“If you could take my pulse right now, it would feel just like a Sledgehammer”
Fifth Harmony knows exactly how I feel, every time I see our dishes approaching our table. If you’re anything like me, the wait after ordering seems longer than it really is. Fortunately at the Civilian Bar and Kitchen, the wait for your order is minimal with its quick and friendly service – you’ll be digging into an assortment of dishes in no time.
Nestled away from busy streets, Civilian Bar and Kitchen is located in a quiet neighbourhood in Darlinghurst, being surrounded by other eateries that all have so much to offer. Similar to the likes of Hartsyard and Bowery Lane, Civilian Bar and Kitchen gives off a cool and relaxed vibe evident through its indoor seating and outdoor lounge which also reflects the new direction head chef Aaron Mihelic is now taking. Gathering experience from the likes of Fish Face, Guillaume at Bennelong and Becasse, Aaron brings his repertoire and vision to this establishment by creating a menu that celebrates modern day Australian cuisine with slight Asian touches. There is now a new focus on casual dishes ranging in sizes that are designed to be shared whilst still keeping a fine dining aspect through its use of high quality produce and plating, yet still being completely affordable.
I don’t normally drink cocktails before a dinner because I take my “liquor straight, never chase that” (as Iggy Azalea would say) but our bartender Max, highly suggested a couple that we simply could not refuse. If you can imagine a passionfruit meringue as an alcoholic beverage, the Passionfruit Sour ($17) is exactly it. A concoction blending wyborowa vodka, reposado mescal, lime juice, agave syrup and passionfruit melded together smoothly. The caramel foam in particular was a new surprise element that I have never tried before and worked so well in cutting through the tartness and let you end on a sweet note. The Watermelon Mint Martini ($17) is another great cocktail if you prefer a more refreshing sensation. Comprising of gin, suze, citrus, mint and fresh pressed watermelon, this combination totally reminded me of a watermelon granita. Taking your palate on a wave of different tastes, you start off with the smoothness of the watermelon, followed by the freshness and crispness of the mint and leave you with a tingling sensation from the citrus.
The Hiramasa Kingfish Carpaccio ($16) consisted of an orange soy dressing, finger lime and wild rice, which all worked together to give a textual experience with every mouth full. The dressing lightly coated each piece of the fresh kingfish giving a slight sweetness and when combined with the finger lime were little pops of sourness which contrasted well whilst the puffed wild rice added the crunch the dish needed.
We’re told by Aaron, that the Broccoli Orecchiette with Persian Fetta and Lemon & Rosemary Octopus ($26) is the most popular dish so just with that statement, it is a must order. The pasta was cooked perfectly that retained its firmness and was tossed through a pureed broccoli sauce that was very vibrant in colour though unfortunately, light in flavour. The Persian Fetta was a great component that added seasoning, but also a certain creaminess to the dish. However, the highlight for me was the grilled Octopus. The octopus was very tender that had notes of rosemary and a scent of smokiness from the charred crispy exterior. The sheer size of the tentacle made the dish a standout visually.
The Squid Ink Gnocchi with Cuttlefish ($26) was my personal favourite of the night. Each piece of gnocchi was light and pillowy. As cliché as it sounds, this gnocchi dish was the definition of ‘crunchy on the outside, soft and fluffy on the inside’ and that’s how it should be. The squid ink was not overpowering at all but gave the dish a striking deep tone which contrasted against the lightly charred cuttlefish. The salted chilli added a hint of heat which complemented the freshness of the basil.
Another popular dish Aaron noted is the Cape Grim Beef Tri Tip ($24) accompanied with a mushroom ragout, crispy potatoes and baby spinach. The beef was cooked just to my liking – a perfect medium rare, which highlighted the juicy taste of the beef when sampled on its own. However, the mushroom ragout was the real hero as it united all the components on the plate and gave richness to the beef when poured on top. This sauce had multiple layers of flavour on its own, starting with a salty hit and then ending with an intense natural sweetness from the various mushrooms.
The Braised Lamb Shoulder ($26.50) was the only large plate we sampled and it could easily be shared between two or three people… or for one hungry eater. You could tell the lamb was braised for hours from how little to no effort it took to pull apart and from how well it soaked up flavour from the braising liquid. The highlight on the plate for me were the polenta chips, which had a crunchy outside; the inside was incredibly light whilst still being rich and creamy.
It is suggested to order a side dish with a large plate and though we originally requested the fried cauliflower after hearing so much about it, but sadly, it was unavailable at the time of our visit. However the Roasted Pumpkin ($10.50) side dish was highly recommended and to our pleasant surprise, was a great accompaniment. The first thing you’re hit with is the strong aroma of roasted coconut and this intensity in both scent and taste lingers throughout enjoying it. The goat’s cheese were little nuggets of creaminess and saltiness which contrasted the natural sweetness of the roasted pumpkin. Who would have thought pumpkin and coconut could be such a good combination.
Despite nearly reaching capacity, I believe there is always room for dessert and I wasn’t about to stop that now. With only one dessert on offer, the Chocolate Caramel Tart with coffee mascarpone, caramelised banana and hazelnut praline is a crowd pleaser. Being beautifully presented on the plate the biscuit base was the crunchy element, which juxtaposed the smoothness of the oozy caramel as you cut through it. The coffee mascarpone was strong by itself but when eaten with the chocolate tart and slightly sweet caramel, it rather heightened the flavours of the dessert, which made a well-rounded end to the dinner.
Overall, the service at Civilian Bar and Kitchen was exceptional with very attentive, down to earth and friendly waiters, which really added to the experience. Staying in tune with the restaurant’s vibe, the new menu plays in harmony with the relaxed, comfortable ambiance. More importantly, the casual sharing style dishes maintain elements of fine dining without putting a hole in your pocket. Isn’t that what we all want?
Civilian Bar & Kitchen
248 Palmer St, Darlinghurst NSW 2010
Phone: (02) 9361 4162
I Ate My Way Through dined as guests of Civilian Bar & Kitchen