UPDATE: 24 October 2012
As a result of the incident below, I am NEITHER RECOMMENDING NOR ENDORSING Colin Fassnidge or any of his restaurants because I am of the opinion that his attitude and behaviour towards myself and food bloggers in general is myopic, immature and distasteful to say the very least.
On 23 October 2012, I received a tweet message from Colin Fassnidge, chef of 4 Fouteen, to tell me of his dislike for food bloggers after reading this blogpost about the food at his restaurant apparently indicating that I have been unfair in my review during a recent visit.
I always aim to be fair, objective, unbiased and professional in my restaurant reviews. At the same time, this is a personal blog and I do not proclaim to be a food writer or critic of any nature.
I believe this review has been fair and objective, expressing disappointment where food was not so good and the reasons therein but also giving due credit when deserved, even highlighting the image of the signature chargrilled ox tongue and crumbed bone marrow as a “favourite entree” on the right sidebar of my blog (which has since been removed) with the following comment:
“For $16, this entree is a rather unforgettable experience and it’s one of the entrees of the year, for me anyway. Thank goodness we have ordered two portions of this entree to share among the four of us too.”
A subsequent tweet from Colin Fassnidge, in his own words, says:
“well when all you do is refer to terry duracks review in your blog!!!”
The Twitter exchange is set out below and it should be noted that even fellow chef, Darren Templeman, owner and chef of Restaurant Atelier is sensible and courteous to acknowledge a review would necessarily take into account both the positive and negative aspects.
~~~~~~~~ End of UPDATE ~~~~~~~~
“Do they serve steak the way I like it at this restaurant, you know, just a nice, juicy piece of meat without all the fancy pancy stuff that muddles up its flavour?” I ask Mysaucepan.
“Well, if you’re thinking of a 70s style steak house with one meat and two veges on the side, then the answer is no. Hello, we are going to trendy Surry Hills okay!” she replies.
I go online to check out what’s on the menu and after reading it twice, I’m still a little confused. So I thought the best thing to do is to read Terry Durack, chief reviewer of The Sydney Morning Herald’s Good Food Guide to see what he has to say about this restaurant.
“See, I’m not alone, even Terry Durack says the menu is confusing!!” I declare.
“The menu is supposed to give diners some flexibility in ordering different size and portions so they can either eat a main on their own or share like in Asian style dining”, Mysaucepan explains.
“Oh well, maybe I’ll just set my expectations for this dinner to around medium since it’s a newish joint?” I say, still trying to gauge the concept of this restaurant.
“If it’s any comfort, the chef is the Irish guy who started Four in Hand in Paddo to rave reviews” she tells me.
“What’s four in hand? I thought it’s two in hand better than four in bush?”
“Nevermind, anyway, Peta and Chris have eaten at so many good restaurants and being food and wine connoisseurs, I think we will be in good hands” Mysaucepan adds.
So we head to 4 Fourteen located in the heart of Surry Hills at the corner of Bourke and Fitzroy street with fellow food lovers Peta and Chris. It is the latest venture of Irish-born chef Colin Fassnidge, who started Four in Hand in Paddington.
Upon arrival at 8.45pm on a Saturday night (bookings are split into 2 sessions – 6pm and 8.30pm), the restaurant appears to be at its busiest.
The space is huge and the open concept kitchen provides some theatrics for diners and those sitting around for a drink waiting to dine.
Chris orders a Mac Forbes Arneis from the Coldstream region of Yarra Valley in Victoria. Citrusy with grapefruit flavours, this is a nice drop because this dry style can be drunk on its own or with food.
Being a Saturday night, there are diners happy to sit at the bar for a drink or dine around the huge dining area.
Half a dozen Clyde River oysters from Bateman’s Bay in New South Wales’ south coast arrive shucked with their top shells, resting on a bed of pebbles.
“What’s the point of this?” Chris declares as he lifts the top shell of an oyster only to be disappointed with the absence of the brine of salty sea water underneath.
Fresh oysters on display in fish markets around Sydney are rinsed in running water as they are shucked. So I agree with Chris because I am also expecting a lot more briny sea water since these ones are freshly shucked on premises and arrived with their top shells.
The chargrilled ox tongue and crumbed bone marrow is the dish that many have been raving about.
Small golden brown balls of crumbed bone marrow, water cress and radish sit on top of a strip of ox tongue with chargrilled marks.
I put one of these golden brown balls into my mouth. The first bite releases that flavoursome stream of liquid bone marrow that coats the crispy crumbs as I chew. This is definitely another eye-closing moment that would rival the one that comes with melting and tender pork belly.
The thin strip of ox tongue is soft and stringy in texture similar to brisket and the smoky charred aromas tell me that I may not even be eating offal.
As I pop another delicious crumbed marrow ball into my mouth, I couldn’t help but ask, “Who the hell is Colin Fassnidge?”
“That’s why we are here tonight”, Mysaucepan says happily, seeing this dish is receiving the seal of approval from everyone.
For $16, this entree is a rather unforgettable experience and it’s one of the entrees of the year, for me anyway. Thank goodness we have ordered two portions of this entree to share among the four of us too.
“Shall we try the Plexus Shiraz, after all it’s John Duval who made this wine?” Chris asks as he reads from the wine list.
The ex-chief winemaker of legendary Penfolds wines, John Duval, has created some of Australia’s most respected wines over the 29 years that he has been with Penfolds.
“You’re the connoisseur Chris, so we’ll go with what you choose” I say.
This wine is fragrant with spicy aromas while the palate is restrained with a mix of dark berries and oaky undertones.
Before I got here, I read about Chef Fassnidge’s beef brisket, fried bread and pickles online and again, there were rave reviews.
A slab of slow-cooked brisket in its dark stewing sauce is topped with pickled baby carrots, cauliflower, radish and water cress. Presumably the fried bread is there to add a little crunch to the tender meat.
Peas and greens $10, Colcannon $10
A side of peas and greens come with strips of cabbage and the Irish colcannon is a beautiful choice. Creamy mashed potato is folded with some mint and cabbage.
The brisket is tender and strands of meat fall apart from a gentle yield of the knife. I dislike the flavour of licorice and the initial thought of one of my favourite cuts of meat being slow-cooked for hours in licorice was one of skepticism. However, flavours are restrained, yet beautiful. Paired with the peas and colcannon, I felt like I’m in a cosy Irish pub.
“Look, I’ve got my meat and 2 veges in Surry Hills!” I wink at Mysaucepan.
This combination on my plate exceeds expectations. Thankfully we have ordered two portions of this brisket to share.
I happily tuck into my beef brisket momentarily ignoring the roast pork with apple colcannon and picked cabbage while other are tucking into it. I would have been happy with just the brisket and those delicious sides for the rest of the meal.
Chunks of roast pork rump, crackling and whole apple colcannon arrive in a big cast iron pot.
“What with this big cast iron pot?” someone says.
“Terry Durack was right”, I say.
It’s roast pork after all and I think it would have been more impressive if the slow-cooked beef brisket arrived in this pot instead.
As it turns out, the pork is dry and tough will very little roasting jus, if any at all.
“It’s not quite right if I have to really chew on this pork, is it?” I ask.
We all agree this dish is rather disappointing. I would not have minded if we had another serve each of the ox tongue and beef brisket for the same price of this roast pork. Then again, non of us are psychics.
Noise level tonight is loud as in we-are-straining-to-hear-one-another-even-from-across-the-table kind of loud.
The chocolate brownie with malt ice-cream and custard is a delightful combination of elegant sweetness and crunchy texture. The custard tasted more “healthy” than sweet to me.
The bounty is a play on the famous chocolate bar with coconut filling. Roasted coconut flakes and chocolate powder are sprinkled onto chocolate coated ice cream and white chocolate.
If I came back to 4 Fourteen, I know I would order the ox tongue for entree and the beef brisket for mains and perhaps with a side of either the greens or colcannon, or both.
Now who says you can’t get a traditional meat and 2 veges meal in the heart of Surry Hills?
So dear readers, there are so many trendy restaurants in Surry Hills, do you have a favourite restaurant to share with us?
414 Bourke street
Surry Hill, New South Wales
Tel: +61 2 9331 5399
Tuesday – Saturday: Lunch from 12noon, dinner from 6pm
Sunday: Lunch 12noon till 6pm