How do you describe what’s happening at the Rabbit Hole Bar and Dining these days? They’re already known on the scene for their cocktails but straight off the bat I’m going to say that they are one of Sydney’s most creative and legitimate dining options and you should eat there but let me tell you why.
I believe most people reading this would have seen at least one episode of Heston’s feasts – this is where acclaimed “super chef” Heston Blumenthal would create meals which were pretty much aimed to mess with his guests heads while amazing and delighting them with truly delicious food. Every time I watch an episode I like to imagine how it would be to sit around with my friends with some amazing drinks in hand, eating food that spins us out on both its artistic qualities and prevailing flavours whilst telling whimsical stories and laughing the night away…. does that sound good to you? Well since tightening their kitchen situation, the Rabbit Hole may just be the place to deliver on these elements.
As I sat down Doug (boss man) brought over a set of his famous Doug Laming’s Margarita’s ($14) to get me going. This is one of those “must order” things at the Rabbit Hole; don’t even think about it, just put an order in and move on. Now as you can see this isn’t your run of the mill cocktail (none of them are here) – you have pearls of Souza Gold Tequila and simple syrup as well as Cointreau Caviar that sit atop a wedge of lime. Now drinking a normal Margarita is fun but as you slurp the pearls off the lime and pop them in your mouth you can’t help but giggle to yourself just a little bit.
After a little wait, our entrees came out ($2 wagyu sliders on Tuesdays would kill any kitchen) and they certainly were a sight to behold. Upon recommendation we ordered the Salmon Gravlax ($23) on a cucumber lake, orange cream and aloe vera snow with dehydrated fruit. Go back and look at the pictures of it – it’s a beautiful and playful dish. It’s like a choose your own adventure story (remember those?) with this because you could eat it in so many ways but I’ll breakdown how I went about it. First you take some of the salmon that is cured in-house by the team which has very clean and creamy texture; to that you add a slice of the cucumber lake which is kind of like a set jelly, then a nice smear of the orange cream and aloe vera snow to lift the flavours and you got one really good mouthful of food ready to go. I also loved the textural play you get when you throw a piece of dehydrated fruit in your mouth as you reset for another go at it until there’s nothing left on your plate and you are left feeling sad… until the next plate arrives.
I love scallops but I wasn’t particularly “feeling” them that night, however Doug recommended them to me and I’m glad he did because I’m telling you this dish is the one to order – hell, I’d order two of them next time just so I can have the pleasure of getting full from the Seared Scallops ($24). Again this dish much like all the dishes on the menu; is about piecing it together yourself and combining all the components together. As you would expect the scallops were seared to perfection but what did it for me was the beetroot and mango compote; the earthy body of the beets pair so well with the sweet tartness of mangos and it’s a killer combination which isn’t used as much as it should be. The menu described a coconut vinaigrette which I didn’t see until I stuck my finger into the purple and white powder out of curiosity – there it was. With this in the mix it was like a Caribbean island party happening on the plate and in my mouth – all I needed was a fruity alcoholic drink to cap it off… can you see where this is going?
The Shruberry ($19) is one for those who love their drinks fruity and sweet – great for the ladies (or gents who may like fruity/sweet drinks and order them to scab sips from their date while no one is looking). A mix of vodka, fresh strawberry, elderflower, rhubarb bitters and house made raspberry and strawberry shrub (a shrub is basically fresh fruit mixed with sugar which is allowed to macerate then mixed with vinegar to give you a tart yet sweet syrup ). This cocktail is so nice to drink you won’t want to give anyone a taste because they are bound to come back and ask for another sip later.
When I’m not stealing drinks from my date, I normally drink gin and tonic, but seeing as I’ve had their famous Jellied G&T shots a while back I thought a martini magic ($22) was in order. Now this particular martini is enriched with calcium and the magic happens as they slip a hydrocolloid of Cointreau (orange magic liquid stuff out of their magic squeezy bottle) into your drink which solidifies as you drink it. So by the time you finish your lovely martini, you are left with a several orange capsules of Cointreau which you burst in your mouth delivering a pleasant explosion of alcohol. I imagine this to be the drink that Willy Wonka would have after a hard day of leading a tour group of misbehaved children through a chocolate factory.
For our mains I ordered the porcini and bresaola crusted sirloin ($38) which is probably one of the most tricked out steaks you’ll get under $40.
The crust provides a pleasant saltiness from the use of bresaola which is salted and air dried beef so you get beef which is coated in beef…aka an inception steak. I couldn’t figure out why I really liked the mash until reading the menu showed that it was made from celeriac and white chocolate! The nutty overtones of the celeriac together with the sweetness of the white chocolate are really something different here which I’ve not seen around and really work well with the perfectly pink hunk of sirloin steak.
The slow roasted lamb cube ($35) was so much fun to eat – lively, colourful and at first it looks insane but is actually very well thought through and delivers a lovely surprise. It’s not often that you can say something was “fun” to eat but I’ll stand by it with its clever use of traditional flavours and contemporary techniques. The classic matching of lamb, garlic and mint was achieved through the fork tender lamb cubes, a refreshing mint jelly disc and garlic cream. The menu described some form of cannelloni which was nowhere to be seen, but looked to be replaced by on the plate by some bone marrow – or so I thought. After prodding what I thought was bone, my knife revealed the velvety smooth cannelloni; well played Rabbit Hole – you got me again. I very much enjoy being tricked like this and this kind of dish along with the gravlax salmon would be something I would expect to see at a Heston dinner or high end fine dining restaurant – but you can have it right here in Sydney and without the price tag or the 6 month reservations.
Glancing at my watch I was good on time, so why not another drink right? I’m just going to go straight off the menu here because I find the description perfect:
Abbey’s Fruit ($23) The flesh of cucumbers and pears is muddled with Lactart; the acid of milk and a hint of sugar. No. 3 Gin and Yellow Chartreuse V.E.P are added and it is shaken with ice. It is then fine strained into the fruit it came from and served with Yellow Chartreuse V.E.P pearls.
Now how good does that drink sound? It gets even better as it comes out and you see everyone in the place get a serious case of “drink envy”. Chartreuse is a liqueur made by French monks since the 1700’s aged with 130 herbs, plants and flowers. Now the Yellow Chartreuse V.E.P they use is extra special in that V.E.P is French for “Vieillissement Exceptionnellement Prolongé”, which translates into “exceptionally prolonged ageing” where they refine the flavours over time in large oak vats. What does this all really translate to? The best damn liquid substance I’ve had in my mouth for a very long time… that’s what it translates to. As you slurp the pear you get a wafting scent of the fruit before moving onto the potent pearls sitting in the cucumber. This leads you to the intoxicating (figuratively & literally) mixture of all three components which will leave you happy to say the least.
I saw the Chocolate Skull ($21) going crazy on Instagram so there was no way I could leave without seeing for myself what the hoo-ha was about. Not so much hoo & ha’s but rather oo’s and ah’s when someone came out with a pot of FIRE (flaming rum) that was poured over the flourless pineapple cake and spiced black vanilla ice cream. Any dessert with fire is awesome and the added theatre of watching the chocolate skull melt reflects the true evilness of this dessert. The rum certainly added a kick to it all which I enjoyed but if you aren’t a fan of rum just ask them to pour less in; but then you get less fire… and I choose more fire in any situation regarding desserts.
My date took up the dark chocolate & truffle macarons with Bailey’s Ice cream ($14) which I kind of baulked at, if I’m being honest (and I always am) – I mean how good could a Macaron be here? Remarkably good is the answer you are looking for. They had a nice shell as well as the right bite and texture to them; but what set it off for me was the truffle and dark chocolate filling. I’ve had the famous white truffle macaron from Pierre Herme but do I dare say that I liked this one more? I like bold flavours and this definitely had it over its French counterpart in that area but I’ll leave it to the macaron experts to comment.
I’ll admit that I came here quite a while back and didn’t like the food on offer, but I’ve been on a good streak of second chances of places with new chefs and I’m going to have to eat my words about the Rabbit Hole because my experience was an absolute blast. It really was a throwback to the choose your own adventure books in that with each item you weren’t sure what was going to happen next.
Gents, if you want to impress a lady friend and leave them swooning for you like Joseph Gordon-Levitt then this is the dinner date you’ve been looking for. Ladies, if you are looking for a girls catch up night that will leave your uninvited gal pals that didn’t make the cut envious (lesbehonest) then this is the “check in” you’ve been looking for. The Rabbit Hole has always delivered on drinks but now with the recent changes in the kitchen, it has certainly been upgraded for me from just a cool bar to one of Sydney’s best hidden, fully fledged, legitimate dining options… that also has a really cool bar. I’ll be coming back for dinner again soon – once my liver recovers.
Rabbit Hole Bar & Dining
Basement level, 82 Elizabeth St. Sydney NSW
Phone: (02) 8084 2505
I Ate My Way Through dined as guests of The Rabbit Hole Bar & Dining