Please note The Woods is now closed. Mode Kitchen & Bar is now at the Four Seasons Sydney.Once upon a time, hotel restaurants were the last place serious diners would eat. Then some hotels realized the potential of destination restaurants in their properties. Alain Ducasse at Adour at NYC’s St Regis, Joël Robuchon’s Odyssey in Monte Carlo’s Hotel Metropole and even celubuchefs like Gordon Ramsay have all done it. But it’s not a great leap of faith to go for a big name. So when the Four Seasons Sydney decided on Hamish Ingham of Bar H Surry Hills to bring some street cred to their hotel by the harbour, food critics were agog.
What Ingham and his crew have done at The Woods is bring a whole lot of hip to hotel dining. This restaurant is for those who care about food – not just business travellers who don’t eat anywhere else because the boss is paying.
The 180 seater’s interior design is by Michael McCann and his team at Dreamtime, who is known for some of the cooler restaurant fit-outs of recent times. It’s a restaurant in a hotel – but not as we know it: recipes and illustrations scrawled on the ceiling, a live herb wall and wood on the walls, tables, chairs and where it really works it’s magic – on the grill and in the oven.
The Woods like to call their menu ‘primitive luxury’. Indeed, there is something primeval about flames and burning embers.. The menu lists the woods ‘burning tonight’ – it might be mallee, olive or apple. Except for the oysters, every dish has been touched by flame, ash, wood or smoke. This is not a gimmick – it’s just fine food served well and not at all pretentious. The scent of wood in the air lends the restaurant a familiarity and homeliness not unlike the backyard barbie.
Firstly you must order bread. The Woods is one of the restaurants involved in Bourke Street Bakery’s Bread and Butter Project. The initiative provides training and employment opportunities to refugees and asylum seekers. The 12-month paid, TAFE accredited traineeships allow the trainees to not only gain a credential but an opportunity to move into sustainable employment.
The Woods is just one of a handful of Sydney restaurants to feature Moonlight Flat oysters. And these briny little molluscs are mostly allowed to speak for themselves with minimal enhancement from the kitchen. This menu is not only for carnivores, both vegetarians and pescatores are well catered for. Using the scents of different woods the kitchen extracts the best from the exceptional produce.
Standouts? Wood grilled prawns with tahini yoghurt and sesame salt; an inspired combo of calamari, chorizo, white bean and piquillo peppers; caramelised beef short rib, salt bush and apple and the very special olive wood roasted Milly Hill lamb with eggplant & piquillo peppers. Accompaniments? Beans and smoked almond butter, Roast pumpkin, toasted walnuts and midnight moon and delectable roasted kipfler potatoes with smoked crème fraiche.
Desserts include a rich and flavourful bay leaf custard with bitter orange caramel and crostoli and one for the chocoholics – smoked chocolate, caramelised banana and burnt butter. There is also a tart of the day from the wood fired oven.
This is a menu that comes from a restaurateur’s attitude – not a hotel’s. Yes, meat stars, but not at the expense of the excellent seafood. The wine list from the very capable hands of Sydney sommelier Clint Hillery has something for everyone as well as some absolute treasures
So you should go down to the Woods today or tonight – you’re definitely in for a big surprise. http://www.thewoodsrestaurant.com.au