Four in Hand

www.fourinhand.com.au

Budgeting can only last so long.. about a week.  We had to go out somewhere for Saturday night. We decided to avoid the usual suspects of Surry Hills restaurants and check out Four in Hand in Paddington. It appears a relatively low key one hat restaurant doing it’s own thing and turning out pretty inventive cuisine.

The restaurant itself is tiny, seating no more than 30 people. It adjoins a busy bar which was pretty rousy when we arrived. It ensures there’s a good buzz in terms of atmosphere, perfect for a Saturday night. However I’ve yet to get to grips with these kind of Australian bars which seem an uncomfortable halfway house between a bar & a pub. They’re not that relaxed and they’re not sophisticated. It makes ordering martinis fraught with anxiety. Yeah, I know I sound like a dick….

Anyway, back to the restaurant. We were early, but they had no problem seating us. It kicked off the evening where the service was enthusiastic and pleasant throughout the whole meal.

The menu is a real treat. About 5 options per course; all appealing, which is rare. Most restaurants normally chuck in a simple soup or terrine to pad out the menu and alleviate the pressure in the kitchen. There was none of that here. There was even an entrée special of pigs ears, which in my book, makes it immediately endearing.

Clearly with so much choice we opted for the tasting menu (apologies for picture quality. I’m not keen on using my flash in restaurants)..

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It kicked off with an amuse of fish soup with lemongrass. It made a welcome change to cauliflower or butternut squash soup. It was light and a perfect little taste.

 

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Next up was a tuna sashimi in a cool marjoram pea broth. It was sensational. Peas play well with anything and I’m a sucker for good sashimi. It was light as well as having great depth of flavour.

 

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A similar dish then followed – ocean trout with horseradish snow. This was the one dish I was kind of disappointed by. The ocean trout was clearly of good provenance, but the delicate flavour was pounced on by the bad-boy horseradish, and effectively left cowering in the corner. The accompanying beetroot just looked on, not wanting to get involved. It was not a dish of great harmony.

 

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The next course changed things considerably, moving this meal up a level in terms of memorability – veal tongue salad with sliced pickled vegetables. It takes real balls for a chef to serve something so unconventional and for many, unpalatable as part of a tasting menu.

The presentation was great, breaking up the ‘small plate’ mentality of ‘degus’. Having to share a dish brings people together. This time the contrast worked well- crunchy pickled radishes & cauliflower with the depth of the delightful tongue. An accompanying salsa verde brought it all together. It rocked.

 

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Another sharing dish brought the meal into the main course territory – beef short ribs, bone marrow, onion rings with celeriac puree. We divvied up the unctuous ribs and I was able to keep the bone-marrow. It’s a man thing… It was another good plate and well worked classic combination.

 

Continuing the meat theme the final main course was a plate of pork – confit belly, roast fillet with black pudding brownie and sage/onion dumplings. The fact there’s no accompanying photo means I was too busy getting stuck in. It was good.

 

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The cheese course made for a welcome break in the action. I didn’t care much for the unleavened bread, but the important part, the cheese was great – a cheddar, a blue, a brie. No notes were taken, so I can’t share the names, but even though the selection was limited it covered all the bases from hard to unpasteurised goat cheese. The conditioning was perfect.

 

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Our marathon finished with a f’ing awesome chocolate parfait with chocolate dust and a lightly salted caramel sauce. It was rich and creamy without being overpowering. I’m not a dessert fan, but this almost converted me….

So as you can tell, we thought this was a terrific meal. There was great variety, interesting combinations dished out with some verve. I particularly liked how the kitchen appears to be exploring the full range of tastes from enticing specials to having the nerve to serve a tongue salad.

Cooking of this variety deserves to get more attention. We just hope we can still easily get a table on our return.

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