Gowings Bar and Grill is one of those restaurants where you immediately feel comfortable; not so much homey as familiar. Once you enter you know you’re in the hands of true professionals.
Robert Marchetti is an established operator who honed his craft at some of Australia’s most successful eateries: North Bondi Italian, Icebergs & Melbourne’s Guiseppe Arnaldo & Sons at the Crown. This time around he has combined the best of fine dining with a relaxed brasserie ambiance. The restaurant is situated at the junction of the State Theatre and Gowings buildings at Sydney’s QT Hotel. The contemporary décor of shiny black subway tile, clubby chairs and chocolate floorboards sits perfectly in the multi-storied space.
Some might not see the menu as adventurous but Marchetti knows his patrons and serves up breakfast, lunch and dinner just how they like it. There are theatrical touches with head-spinningly rich sauces and quieter moments with simple clean flavours.
The massive open kitchen serves up bistro classics and American steakhouse staples – a top 40 of seafood, steaks and salads. Entrée salads include ‘The Stilton meets Waldorf” (aged Stilton, celery hearts, apple, Tasmanian organic walnuts are topped with chives and lemon oil). Another great starter is the Spanner Crab cakes served with celeriac, aioli, lemon and not quite enough hot sauce.
There are main salads as well as sandwiches, but it’s the wood fired oven that takes centre stage. Wood rotisseried half ducks or chickens are served with Parish mash, steamed black cabbage and salt bush. From the oven there’s also line caught rock Flathead, whole Flounder, hand dived scallops with a choice of butters and of course steaks.
The steaks are all identified by cut, provenance and size with a perfectly cooked to order and smoky bone in Angus Hereford Rib-Eye for 2 from Tasmania’s Cape Grim served exactly as it should be: with green sauce and lemon. The potato accompaniment of choice must be the shoestring fries with a side of excellent steamed greens. For carnivores with smaller appetites, the Steak au Poivre with art directed char grill marks and gutsy cognac red and green peppercorn sauce is perfect.
Desserts include all the hits – beignets, crème brulee, profiteroles and an exciting dark chocolate affogato with or without the additional shot of Café Patron XO Tequila. There is cannoli flavoured 3 ways and as a tribute to 70’s dinner parties, crumbed camembert filled with mushroom duxelle and thyme and served with frisée, mint and lemon salad.
The service is knowledgeable and gracious – not too formal but bordering on the telepathic – so intent is Chef Marchetti on ensuring your dining experience is exactly what you wanted. This restaurant can safely say it specializes in the romantic dinner for two and the too-many cocktails catch-up with friends.
In a year when all the new restaurants have been Mexican or ‘diners’ dedicated to American dude food, Gowings Bar and Grill has been a shining star. This is the restaurant for those who’ve stopped believing everything is better with microherbs or served with emulsified spheres infused with whatever is the latest go-to ingredient. Sometimes it takes a seasoned professional like Robert Marchetti to show everyone else how it’s done and yes, you can be all things to all people.