My friends sometimes ask how I can afford to eat out as much as I do since it appears like every meal’s a hatted multi-course magic ride into the culinary clouds (okay those are my words not theirs) and the creative profession is rarely a well-paid one. The thing is there’s no secret oil tycoon fiance; sometimes good things come in cheap packages, you just have to know where to find them.
Wilbur’s place sounds like a jolly place to chill out with your porcine host but in actuality is a new little eatery from the guys at Bourke Street Bakery. The other up side is the prices seem to be from the 90’s with the most expensive item a dinner plate of duck leg, roasted plums with vino cotto which would still return you a gold coin’s change from a 20 note.
This concept seems to hit all angles of the magical triangle (good, fast, cheap) and I’m so keen to visit I blab on about this place for weeks. Upon their reopening for the new year, three of us rock up for a long lunch at this alleyway digs.
Seranno ham, grapefruit and fennel salad $12
We settle in with some coffees on the outdoor table and start with the Serrano ham, grapefruit and fennel salad. The combination sounded intriguing and light: the ham and grapefruit added nice touches of salt and bitterness to the salad. Strangely though the fennel was limp and quite sugary and acidic.
Complimentary Duck liver parfait, toast & cornichons (Normally $12)
Our lovable waiter Ben approaches us with a surprise: a complimentary dish of duck liver parfait for us to nibble on, it’s buttery smooth and we pull sad faces when we run out of brioche.
White anchovy, cucumber, celery, croutons $12
White anchovy, cucumber, celery, croutons was our second choice: another interesting combination. Sadly this too tasted overwhelmingly like apple vinegar and we asked Ben to check for us. He returns and advises the kitchen only adds salt, pepper, olive oil and a squeeze of lemon to the salad but there’s no fresh lemon zing and the sugary limpness of the celery betrays an overwhelming acidic taste. Cathy notes the kitchen may have pre-dressed the celery and fennel in apple vinegar in the morning and accidentally macerated the vegetables resulting in an overpowering sweetness.
Porchetta plate, white beans and bread $14
I’ve been looking forward to the porchetta plate for quite some time, which time-poor locals can get in a roll for only $8 a pop. We food tourists though have all the time to languish in the sun and slowly devour the pork with beans and sourdough. The meat is quite tender and doused with rosemary, with a streak of fat running through, on a bed of jus which we mop up. Midway through Cathy pulled a piece of trussing string from her portion and we’re also disappointed to note that the beans haven’t been cooked enough and are quite hard on the inside; the jus itself was also a bit sticky from being over-reduced.
We manage to finish most of our food though and remain optimistic about dessert. The ice cream for the brioche sandwich is made by the staff and the sound of a meringue covered flourless chocolate sponge seems intriguing but Ben tells us his absolute favourite is the custard tart. We’re still wondering what to order when he arrives with the tart in question and places it before us.
Complimentary Custard tart (Normally $12)
We dig in and sigh over the delectably smooth custard blanketed with a generous amount of nutmeg. Dessert’s over in seconds and we each leave having spent well under $20 each. We wave goodbye to Ben and Paul and waddle off down the alleyway: our hip pockets barely lightened but stomachs well full.
Have you ever bumped into two siblings* and noticed one got a lot luckier with the gene pool lotto? The Bourke Street crew have baking down pat and the menu at their new sister restaurant is simple but imaginative, so it’s quite sad to see poor execution letting everyone down. The service is affable and the prices are very kind to all and sundry; I’ve just got my fingers crossed that the kitchen simply has the start-up jitters and will soon develop into a well-oiled machine by the time I return for that duck and perhaps some ocean trout fingers.
*This is a metaphor and is not in reference to any persons living or dead.
a. 36 Llankelly Place, Kings Cross
t. 9332 2999