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Kings Cross

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.


Latte $3.30

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.


Cappucino $3.30


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.

The Verdict
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.

Wilbur’s Place
a. 36 Llankelly Place, Kings Cross
t. 9332 2999
e. info(at)wilbursplace.com
w. www.wilbursplace.com

Wilbur's Place on Urbanspoon

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[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.


Complimentary sourdough

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.

The Verdict
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.

Tomislav
a. 2/13 Kirketon Road Darlinghurst
t. 9356 4535
e. info(at)tomislav.com.au
w. www.tomislav.com.au

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