Club food. Pub Grub. RSL Dinners. They all leave you with a $10 schnitty special alongside a New that you probably could have just as easily put together at home. In more recent times, some establishments have seen the great advantage of creating a far more food focused experience, turning to fine dining influences to redefine what ‘club food’ really is. Restaurants such as Rawsons sit as one of the front-runners in this area, proving club food can be fine dining, while remaining inexpensive. Not only this, Rawsons has also brought, what I believe to be the first true fine dining experience to the outer Hills District.
The Hills District has been my home for 22 years. Aside from a few reputable cafes and restaurants the dining scene is scarce. Last year Castle Hill was the centre of much attention with the opening of a much needed cocktail bar, which would always draw in a large crowd. One Wednesday night I even waited an hour for a booth large enough to fit my party. In other words, the area is practically a dead zone for restaurants, despite the need in the area. Rawsons has built a foundation in an area, which head chef Nick Whitehouse believes to be a perfect location to expand the fine dining scene in Sydney. For locals it’s definitely time to get excited.
Open for six weeks at the time of my visit, Rawsons has already seen its way through two menus, keeping the food fresh and exciting. The outfit is minimalist in the main area of the dining room with a simple black and white, reflecting Nick’s ethos of refined simplicity. His food focus is as you would expect of someone of his level and background, using quality ingredients and techniques to best show off his ingredients and their own flavours, such as his chicken stock, which he does not put any vegetables in, just chicken, to ensure the flavour is true and there is consistency in his product.
Walking in, I passed a meat fridge displaying various cuts of meat that Nick and his team have been ageing themselves, ensuring the freshness of the product. Nick doesn’t worry about running out of one of these specialty meats, producing enough for a few customers and eliminating the chance of wastage.
I was here for the set lunch ($29.90/$39.90,) and sunshine poured into the back of the restaurant creating a warm atmosphere, while gentle jazz plays in the background.
An optional addition to start is bread with house cured butter and olives, which I would highly recommend. The bread was delivered fresh from Grain Bakery and is an assortment of sourdough and wholemeal ($5 for a serving for two.) It had a beautifully crispy crust and a soft centre that I continually lathered with the creamy butter. The Gordo olives ($6) were a generous serving and I couldn’t help but to polish them off.
To begin, I chose the whipped goats curd ricotta with scorched tomatoes, panzanella and aged balsamic. It was a delightful entrée, with the creamy cheese and the smokey sweet tomatoes while the balsamic adds a little punch to the dish. A helpful hint from me would be to leave a slice of that sourdough to mop up all that goats curd ricotta (I’m sure everyone around you will wish they had done the same.)
The entrée my partner had for the day was a play on the traditional flavours of smoked salmon served with capers, rye crumbs, sour cream cheese and dill. It was a clever dish, with all the flavours complementing one another in a refined yet uncomplicated style.
For me, the highlight of the meal was the rump cap. Nick chose the rump cap as an underutilised cut of meat, which left me totally baffled after how beautifully cooked it was. The meat is smoked lightly for 45 minutes before being sous vide and then quickly grilled, producing a tender pink cut of meat. It was accompanied with roasted onion shells, mushrooms and a generous jug of a ‘proper red wine sauce,’ that was plentiful for any sauce-lover, like myself. That said, I could have drunk a whole bottle of that sauce.
Beef brisket was another main available. The brisket was rubbed with their own American style meat rub, before being smoked. The meat was served with a house slaw with seeded mustard dressing. This meal was an absolute crowd pleaser, a tasty piece of brisket and slaw, what’s not to love?
Dessert moves away from the classics and into a more experimental area. The vanilla bean panna cotta was a great dessert that incorporated both sweet and salty elements with the inclusion of Gorgonzola cheese. A refreshing and interesting way to finish a meal, the panna cotta was silky, and topped of with apricot puree, poached strawberry and a crumble for texture.
The mango soufflé was a textbook soufflé. As it arrived at the table, it was sprung far from its mini saucepan. Served with a scoop of raspberry sorbet and a seductive drizzle of raspberry coulis, all the elements accompanied each other perfectly, and every mouthful was light and fluffy.
Rawsons has delivered a service to this wanting area. Already packing out for lunch and dinner every day, bookings are advised. It’s clear to see that with a rotating menu and Nick’s clear passion for food, locals and non-locals alike will continue to bring a buzz to the Epping Club.
The Epping Club
45 Rawson St, Epping, Sydney NSW
Phone: (02) 9876 4357
I Ate My Way Through dined as guests of Epping Club