How far have you ever travelled for a meal? Living 40km north west of the CBD, Dylan and I often travel for food, hunting down the meals and experiences that friends, family and Tweeps tell us we just cannot miss out on. A night out in Surry Hills alone is an 86km round trip. We’ve also travelled to Melbourne specifically for a feast, and next year we’re including a pit stop in Bangkok on our way to a wedding in Phuket to experience David Thompson’s nahm and acclaimed Bo.lan.
Closer to home is a restaurant called Lochiel House. Dylan and I had wanted to dine there for quite some time, but we hadn’t yet got there when we heard owners Tony and Monique were selling. With new owners on board we’d been hearing good things and thought we’d have to get out there – one day! Then we spotted one little tweet and next thing we knew we were locked in.
Lochiel House is situated in Kurrajong Heights, an easy 40 minute drive from our house (or around 1 hour and 15 minutes from the CBD – closer than Terrigal and Wollongong). It’s on the main road, Bells Line of Road, which leads from North Richmond up through Kurrajong Heights and out to Bell in the Blue Mountains.
Wayne Jenkins and Jessica Quagliata are the new owners of Lochiel House. Working with an old friend, Phil Whitmarsh, they have created a restaurant with a laid back feel and British inspired modern menu. Jess welcomed us to the restaurant and we were seated in front a crackling open fireplace which instantly brought a warm and cosy vibe to the room.
As we settled in our first taste arrived – a quirky amuse bouche comprising a glass of tomato consommé and a spoonful of chopped tomato with powdered olive oil. I found it quite tricky to eat the tomato without spilling any, I’m clumsy like that, but boy did it pack a punch. There is something wondrous about ripe, flavoursome tomatoes. The unusual powdered olive oil melted away on the tongue and while the tomato consommé had a strong depth of flavour, I found drinking it a little odd.
Oysters, pickled cucumber, dill, crème fraiche ($4.00 each).
Oysters are one of the very few foods that I don’t fall head over heels for. I know some people simply have to order them wherever they are but I’m not one of those people. But let me tell you, if all oysters were like this I would definitely order them all the time. The stunning Coffin Bay oyster was coupled with my favourite vegetable of all-time, cucumber, and though lightly pickled, the cucumber spaghetti was icy cold and topped off with a dollop of crème fraîche and a sprinkling of dill which is such a classic combination you can’t go wrong. I absolutely adored this oyster.
Gin cured salmon, horseradish, potatoes, lemon ($18.00).
With dishes just coming out of the kitchen, we had no idea what was coming next, and I couldn’t wait to see what Wayne and Phil had planned for us. The entrées came out and it seemed Jess instinctively knew the salmon should be mine and the tartare Dylan’s. The boys cured the salmon in house (and Jess informed us they pretty much do everything in-house). Dollops of tangy lemon and ginger were the perfect finishing for the gin cured salmon, alongside creamy potatoes with hints of horseradish. I really didn’t want to share any of this with Dylan!
Wagyu beef tartare with grilled sourdough ($21.00).
Just as much as I was enjoying the salmon, Dylan was enthralled by the tartare. Although Dylan demolished most of this I have to say I love love love when tartare is presented with accompaniments on the side – perfect for someone who has issues with condiments, like me. Fatty, unctuous wagyu melted away and the anchovies were gorgeous – my favourite pairing with the beef. For Dylan it was the intense salty capers that really sealed the deal, giving the raw beef a nice kick.
Terrine of pig with “piccalilli”, toasted honey & spelt bread ($20.00).
The boys didn’t think we’d had quite enough yet, so before mains they sent out yet another dish for us to try. The terrine of pig was encased in lardo and apple jelly. I was happy just layering lardo on toast while Dylan enjoyed the “piccalilli” sauce and pickled vegetables that balanced the rich, meatiness of the terrine.
Kingfish and braised chicken with potato and fennel ($32.00).
With impressive entrées we were keen to see what the boys could do for mains. Reading us well, Jess served the fish to me and the pork to Dylan. Hidden in a forest of greenery, the Kingfish fillet was succulent and flaky, cooked just to my liking. Behind the greenery were potatoes and tasty chicken nubbins, though I couldn’t quite see the need for the chicken, the Kingfish could more than hold its own.
Nose to tail pork with cauliflower ($38.00).
Their signature dish, the ‘nose to tail pork’ is what Lochiel House is all about. An extremely generous serving of pork belly, slices of pigs head galantine (poached and served cold), crackling, trotter croquette and pig’s tail hash. Accompanied by cauliflower, both pureed and pickled, a splash of jus and some precision piped apple puree. For me it was the trotter croquette that stole the show with a crunchy golden shell and soft, gelatinous centre. Though try as we might we actually failed to finish this dish!
‘Eton Mess’ ($16.00).
Feeling quite full by this stage, I was looking forward to something sweet. The first dessert was the ‘Eton Mess’, a prettily plated arrangement of meringue, cream, strawberry gel, fresh sweet strawberries and a scoop of strawberry ice cream. It’s a classic British dessert and one that seems to be making a comeback of late. It’s light, fresh and a little bit sweet – you can’t go wrong.
You’ve got to love a dessert titled ‘Chocolate’. I was torn between this and the Eton Mess but luckily I got to try both. Made with Zokoko chocolate, the dish was a chocolate tasting plate with chocolate and orange, chocolate and honeycomb, and a stunning chunk of aerated chocolate. While there were many flavours on the plate, it all worked.
A little digestive in the form of a macchiato was in order before we rolled back down the hill. The ‘Lochiel House’ blend is sourced locally from Kurmond and was the perfect way to finish the meal.
It may not be the two hat restaurant that it used to be, but it’s not pretending to be either. Wayne, Jess and Phil are making their own mark and its one worth getting out of the hustle and bustle of the city for. I for one have my eye on the Lochiel “Cream Tea” with some impressive looking scones.
A Food Story dined as guests of Lochiel House.
1259 Bells Line Of Road
Kurrajong Heights NSW 2758
(02) 4567 7754
Lochiel House Website