[Warning: photo overload below]
I don’t know what your day job is, but I’m sure whatever you do somehow shaped your world view. Maybe you believe in structure, meaningful discussions, the purity of an idea, risk aversion, absolute justice or absolute liberty; I believe in fun.
Just a skip and hop away, almost close enough to fall in the infamous Coke sign’s long dusk shadow is Tomislav: the large balcony of this cosy restaurant a rusty freighter’s hull run aground on Kirkton Road’s footpath. Our little trio hesitate for a moment before pushing through the glass door and walking into Tomislav Martinovic’s intimate dining room (it seats a tiny 36 heads). A large portion of the restaurant is the open kitchen where Martinovic is working away with his small team of cooks whilst the rest of the room is filled with wooden tables and country-chic cross-back chairs. Despite our late booking we’ve managed to score one of the best seats in the house next to the northern window (the two photo nerds of the group beamed).
Ponte di Piave Prosecco, Treviso Italy (Normally $12)
We were here for a one night only Entertainment book promotion whereby we can opt for a Fish or Game set menu with matching wines for $105. As we settle in and fan our faces from the heat, our waiter sails over and pours us each a glass of cool sparkling.
Rice Crackers: sea salt & vinegar (Normally $10)
The Maitre d’ soon brought us something to start: Martinovic’s play on the traditional salt and vinegar chips. The thin bubbling sheets of fried rice crackers were feather light and almost dissolved on the tongue. We were instructed to spray about three pumps from the vinegar bottle before eating, but we took turns completely dousing our crackers (and ourselves) in the sour mist.
Sour Potato: lime and honey
Our first course arrived in a exquisite multifaceted glass bowl, the dish a simplistic new take on the humble mash: any doubts regarding the flavours were silenced as we delved into each sweet spoonful.
Hand churned butter
Perhaps more than any other element, the complimentary bread and butter were a beautiful reflection of Tomislav’s dedication and style. The perfect quenelle of butter is hand churned each morning on the premise and given a small creative injection. It was proudly displayed on a tall granite block and appeared like it belonged at the MCA, our waiter challenged us to guess what they’ve added and after much speculation (“hazelnut?” “no it’s so sweet”) Cathy pinpointed the nutty aroma of coffee.
Test tube of gazpacho
The fish-course entree arrived first, with a flourish the waiter produced two thin orange test tubes and proceeded to pour the soup around the plate of cured John Dory.
Clear pumpkin gazpacho: cured John dory, wasabi, sour cream, caperberries, chives with garlic bread (Normally $24) Served with a glass of 2010 Thomas ‘Braemore’ semillion, Hunter NSW
The three word title of this dish gave nothing away, I side stepped the fish menu because I’ve never been a big fan of gazpacho but this was no ordinary gazpacho: the thin slices of John Dory and sour cream slipping down the tongue in a tumble of mellow and sweet.
Roast Red Gate Farm Quail: foie gras, watercress, poached rhubarb with a pine nut puree and red wine reduction (Normally $24) Served with a glass of 2010 Stoney Rise Pinot Noir, Tamar Valley, Tasmania
Four pieces of tender quail plated in a tumble of watercress and foie gras crumbles was superb. The cellophane square of rhubarb shavings appeared painted on the plate and the gloss of the sauce coating could only be described as Cover Girl perfect.
Signature chips $10
The Maitre d’ had urged us to order their famous chips, thrice cooked following Heston Bluemental’s method (boiled, cooled, fried, chilled, fried) but crinkle cut as a nostalgic reminder of Martinovic’s suburban Sydney childhood.
Roast Murray Cod: tomato, salt caramel, grilled baby leeks with asparagus puree and baby coriander (Normally $40) Served with 2011 Port Phillip ‘Salasso’ rose, Mornington Victoria (Normally $11)
The skin was crackling crisp and decorated with a few simple flakes of salt, the main surprise were the small lumps of porous salted caramel scattered along the asparagus puree.
Pasture fed Burrawong duck breast: Thai style with coconut, chilli, grilled pineapple and baby coriander (Normally $42)
Served with a glass of 2008 Longview ‘Yakka’ shiraz, Adelaide Hills SA (Normally $12)
I was a bit skeptical about the prospect of some “Thai style” duck but I shouldn’t have worried. A titan warm slate arrived bearing a playful garden of slightly dehydrated prawns, baby herbs and peas interrupted with a few stepping stones of coconut pudding. Although picturesque these were all just compliments for the best duck I’ve ever had, the gorgeously juicy and plump meat rounding off a cheeky dish dedicated to Sydney’s Thai obsession.
The open kitchen with Tomislav Martinovic (far right)
Juniper Estate ‘Cane Cut’ riesling, Margaret River WA (Normally $14)
Monichino Botrytis semillion, Geelong Vic
Our glasses of dessert wine were poured first, the Riesling pear sweet and fruity whilst the Monichino was honey sweet, syrupy with a butterscotch finish.
Vanilla Cheesecake: basil ice, grilled strawberries, rhubarb sorbet (Normally $18)
We were hit with another name-not-matching-face moment when the cheesecake arrived and if I was an alien I’d be questioning why this in no way resembles the picture on my flash card, but this is what dining here is all about. The speckled orb of cheesecake is light and soft hiding a pile of cookie crumbs underneath and retains a light sour taste.
Compressed Fig: apples, popcorn milk, caramel ice cream (Normally $18)
Last to arrive was my fig dessert, a splat on my dark plate with ice cream and popcorn milk beginning to puddle over it.
This style is the food I love: a strong playful concept made real through dedication and flawless execution. Surprises, theatricality and a sense of place are built into the presentation of each dish, and as many noted such strengths must be lasting remnants of Martinovic’s time at The Fat Duck. The atmosphere is anything but stuffy as we trade laughs with our neighbouring table and waiters alike before eventually rolling out back into the windy Kings Cross night.
A surprisingly casual atmosphere serving whimsical and creative food which invites diners to marvel and explore what’s on the plate. Execution is polished and consistent with ingredients respectfully plated to look their very best. Although we dined here as part of a special offer, the prices for the a la carte options are a bit steep having jumped up 25% since last year with the mains now hitting $40 a plate. Having said that Tomislav is definitely worth visiting if only at least just once; no one can say it’s too high a price to pay for such fun.
a. 2/13 Kirketon Road Darlinghurst
t. 9356 4535