Okay, I am honest to admit it – I am a homebody that likes to stay home and cook up all my favourite recipes on a nice weekend.
On the other hand, Mysaucepan is the total opposite. Being a food reviewer for a leading restaurant guide in Sydney, she is more adventurous and loves checking out new cafes, restaurants and whatever else that comes with it.
“Hey, it’s my passion and I have to keep up with food trends” so she reasons.
“Yeah, but I don’t quite fancy ‘play food’ that’s double of what I can pay for ‘real food’ “, I jokingly stir.
So we agree to disagree. After all, food is subjective.
But our dear friend Marcus and best man at our wedding is in town this weekend. Adventurous like Mysaucepan, they conjure up a coup for a dining venue against me.
“We have decided to have lunch at Bloodwood … and it’s in Newtown”, Mysaucepan forewarns with conviction that is not be opposed, knowing the inner west of Sydney is not quite my idea of a place to chill.
My immediate thoughts are not on food.
My mind begin to visualise images of tattoos, nose-rings, eye-rings, lip-rings, tongue-studs and intricate graffiti. As I sip my morning coffee, I picture myself walking among trend-setters wearing jeans so tight I can see their pulse or jeans so ill-designed with a loose bum pouch that will surely hold my entire bag of groceries.
“Oh alright, I’ll do it for Marcus”, I submit.
So the three of us head to Newtown, Sydney’s eclectic and bohemian land of tattoos, body-piercings and all things that’s not quite the conservative and boring old me.
We arrive at twelve noon in an effort to avoid the crowd. I am told Bloodwood is impossible to get into at weekends. There is a no-bookings policy for groups of eight or less so diners must be prepared to rock up and wait for a table if they are busy.
The interior of the restaurant is a melding of industrial and new finishes, with an emphasis of using recycled and reclaimed materials.
The furniture is a mix of cast iron chairs and retro ones that will remind you of the 1960s and 70s.
Despite quite a few hit and misses in the hundreds of restaurants in Newtown, I have somehow set my expectations fairly high today. Maybe it’s because I have read the three owner-chefs at Bloodwood, being Claire van Vuuren, Mitchell Grady and Jo Ward have all worked at famed Sydney fine-diner Claudes at one time or another during their careers. I like the thought of creative talents who are obviously flexible because they have swapped high-end dining to dishing out creative dishes driven by fresh produce.
We settle for drinks before the food. A Montieth’s black beer is a little smoky with flavours of chocolate and coffee. I like this beer because it is not as heavy and bitter as Guinness but definitely not short on flavours.
Sydney has put on the weather for us again and it seems like a perfect afternoon for some cocktails.
Mysaucepan sips on the Bloodwood ice tea, made up of vodka, gin, rum, mescal, Cointreau, apricot brandy and orange topped with Bloodwood’s organic tea syrup. Suprisingly, Marcus ordered a mocktail which is redolent of a sweet lime juice with mint flavours.
A dish of of lamb kibbeh arrives in the form of three wholesome looking sausages garnished with deep-fried continental parsley. The sausages look nicely seared with the grill marks on the outside but they are tender and juicy inside. Bits of spiced almonds and romesco in the sausages offer a crunchy difference.
The dishes are meant to be shared and with this first one, I felt we are in for some exciting flavours.
A grilled cuttlefish salad is tossed with cucumber, herbs, mustard cream and olive oil. I taste sumac too and we are all smiling as we tuck into this beautiful interpretation of a summer salad.
“I like this place already and we haven’t even had our so-called mains yet”, I say. We all agree the food is hitting its mark so far.
Pork and king prawns have an Asian-inspired twist with its spicy sour black bean sauce.
I like the artistry of this dish because it is subtle but elegant. The cross-section pork bits have a slight crunch from being deep-fried while black fungus mushroom, diced shallots and radish cubes provide textural contrast. The flavours remind me of a good chinese mapo-tofu but I doubt even good chinese restaurants can replicate this one.
“I am truly enjoying myself by this stage”, I thought to myself.
A jerusalem artichoke and pecan tart arrives with radish wedges, sugar snaps peas in thick and saucey soy bean butter. This dish proves to be the standout for Mysaucepan and Marcus. The thick and gluggy pecan and artichoke are full of flavour and so cleverly combined. I like the combination of the crunchy sugar snaps and radish with the savoury soy bean butter.
A Jac wagyu beef brisket is tender from the braise and comes with small florets of cauliflower, deep-fried spatzle and diced beans. Again, the combination of ingredients is unexpected but works so well. A spoonful of succulent brisket with diced beans, cauliflower and spatzle isn’t something many chefs would have thought of.
I like the sauce from the braise that is full of flavour and it is a great with the crunchy texture of all the vegetables.
I have monopolised a spoon by this stage and happily slurping up the sauces from our dishes.
The dining room of Bloodwood is divided into a private dining area downstairs, the main dining room and a courtyard in the back to enjoy the outdoors.
Only a restaurant in Newtown can get away with a bare concrete ceiling crawling with bright yellow pipes, reclaimed wooden doors and wiry light bulbs hanging in the open and pass it off as hip and funky.
The portions for all our dishes today are good and I find that it is great value for this quality of food.
I love the style of eating where dishes are shared. This way, we get to sample all the food and I am starting to feel that we really need to come back to this place real soon.
A Bloodwood trifle consists of poor man’s orange, pound cake, port wine jelly, honeycomb anglaise and vanilla bean yoghurt and fresh passionfruit. I am not big on desserts so Mysaucepan and Marcus shared this trifle.
I am more intrigued by the way the chefs have managed to plate all the ingredients without a single smudge on the glass.
There must be at least a hundred restaurants and cafes along the dining strip of King street in Newtown. Thai food is a favourite in this suburb and over the years, we have been to many and some are pretty average and the hit and miss rate can be quite high.
But after our lunch experience today, I have no doubt if there was one restaurant I would choose to return to in Newtown, Bloodwood is definitely the one. Not only that, I am going to bring at least eight friends so that we can dig into the delicious creations of three wonderful and talented Sydney chefs.
416 King street, Newtown
Sydney, New South Wales 2042
Tel: + 61 2 9557 7699
Monday, Wednesday & Thursday: 5pm till late
Friday – Saturday: Midday till late
Sunday: Midday till 10pm
Only for groups of eight people or more. Groups smaller than eight operate in walk in system.
Montieth’s black beer
Suite 2106, Westfield Tower 2
101 Grafton street
Bondi Junction, New South Wales 2022
Tel: + 61 2 838 0600
Clevecourt, 756 Gineroi road,
Bingara, New South Wales 2404
Tel: +61 2 6729 4158