Is it just me, or does anybody else feel like Newtown has restaurants, restaurants everywhere but not a place to eat?
Every time I step onto King Street in the hope that this time might be different, my visual field is immediately assaulted by the disappointing sight of a profusion of Thai restaurants and pretentious hipster bars. After just a few steps I end up slinking back home to eat a tray of oven chips in bed instead.So when I was invited to sample the menu of one of the restaurants which would be presenting at Taste of Sydney, I was excited to hear that it was located in my very own Newtown.
Taste of Sydney is a festival in which 15 of Sydney’s hottest restaurants create special tasting menus to showcase their iconic style. Festival goers can create their own dream tasting menu by sampling whatever strikes their fancy from any or all of these amazing restaurants. Additionally there will be many more experiences and attractions such as a beer hall, cooking tips from tops chefs, food and beverage matching masterclasses and cocktail classes. So you can understand my excitement at the idea that one of Sydney’s top 15 restaurants had been hiding just a ten minute stroll from my front door.
Bloodwood, which is located just a short walk from Newtown station, has a rustic and unassuming exterior and in fact I initially walked right past it without noticing (although I’ve been known to do this far more frequently than what might be considered normal). However once I stepped inside I couldn’t believe I’d almost missed it. Exposed brick walls, bright red tables and multi-coloured doors decorating the ceiling create a pleasantly laid back but unmistakably trendy inner-west look.
We started our dinner at 6pm so our table was lit by plenty of natural light and the restaurant was serving only a few other customers. However over the course of an hour or two the restaurant steadily filled up until it was almost at capacity (no mean feat for a Monday night!) and the funky hanging lightbulbs above our heads provided gentle but sufficient light.
We were served by Eric Morris, Bloodwood’s manager and sommelier who blew me away both with his extensive knowledge of wine and his laid back and friendly attitude. All the wines are either organic or biodynamic and the restaurant takes great pride in supporting small business owners. All the wait staff I encountered were refreshingly down to earth and genuinely friendly.
Living in Newtown I must say I’ve come across a disappointing amount of bar and wait staff who seem to be too hipster to show even a rudimentary interest in customer service. I found that the obviously careful selection of staff at Bloodwood was a key ingredient in creating an altogether enjoyable dining experience.
We started our exploration of the four dishes Bloodwood had chosen with the Polenta Chips and Gorgonzola Sauce (6 Crowns*) , accompanied by a cold glass of Mikkeler Cream Ale.
As a self-professed hater of polenta chips but a diehard fan of any cheese based sauce I approached this cute dish with a little trepidation. I needn’t have worried as these chips were a major game changer, showing me that I was a fool to have avoided polenta for so long. After questioning Claire, the creator of the heavenly chips, I discovered that her secret was to make sure the chips retained a super crunchy coating in delicious contrast to their soft interior. For any skeptics out there, I can assure you that these chips reach new heights of crunchiness never before seen in the world of polenta. The dipping sauce was the perfect complement to the simple flavour of the polenta and I died a little inside when I realised it wouldn’t be socially acceptable to eat the remaining sauce with my fingers. The combination of chips and beer is always a winner and this gourmet twist is an understandably popular choice amongst Newtownians looking to unwind after work or catch up with a friend over a drink.I have no doubt this addictive and straightforward dish will be extremely successful at the festival.
After this laid back starter we were presented with Cradoc Hill Lamb Tataki (10 Crowns) with glazed beetroot, salted walnuts and tomato. After being initially delighted simply by the beautiful contrasting colours of this dish, I put some in my mouth only to discover that the artful use of contrast extended to the taste. This dish satisfied my tongue’s every desire by artfully balancing sweet, sour, salty and umami. As a bit of a hater of sweets, especially when served alongside meat (please forgive me all you sugar lovers), I didn’t really like the candied walnut and thought the beetroot alone brought enough sweetness to the dish. However the walnut went down a treat with my fellow diners so maybe it’s just me..
The colourful tower placed in front of us next was a far cry from the usual artless presentation of fried chicken but we were informed that this was in fact Fried Red Braised Chicken (8 Crowns) with dosa, chilli and shallot.
Serving fried chicken is often an easy way to please the crowds by simply drowning a sliver of meat in a thick layer of oily batter. This fried chicken however didn’t rely on the predictable and unhealthy deliciousness of oil for its flavour. Instead it used a light layer of crunchy batter to give the chicken a pleasing crunch while ensuring that the chicken had a lightly tangy flavour of its own. Chilli haters needn’t be scared of the chilli in the title; this dish is definitely mild enough for most palettes.
As I may have already mentioned, I’m not a fan of sweets with my meats which is why I would never usually order pork ribs with barbeque sauce. However, I was again pleasantly surprised by the Pork Ribs with apple, iceberg and oyster mushrooms (24 crowns), which managed to have a complex barbeque sauce which was (mercifully) not overwhelming sweet. The richness of the sauce and meat was refreshingly complemented by the iceberg. This dish is perfect to have in a small taster size as it is quite rich, making it a perfect choice for Taste of Sydney Festival.
All in all, the dishes were well selected for Taste of Sydney, as they show off Bloodwood’s apparent expertise in taking commonly mismanaged dishes and showing how they can be done properly. Fried chicken, pork ribs and chips are all foods which are commonly done badly with a reliance on copious amounts of fat and sugar for their flavour. This meal proved to me that they can be done skilfully, subtly and with a clever use of complex flavours rather than taking the easy (and unhealthy) way out.
Bloodwood is just one of the fantastic restaurants that will be serving up a selection of their noteworthy menu at the Taste of Sydney Festival this Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The festival is my idea of heaven on earth as it’s a one-off opportunity for foodies to sample the large array of amazing cuisine that Sydney has to offer. If you’re like me and hate committing to just one meal in case there’s a better one out there, this is your chance to finally try it all.
*Crowns are the official currency used at Taste. 1 Crown = $1
I Ate My Way Through are giving away 3 x Double VIP tickets to Taste of Sydney for Sunday 16th March (RRP $200)
VIP Ticket Includes:
- Fast Track Entry
- Access to VIP Lounge
- Complimentary Glass of Champage each
- $60 Crown Card
- $50 Ride in UBERblack
- $40 GoodFood Giftcard
How to Enter
To enter the competition, go to Facebook and leave a comment telling us which Taste of Sydney restaurant you are most excited to try and why?
Entries close Thursday at noon so get in quick!
416 King Street, Newtown NSW
Phone: (02) 9557 7699
Taste of Sydney
Thursday 13th March 5.30pm-10pm
Friday 14th March 12pm-4pm and 5.30pm-10pm
Saturday 15th March 12pm-4pm and 5.30pm-9.30pm
Sunday 16th March 12pm-5pm