Sunday, July 25, 2010
I had wanted to visit Etch ever since it first opened. I was fascinated by the beautiful and quirky décor and of course Justin North’s brilliant way with food. So I gathered the girls on a cold Friday night, the occasion was my 22nd birthday and we had been looking forward to this for weeks (although now this post is also weeks late!) Tucked away on Bridge Street beside the Intercontinental, the entrance is marked by a birdcage and a bookstand. Positively laden with giant bags of birthday presents (thanks guys!!!), we were shown to our table, and we took a few minutes to simply admire the gorgeous wallpaper and wish that my dining room looked even remotely as elegant as this one.
The menu has gone through several incarnations since it opened, regularly changed to use the best in seasonal produce. In fact it had changed in the few weeks since I made the booking! Justin North is famous for bringing together the best quality produce into gorgeous, seasonal dishes with a great wine list to boot. Some things that used to be menu staples are now served as bar snacks and are not available in the restaurant, which is slightly disappointing as I was looking forward to trying the goat’s cheese balls with honey and lavender and the mini wagyu burger, for which Justin is so famous!
By the time the whole group arrived, we were quite hungry and it was only now that we noticed there was no bread served, which is quite strange for a hatted restaurant. According to the girls, a glass of birthday bubbles was in order. The classic Champagne cocktail was lovely but went to my head quickly on my empty stomach.
We order some entrees to share – the Tasting of Aylesbury duck ($22), and the Caramelised pork head with roasted prawn, pickled rhubarb and kohlrabi puree ($21). The duck was absolutely lovely, although I wasn’t a huge fan of the duck egg caramel, but then I’m not a huge fan of eggs just generally. The rest of the dish was fabulous, especially the pancake and the pate. The caramelised pork head was one of my favourites of the night. The textures and flavours went so well together, and I was also a big fan of the stunning presentation.
In true food blogger style, we each picked a different main so we could share and each taste everyone else’s dish. Steph decided on the Ballottine of free range chicken with sautéed brussel sprouts, bacon and bread sauce ($32). I really liked this dish, I think when a restaurant serves a chicken course, it has to be really impressive and this dish most definitely was!
Karen chose the Risotto of Spencer Gulf prawns, lemon and saffron cream ($30). The flavours were sort of delicate and subtle, but the risotto was perfectly cooked and delicious. Leona’s dish, the Flathead with Serrano ham, parsnip puree, potato fondant and jus gras ($33) looked absolutely beautiful on the plate, it tasted lovely but a little unusual.
I think I struck the jackpot with my dish though, the general consensus was that mine was the prettiest and tastiest of the lot and I tend to agree. I ordered the Roasted sirloin, daube of beef, spinach, carrot, and red wine jus. It was divine. The sirloin was cooked to a perfect rare and all of the elements complemented each other beautifully.
Denea decided on the special, which was a Pork loin with beetroot jus. It was the biggest of all of our dishes, which was ironic since she was feeling sick and had no appetite! The pork loin was perfectly cooked with absolutely delicious crunchy crackling. I also really liked the beetroot. Betty picked the Crusted sea bream with Jerusalem artichoke barigoule and trompette puree ($31). It was a unique combination of flavours that really worked well and she loved it.
And then it was time for dessert, of course. We just had to get the Etch lolly tray ($15), it was a total given. It just looked like fun, and I loved the way it made all of us 20-something women giggle like schoolgirls again. There was a mint-chocolate “Aero” bar, white chocolate covered lemon sherbert ice cream balls, a delicious nutty brittle and some tiny cones filled with sour apple sherbert. The Spiced Quince crumble with Hoegaarden ice cream ($15) was lovely, although it was up the other end of the table and I only got a tiny taste, but I’m a sucker for a good crumble, and quince is always fine by me.
The prettiest was definitely the Baked rice custard with poached rhubarb and white chocolate and juniper berry ice cream ($15). The rice custard itself tasted a little bland, like it needed a bigger hit of vanilla flavour. Another dish that had us salivating by just looking at it was the Chocolate and peanut butter mille feuille with Manuka honey marshmallow ($15). The flavour combination sounded like a solid win, but it was actually quite strange. The marshmallow was just a little weird, perhaps a mousse would have worked better for this one.
The dessert that was far and away the best of the lot was the Caramel date tart with burnt butter ice cream and Earl Grey tea syrup ($15). It was very sweet that the staff had piped “Happy Birthday” to me in chocolate (though luckily there were no candles!) The caramel was delicious and smooth, and I loved the addition of Earl Grey tea. We loved this one so much that we ended up ordering another serving of it to share and it was demolished in seconds.
I suppose I had high expectations, since I had heard such good things, but to be honest I wasn’t wowed by any of the desserts except the Caramel date tart and the lolly tray. While the desserts all looked stunning, but they were a little overcomplicated and lost out on what was most important – taste. All in all it was a lovely meal in a lovely restaurant and I can definitely see myself coming back here soon. As long as they keep that incredible date tart on the menu! And a huge thank you to the lovely ladies who made my birthday dinner so much fun!!
Etch Restaurant - 62 Bridge St, Sydney