Another week, another interstate trip. I haven’t had too many overnight stays in Sydney of late and on the odd occasion where I have stayed overnight; I’ve taken the easy option of hotel room service. I was thinking of compiling a list of my favourite hotel club sandwiches. Unfortunately, I didn’t get around to detailing my findings, but I think that the Intercontinental in Sydney is winning. And they provide Beerenberg condiments.
So anyway, it was high time I ventured from the safety and comfort of my king sized bed with its six pillows and continue the pursuit of understanding why Sydney thinks its restaurants are better than Melbourne.
Last year, I chose Colin Fassnidge’s Four in Hand in an attempt to quash this theory and I was unsuccessful because it was so fucking awesome. Since then, I’ve ardently followed Colin’s entertaining tweets and have keenly waited for the opening of Colin’s latest venture – the opening of a standalone restaurant in close proximity to the other venues, 4Fourteen in Surry Hills.
Again I found myself dining alone as my dinner companion had to cancel at the last minute. This ended up not being a bad thing because the key feature of 4Fourteen is the massive bar that seats twelve patrons around the open kitchen. There was plenty to take in, so in hindsight I was glad that I didn’t have to suffer idle chit-chat (I’m kidding, Tat).
So what was there to observe? Firstly, seven chefs working at a feverish pace. Alas, there was no Gordon Ramsay-esque theatrics of swearing or throwing pots and pans to be witnessed. In fact, it was all very quiet and well oiled for a place that’s only been open for a few weeks. Colin and head chef, Carla Jones were working collaboratively at the pass, mingling with the two dishwashers and the servers that handed checks directly to chef for orders to be called. It seemed more like a team that had been together for a couple of years, not weeks.
The floor space is huge, with a loud, almost raucous (in a good way) atmosphere. It’s fun. It’s laidback. It’s comfortable. You feel like you want to be there for a good time and a long time. Amongst the large tables occupied by a fairly good looking 30-something after work crowd, there’s even more seating at the (other, alcohol) bar. I wish this placed existed at the end of my street.
The unfortunate side of sitting at the bar (nearest to the front door) was the occasional waft of cigarette smoke from the smokers outside each time the front door was opened. It could have been the wind that teamed up with the inclement weather outside. Nonetheless, it was a little off-putting.
The menu is a little confusing as it’s broken up into food categories of Fish, Meat, Salads & Starches and Pastry, as opposed to your run-of-the-mill courses. The only indication of whether you’re getting a dish that’s suitable for an entrée or a main is the price. It’s a bit confusing. Maybe that’s the point.
So, using price as my guide, I started with the Live Rottnest Island (WA) Scallop with crushed ginger, fennel and horseradish ($11.50). I wasn’t too sure whether ‘live’ meant it was served ‘alive’, which would have been a tad macabre or… I don’t know actually. Obviously it was a real scallop and it was alive at some point; hopefully earlier in the day. It was cooked to perfection though and the accompanying fennel and ginger purees complimented each other as opposed to one dominating the other. There no apparent detection of the horseradish at all. Second time this year. Perhaps it’s too early in the season. Some wilted warrigal provided some welcome colour and another element of texture.
As much as it was a very delicious scallop, I remained a little perturbed by the cost. It sure was a lot of flair and pomp for one solitary scallop… in the shell, served atop a bed of pebbles – all very pretty, but it was one scallop. Colin has since informed me that the scallops are flown in ‘live‘ from Rottnest Island, hence the cost and the live part. Quality aside, it left me wondering what I could have ordered instead for a few extra dollars and be a little more, I don’t know… fulfilled? The warm crab roll ($14.50) perhaps or the miso smoked salmon with lemon curd and fennel bread ($14.50). At least the bread roll from Iggy’s, served with a generous quenelle of butter ($2.50) was fulfilling enough (even though you have to pay for bread).
The next dish was the suckling pig ($32). Colin and his team sure know how to cook pigs to perfection and this was no exception. An ample serving of fine slices of (loin?) meat featured a thin, glassy crackling that could have been the best pork I have ever eaten. The rest of the plate was well balanced with a perfect supporting cast: texture from bits of light and crispy crackling, cauliflower, both in crisp florettes and a puree, a great splodge of pistachio pesto, another splodge (or two) of prune puree, fried sage leaves and the most delightful, unctuous jus I have ever tasted. I was mad at myself for not leaving any of the bread to mop this sauce up when I ran out of meat.
A small side dish of cabbage salad (coleslaw) featured the aforementioned cabbage, thinly sliced radish and just when you though there wasn’t enough pork, crunchy dried bits of pork, dressed with a vinaigrette.
To drink with the pork, I chose the Joseph 2011 d’Elena Pinot Grigio ($67) from Primo Estate.
For dessert, I couldn’t go past the signature dish, Bounty ($16); an artful deconstruction of the popular chocolate bar, coconut ice cream dusted in cocoa, crackle, chocolate mousse, shards of fresh coconut and more shards of what I think was a coconut white chocolate, oh and more cocoa dusted over the top. Heavenly and great with a wee glass of the Sánchez Romate Cardenal Cisneros Pedro Ximenez ($10).
As is the case with Four in Hand, a great selection of cheeses are on offer for $9 per cheese. On the night, there were a couple of Spanish hard cheeses, piccante goat’s cheese, some Dutch thing and the two cheeses I opted for, an oozy washed rind and some soft cheese. I can’t remember exactly what it was but it was a stinky truffled cheese that was fantastic. The cheeses were served with house made lavosh, a thick slice of Granny Smith apple, some smooth and silky apple puree and a scary looking rusty, chipped knife thing. Something you could use to chiv someone if you weren’t happy with your cheese. Fortunately I was.
Service on the night was extremely friendly, efficient and knowledgeable.
I have to say that again, in my vain attempt to quash the Melbourne-is-heaps-better-than-Sydney-restaurant-scene theory isn’t gaining much traction. However, if Colin is considering opening another venture in the near future; please kindly consider opening it in Melbourne (preferably on the northern side of the city… around North Fitzroy, Northcote, Thornbury… somewhere around there. Thanks.)
414 Bourke St, Surry Hills NSW
(03) 9331 5399
Good For: Oinkingly good pig in a fantastic atmosphere
Not Good For: A quiet, romantic first date. Actually, that’s not true. I probably would go here.