Bird Cow Fish, Rambutan and now Cotton Duck. 2012 has seen some great restaurants close. I don’t dine out as often as I would like, add to that all the new places we’re keen to check out, we don’t seem to get back to restaurants we like often enough. It seems this is commonplace in Sydney and the result is great restaurants closing. I wish I was a Surry Hills local and could just pop down to BCF or CD for a bite to eat whenever I please. But sadly I live 42km from the CBD and therefore dining out is somewhat of a mission. Sad faces and excuses aside, when we found out Cotton Duck was closing we knew we had to book in for one last hurrah. And so it goes…
Rhubarb – homemade rhubarb jam, gin, Aperol and citrus ($18.00).
Arriving early we settled into the bar area for a pre-dinner drink. Cotton Duck has produced some brilliant cocktails the times I have dined there, with ‘The Yellow Bird’ and ‘Rhubarb’ being two of the best. Em and I both started with the Rhubarb – a delicious blend of rhubarb and gin. I could easily have polished off a few of these.
Cotton Duck Pale Ale, Mt Kuringai, NSW ($9.00).
Dylan and Mr O both needed a beer after their long days at work, so went for the Cotton Duck Pale Ale. A light, clean, easy going pale ale. At this point Jared popped out to say hello, and joked with the guys that they’d find the Cotton Duck Pale Ale rebranded as Danks Street Depot Pale Ale in the coming weeks.
‘Really good nuts’ (complimentary).
Thanks to the kitchen for sending us some complimentary nuts. You may just think they’re boring nuts, but these aren’t any old nuts. These are ‘really good nuts’. Really. Walnuts, star anise, chilli flakes and other unidentified spices cooked up and served warm. Oh yes indeed.
Drinks finished we made our way over to our table to get the show on the road. It took a split second to agree on the five course menu “Five courses composed by us (including something not on the menu specifically designed by the kitchen on the day)”, with matching wines, naturally.
Five course menu – $60.00 per person / with matching wines $90.00 per person
We were going to order a round of bubbles to start but it seemed they’d read our minds when the first glass of matching wine was blanc de blancs. The Borambola sparkling from Gundagai is a clean, crisp, minerally wine that we’ve had a few times at Cotton Duck previously and rather enjoyed.
Lettuce gunge – a nod to ‘Fergus Henderson’.
Not having read the menu in all that much detail I hadn’t noticed the starter was called ‘lettuce gunge’. Love the name and loved the dish. Who would have thought that goats curd and lettuce would combine in a marriage made in heaven?! Tart goats curd and crispy iceberg lettuce mixed with parsley and chives. I couldn’t get enough of this stuff. The flat bread was the perfect carrier, simple yet scrumptious. We even got Em eating her greens!
Prawns, storm clams, leek & garum – served with caviar lentils.
Second wine for the night was a 2008 Tertini Riesling from the Southern Highlands. Grassy and citrusy, the crisp white wine was a nice match with the prawns.
Prawns, prawns, prawns. Dylan and I argued over this one as I loved the intensity of the prawn flavour permeating the dish through the fishy garum broth and prawn oil, but Dylan thought it was too prawn-y. We agreed the raw prawn was an unexpected delight in the dish, contrasting against the pan fried prawns. Caviar lentils were cooked well with just the right amount of bite and I could have eaten more of the gorgeously braised leek.
Soft corn polenta – with toasted tilsit and roasted corn.
The sommelier explained that they’ve found the gewurztraminer goes really well with food. Missing the floral sweetness of a normal gewurz and with no length in the finish I found it too dry and abrupt for me.
The first thing we all noticed as the third course arrived, was a strong smelly cheese. We all love cheese so we weren’t put off. As we cut through the polenta and dug in there were smiles all round. Creamy, fluffy polenta with the intense melted tilsit cheese, crunch from the corn kernels and kick from the porcini mushroom soil. Not for the faint hearted, big bold flavours all round.
I do quite like sparkling red, and was rather taken by the 2006 sparkling shiraz we were served to go with the venison. Though I don’t remember what winery the shiraz came from, it went beautifully with the venison.
Served with beetroot puree and beetroot chips I was a little concerned with all the beetroot going on. But the beetroot wasn’t too overpowering so I escaped lightly. Shiraz grapes are not something I have eaten before but I loved their inclusion in this dish. I liked the contrast of textures between the grapes, meat and crunchy beetroot chips. Most of the puree remained on my plate, though the beetroot lovers at my table thoroughly enjoyed it.
Boer goat – braised on the bone with root vegetables and Cotton Duck’s fermented grape juice, served with carrots.
Goat is a meat I have eaten only once or twice. The first time being on my first visit to Cotton Duck. I was really looking forward to the goat and was glad it appeared on our five course menu designed by the kitchen.
The wine match for the goat was 2011 Dandy in the Clos Cabernet Franc/Sauvignon Blanc hailing from the McLaren Vale, South Australia. With currant on the nose the wine was surprisingly light on the palette and went well with the goat.
Similar to my first experience of goat, Cotton Duck marinaded the meat in fermented grape juice to help tenderise it. And boy was it tender. Served with light crunchy snow peas, we devoured this dish in no time at all. The only thing missing was some scrumptious bread to mop up all the juices.
Wild fennel sherbet with sheep’s yoghurt cream.
On to something a little bit sweeter. I was intrigued by this dessert. Chefs either get the use of herbs in desserts completely right or completely wrong. Lucky for us Jared Ingersoll knows what he’s doing and this was an absolute delight. The sheep’s milk yoghurt was creamy and tart, blueberry meringue light and crispy, and the wild fennel sherbet sour and mouth puckering in all the good ways. I hope this follows Jared over to the dinner menu at Danks Street Depot.
Pedro Jimenez has been making quite a few appearances in my drinking experiences of late. I’m still not sure if I am a lover or a hater, but there are definitely some dishes it goes better with than others. Cotton Duck’s plum pie falls in the former. Buttery pastry surrounded plump, juicy sugar plums. The cream poured on top just tied the whole lot together and my only question was why did it have to end?
And then it was game over. The coffee machine was broken (we forgive you, Jared) and I couldn’t handle another drink on a school night. It was time to bid our farewells and say thanks for the memories. See you at Danks Street Depot soon.
Cotton Duck (closed 31.03.12)
50 Holt Street
Surry Hills NSW 2010
(02) 8399 0250
Cotton Duck Website