Even in a restaurant-obsessed city like Sydney there are still a few areas of the CBD where really good restaurants are sparse on the ground. The business end of Darling Harbour was a case in point. I say was as now at the corner of Day and Bathurst streets, there is Abode Bistro and Bar.
The multi-spaced interior has a relaxed atmosphere, which is what’s needed in an all day venue. The modern dining room seamlessly integrates with a lounge and chic bar. The neutral palette pops with Catherine Martin designed carpet and Florence Broadhurst wallpapers. Silken fringing and fanciful Australiana latticework of sulphur crested cockatoos amongst the monstera deliciosa partitions the spaces.
The four-time Academy Award winner’s carpet design features very Australian flowers that remind me of jellyfish – just like the balsa chandeliers. Long banquettes and armchairs are dressed in soft grey or café au lait twill. I’m curious to sample the menu as the casual glam interior design has a lot to live up to.
Head Chef Ryan Hong was previously part of the teams at the acclaimed Black by Ezard and Neil Perry’s Rockpool Bar and Grill. His menu offers something for everyone, as bistro menus should. Restaurant Manager Mathew Hunt runs a tight but not too formal ship with relaxed but polished service.
This is an Australian bistro in appearance and attitude. Of course, the menu is tweaked regularly to offer the very best of the season.
The wine list has 26 great selections by the glass and a very impressive suite of international and Australian champagnes, sparklings, reds and whites available by the bottle. Think Cristal, Margaret River’s Cullen Sauvignon Blanc, ’07 Coldstream Hills Shiraz and more. As I’m flying solo, a glass of Nanny Goat Pinot Noir from Central Otago is just perfect.
Ryan Hong although Korean born has studied Japanese cuisine and technique – and that’s evident from the entrées. The Yellow Fin tuna cocktail has a Bloody Mary jelly, avocado puree and shaved radish. King Salmon is partnered with cucumber, smoked eel, soy gel and the Japanese ingredient du jour –Yuzu.
I start with an addition rather than an entrée: Baby gem lettuce with a blue cheese dressing and speck is a knockout – with the big flavours mellowed by super fresh gem lettuce leaves.
Mains are true bistro fare: there is a blue swimmer crab angel hair pasta with lemon, chilli, garlic and basil oil or a risotto of pan seared scallops and asparagus. There is also a lamb rack, barramundi, chicken breast, black cod and for the vegetarians an aubergine parmigiana. But it is great to see a From the Market section of the best cuts and freshest seafood that are simply accompanied by steak fries or a mixed leaf salad.
Rack of pork with a Parmesan crust, caramel apple, spring onion and frisée isn’t the looker of the menu but it sure is a star. Perfectly just pink pork is substantial, succulent and a different take on pork with thick cut ‘chips’ of apple and not the traditional applesauce accompaniment. For sides I opt for a wholesome addition of Spring Asparagus and a little Persian fetta – I’m not disappointed.
Yes, from a background of cooking cakes and desserts commercially, I do always scan the desserts upfront as it affects my other choices. My selection from the To Finish section reads simply as assorted berries, vanilla cream, and elderflower. But is so much more. Juicy strawberries, raspberries and blue berries are cradled with a little vanilla bean flecked cream, a few little meringues and delicate cubes of elderflower jelly brings it all together.
Abode Bistro and Bar is an authentic Australian experience – bistro in concept but Australian in nature. It would make a great introduction to Australian cuisine for overseas visitors. Informal restaurants with good food are thin on the ground in Australia. There is very little available between fine dining and ‘bro food’, which is currently trending. Abode is relaxed and comfortable, but the food is fine indeed.
ThisMagnificentLife was a guest of Abode Bistro and Bar.