheese and bacon filling that pops in your mouth. Be careful though, it’s hot – on the planes of temperature and taste! The spiciness of the jalapeños and the mellower aioli sauce it comes with balance each other for a flavour punch that brings a bit of an adrenaline rush.
What’s an American diner meal without the iconic chicken wings? The bucket o’ buffalo wings ($12) are fried perfectly, where the crunchy exterior takes you on a journey into the juicy and tender interior. The flavours are given through the dipping sauces; a choice of bleu cheese, BBQ or F’n hot chilli sauce. We tried the bleu cheese and bbq, each adding a creamier and sweeter dimension respectively.
Our hot starters continue with spicy ricotta meatballs ($13) that come smothered with slow roasted tomatoes and a capsicum sauce. This dish has strong notes of cheese and isn’t spicy at all, so don’t be afraid to try it if you’re less tolerant.
The mains begin with the beef mob burger ($14), filled with a 200g steak mince patty, tasty pancetta, Portobello mushrooms, roasted tomatoes, and rocket. These are enclosed in a toasted sesame brioche bun lined with parmesan aioli. Served with their mains is the surprise deliciousness of the day – these chips are seasoned with a fragrant smoky salt and stay crunchy even when cold!
Next is the NY big cheese pizza ($14) that arrives topped with wood smoked cheese, mushroom, garlic, and a generous amount of asparagus. The earthy flavours of the mushrooms are further accentuated with aromatic truffle oil. We were unanimously impressed by the doughy pizza base and noted that it must be house made as well.
The fried chicken schnitzel ($10) comes out and inspires the observation of, “This is as big as my face!”! The crumbing is a bit thick but the chicken is tender. Served with those divine smokey chips and a salad (or vegies), sauce options are gravy, pepper or mushroom. They’ll also happily turn it into a chicken parmigiana for an extra $3.50.
Last of the mains are the highly anticipated ruby ribs ($15) of smoked lamb, braised in Texas smoke sauce and served on a bed of the crispy chips we can’t get enough of. This was decidedly the stand-out dish of the meal with tender delectability in every mouthful. They were completely fall-off-the-bone to the extent that we found it hard keeping it on our forks! We adapted by swooping the lamb into our plates and quickly into our mouths to take its journey into our anticipating bellies.
The secret sundae ($10) was undoubtedly tempting – let the mystery be revealed! It is in fact a pressed sesame brioche oozing with Nutella and hints of banana, reminiscent of burgers, pancakes, and jaffles combined into slices of cocoa banana. Meanwhile, the soft sprinkle of sesame seeds on top of the brioche adds a nutty element. Now, just saying, the menu does say that this should come with sparklers BUT because of the Lansdowne Hotel’s earlier burnt demise, they deem this a fire hazard.
The churros ($8) come out like an edible Jenga block topped with vanilla ice cream, walnuts and fresh strawberries. Each dish so far was accompanied with a good serving of sauce, and this was no exception. We had messy fun dipping our churros into the jar of chocolate and cream, creating a combination of crunchy sweetness dusted with just the right amount of cinnamon.
Upon prompts of our friendly waiter Simon, we ordered a few cocktails from Phoenix Diner’s new cocktail bar. The espresso martini ($15.50) is traditionally served here with a blend of Patron X.O. Café, Absolut Vanilla and a touch of sugar with fresh espresso. In the spirit of healthiness, we ordered ours without sugar, which slid down the throat with a rich espresso flavour that powered over the bitterness of alcohol.
The mojito ($14) is normally served with fresh passionfruit but is just as good without it. (They didn’t have passionfruit in stock)
The French martini ($14) is shaken with Absolut Citron, Chambord and pineapple juice, incorporating a balance between sweet and sour.
The Pama-rita ($14) was also well-liked, comprising of pomegranate liqueur, tequila, triple sec, and an in-house sour mix.
The sunny outdoor courtyard was empty when we visited but we’re most certain it’ll be abuzz once uni students return from summer break. It’s an easy place to drop in for laidback eating with an American vibe. Or even just for the hearty portions and affordable prices!Phoenix Diner, The Lansdowne Hotel 2-6 City Road, Chippendale NSW Phone: (02) 8218 2333 Web: http://www.thelansdownehotel.com.au/ Open 10am – 3am Monday – Friday, 10am – 12am Saturday, 12pm – 10pm Sunday
Photography by Jennifer Lam
I Ate My Way Through dined as guests of Phoenix Diner