Quite fresh into the Surry Hills scene is Crown Street Assembly. Erez Gordon of Bistro Bruno in Balmain has teamed up with Paul Cooper formerly of O’Connell’s Centenary Hotel in Melbourne [both formerly of The Botanical in Melbourne] to bring us a new restaurant/bar with a French influence. Melbourne’s loss is Sydney’s gain it seems. The pair employed the talents of designer Deborah Grant to turn what used to be Tabou (a French bistro) into a fresh and inviting space.
Lex and I arrived to see Mr O up the front with beer in hand chatting with @foodpunt and @kalatiara. We were greeted by Erez at the door and made our introductions. After a bit of a chat and some beers we were seated at our table and given our menus.
Beyond the gorgeous menu before us we were informed that a side of Wagyu (109kg) from Gundooee Organics had arrived earlier that morning. It had been broken down and looked absolutely marvellous but Paul had not had time to cook it. Instead there was an entrée special of Wagyu Tartare. Sold!
The menu begins with what seems to be typical of the Sydney food scene of late – ‘dude food’ – to put it crudely. But in my view it appeared as far away from the ‘dude food’ connotation as it could be whilst still seeming familiar. Listed under the heading ‘Dumplings’ you will find things like quail, lobster, bone marrow and Wagyu which don’t often make it on a typical dude food menu.
We were all torn as to what to try. The BTS Wagyu Slider stood out to my beef loving heart but I really wanted to try the quail and ginger steamed buns. Lex had her heart set on the quail so it must have been fate that the serving comes with two buns – perfect. Mr O was taken by the lobster and so our choices were made.
Quail and ginger steamed buns, hoi sin sauce ($13.00 for two).
Picking up the house made steamed bun I could instantly feel how light and sticky it was and the aroma of the quail and ginger emanating from inside was intoxicating. Pure quail breast goodness is where it began and it just didn’t stop. The quail neck was more intense, and paired with the hoisin it just sung. Easily the best steamed bun I’ve ever experienced.
Warm lobster roll, aioli ($8.00).
Across the table I could smell the lobster in all its buttery glory, hints of garlic wafting around the place. Mr O wasn’t for sharing but was quite impressed with the roll and only thought that the garlic was a little too big for the delicate lobster, but only just.
Wagyu Tartare served with rocket salsa verde, toasted brioche and petit herbs ($18.00).
Wagyu. Tartare. Oh yes, this is where it is at. The special of the night was decidedly that and maybe a little bit more. From the moment we both tucked in Mr O and I were hooked. We were immersed in a world of beefy goodness that we hoped would never end. Generous chunks of Wagyu were greatly appreciated, not too fine to be indistinguishable from mince, and of course not too large to be uninviting. Impeccably seasoned, the hints of Worcestershire accentuated by the punch of the mustard and shallot cresses was outstanding. The egg yolk was so fresh and bound it all together so wonderfully. Soldiers of toasted brioche were a master stroke, toasty and sweet, I just loved them.
Pan roasted local calamari, chorizo, quinoa, chermoula and roasted peppers ($18.00).
Lex’s choice of entrée was the calamari and chorizo, a combination that has grown on both of us as of late. Getting my first taste I was delighted at how the calamari was cooked, somewhere between perfectly soft and a little too hard, it was so well matched to the texture of the chorizo and went down a treat. Lots of bold flavours with chilli, roasted capsicum and coriander cresses but even in a dish of big and bold flavours the calamari held firm and was able to be the hero.
Slow cooked beef cheek, BBQ ox tongue, roasted carrots and red wine sauce ($29.00).
Now, I’m not sure if I have mentioned this, but I love beef. Naturally I went for a beef main, and while the steaks all sounded awesome the slow cooked beef cheek called to me on this rainy August evening. Wow, the beef cheek was huge, much bigger than I had anticipated and boy did it look good. Dark and intense with only a single piece of greenery to break up the varying tones of roasted goodness.
It was easy to dig in, or really fork in as that is all that was required – a light teasing to pull the meat away. Supple and full on it was exactly what this damp evening required, comfort food at its best. While the carrots and beetroot were sweet and earthy they weren’t enough of a break to the heavy dish and in the end I could not quite finish it. It was great but too much food and in the end I had to give up as I knew there was still a sneaky slider and dessert yet to come.
Crispy skin Aylesbury duck breast, spiced duck pie, glazed eggplant, port sauce ($35.00).
Had Lex not chosen the duck it would have been the only dish that could have taken me away from my beef triple. Two thick and crispy skinned slices of breast took centre stage and delivered in their starring role. Tender and bursting with flavour, I loved the salty skin which cut right through the fattiness. Breast aside, it was the spiced pie that came in and stole the limelight. Spices, dominated by cumin, were in tune with the duck and the pie alone would be enough to convince me to order this next time. Cumin again paired well with the glazed eggplant to leave Lex very pleased with her selection.
Roast suckling pig, celeriac purée, caramelised apple, téte de cochon, beetroot & calvados jus ($36.00).
As much as I love beef Mr O loves pork, so as per the trend he went for the suckling pig. I was lucky enough to try some of the pork belly and my word it was so good. I loved the level of crunch and seasoning, the meat was just pure pork pleasure. I only sampled a tiny bit of the calvados jus and celeriac purée but both were quite impressive. In addition to the pork belly there was the téte de cochon, presented almost as a croquette with a crumbed and fried outer filled with some tender pigs head. Big thumbs up from Mr O on this one.
BTS Wagyu slider ($8.00).
Between our entrées and mains and following a ‘money back guarantee’ from @Le_bon_vivant_ we ordered a pair of the BTS Wagyu Sliders. That is right; I was triple beefing it tonight! Any negativity to the word ‘sliders’ aside, this thing was a treat. So much beef in such a small package. Loved the sweet pickle and just how epically beefy it was. I am going to need to come back, sit up at the bar and down a few of these and some beers very soon! Oh and if you are still wondering… BTS = better than sex.
Poached Pear Tart Tatin, hazelnut and truffle curd, cinnamon ice cream ($14.00).
For once there was no hesitation from any of us when it came to dessert; in fact we ordered desserts straight away with the rest of our meal, something that has NEVER happened before. For me it was the Tart Tatin and what really sealed the deal was the combination of hazelnut and truffle. After our trip to Lowes Mount Truffiere we got hooked on their hazelnut and truffle honey and it is truly a marvellous combination.
My first taste was of the ice cream, I have a real soft spot for cinnamon and it was magical. When I finally got stuck into the pears I knew I made the right choice. Everything just worked so well, this was my sort of dessert that I could eat any day of the week.
Pain Perdu – Spiced pan fried brioche, caramelised banana, candied popcorn ice cream ($15.00).
Bananas have starred in a lot of Lex’s desserts this year, and when I come to think about it other than chocolate, bananas would be the second most common selection ever. It smelt spectacular and tasted even better. I could not get over how good the brioche was, fluffy with a thin crust but it was the caramelised banana and popcorn that really made the dish. Neither were too sweet or overpowering, just masterfully balanced and ridiculously addictive. Smiles all round once again it seemed.
Bittersweet chocolate pudding, stout ice cream, toasted almonds ($16.00).
Stout ice cream and chocolate pudding are two things that were just made to be in Mr O’s belly. I did get a sample and found it a lot lighter and less sweet than expected making for a chocolate dessert I would consider ordering. Reports were all positive on this one as well.
From go to whoa we were all impressed by everything that is Crown Street Assembly. The wait staff, headed up by Erez, were all full of energy and excitement. The fit out looks sensational and the food and produce simply sing. Two weeks in and going at it with such enthusiasm that you can’t help getting caught up in it all. Thanks to the team for such a top night, we will be back soon, very soon!
Crown Street Assembly
527 Crown Street
Surry Hills NSW 2010
(02) 8065 7223
Crown Street Assembly Website