The menu is driven by fresh seasonal produce from a 150-square metre kitchen garden.
And with a dedicated gardener working with the chefs, it is no wonder beautiful edible flowers and nasturtium leaves, among rosa radish and French tarragon, are gracing the dishes at CHISWICK.
Celebrity chefs need not always cook at expensive Michelin star restaurants.
Jamie Oliver’s 30-minute steak sandwich is teaching us how fresh seasonal ingredients can literally burst with tantalizing flavours on the plate. And Gordon Ramsay’s roast chicken will surely impress the mother-in-law if you stuff it with sautéed chorizo, onion, garlic, thyme, cannellini beans and sun-dried tomatoes with a twist of lemon juice.
Holmbrae duck and foie gras terrine with quince and cashew nut lavosh sounds like a complicated dish. And it is so. It has to be complicated because this dish is served with a jaw-dropping side of the magnificent Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House right in your face at Matt Moran‘s fine dining institution Aria.
But Australia’s very own celebrity chef knows that casual dining will always have a special place in the hearts of those who enjoy the simplicity of fresh seasonal flavours.
And away from fine dining territory around Sydney harbour, Moran’s less formal eatery along Ocean street in Woollahra aims to do just that.
C H I S W I C K
The manicured gardens at the former Pruniers restaurant with its more formal menu has always been one of Sydney’s favourite wedding venues. And that’s because the sprawling lawn soaks up Sydney’s glorious sunshine with its western aspect.
On a beautiful winter afternoon among lush greenery and clear blue skies, getting a dose of vitamin D whilst sipping chilled chardonnay cannot sound more enticing.
And while grown-ups indulge in good food and wine, two charming little girls find their own special place in the sanctuary of a water fountain.
Lighting is subdued in the communal dining room.
Architecturally, CHISWICK combines old world cottage charm with modern sensibility.
While wooden beams run the length of the ceiling, I run my fingers along the gleaming surface of a communal table to appreciate its sheer length.
I am having lunch with the Monk today.
“I’m not supposed to drive” he tells me. “So, you need to give me a ride from the hospital.”
A routine health check ticks all the boxes for him and we celebrate with a couple of Moa Noir Dark Lager from New Zealand.
I have a soft spot for chardonnay and pinot noir from the cool climate of Tasmania’s wine growing regions.
Honey melon, peach and citrusy aromas are swirling in a 2013 Stefano Lubiana ‘Primavera’ Chardonnay with subtle oak undertones though it lacks the luscious buttery mouth feel of an older vintage.
Jim Chatto, a quietly spoken 40-year-old has been hailed by wine luminary James Halliday as one of the most talented winemakers in Australia.
His move to the McWilliams Group last year means he is responsible for arguably Australia’s greatest semillon from the Hunter Valley in New South Wales. Replacing the retiring Phil Ryan, long-serving wine-maker who has created the Mount Pleasant Lovedale Semillon the great wine that it is today, Chatto will have big shoes to fill.
Our 2013 Chatto Pinot Noir comes from his small 1.5 heactares pinot noir vineyard at Galziers Bay in the Huon Valley region of Tasmania where he has built a small house for his wife and two young children. Ripened red berries on the nose, it is gently savoury with elegant oak structure and a lingering finish.
I will gladly pair this style of wine with the sweetness of Chinese BBQ pork char siew or the gamey flavour of Peking duck. But for today, I know this pinot will form a beautiful marriage with the roasted pork belly on CHISWICK’s menu.
Snow crab slider, lettuce, kewpie, gherkins
These days, I commend chefs who come up with seafood sliders over those with the traditional beef pattie. After all, are we not a city that boasts the variety and abundance of some of the freshest seafood in the world?
Snow crab is packed into a crisp, golden brown pattie sandwiched with lettuce leaves, gherkin, kewpie and a sesame brioche. Delectable crab flavours with kewpie mayo is classic but what makes this slider even more special is the buttery and pillowy soft brioche.
Chargrilled calamari, capers guindilla peppers, squid ink
Olive oil and squid ink is a canvass for triangular slices of chargrilled squid, topped with capers and pickled guindilla peppers, edible violas and nasturtium leaves (cover image above).
I sprinkle some black pepper on the squid.
Smoky aromas are beautiful and each slice is soft with gentle acidity from the capers and pickled chilli.
Crispy fried quail, lime, shallot, ginger
Deep fried quail garnished with micro coriander is encased in crispy, golden brown batter with distinctive peppery spice and ginger flavours.
I squeeze lime juice onto the quail and tuck in with fingers, dipping each succulent and juicy Maryland into kewpie.
The vibe of the dining room is lively with eastern suburbs’ high society and ladies who lunch.
Pan roasted whole flounder, pine nuts, kale, pipis
The menu announces that snow peas, broad beans and kale are thriving in the kitchen garden. Herbs in abundance include sage, oregano, rosemary and parsley.
So we find some kale with whole flounder arriving on its underside minus the head. Topped with roasted pine nuts, pipis and micro herbs, the fish is flanked by a slather of raisin and caper puree on each side.
Texture of the fish is firm and flavours are naturally subtle.
A few pinches of salt bring together toasty pine nuts with the sweetness of the raisin and caper puree. The wilted kale is a wonderful cloth in mopping up the rich and buttery sauce.
Roast pork belly, toasted barley, shallot dressing
A sinful slab of golden roast pork belly nestles around micro herbs, toasted barley and shallot dressing.
It’s a good thing Monk and I are sharing entree and mains because this slab of pork belly is so sinfully good.
Sautéed diced shallots give the toasted barley an Asian flavour. The shallot dressing is rather salty although it becomes more subdued when paired with meltingly tender pork belly. The prized crackling bears salty, tasty and best of all the crisp and crunchy remnants of the roast.
And as I expected, savoury notes in our pinot noir does a beautiful job in enhancing the sweetness and toasty flavours of roast pork.
By mid afternoon, the dining room is bathed in the warmth of Sydney’s winter sun.
CHISWICK may be a casual eatery but when dining in pairs, I am with many who feel table setting is far too close for comfort when sandwiched between two other tables.
Come early and you may score a table by the glass doors with a view of the beautiful gardens.
CHISWICK hazelnut rocher
CHISWICK rocher is a block of chocolate mousse topped with crunchy hazelnuts and ice cream.
A cocktail bar sits next to the kitchen and diners can choose to dine at the bar for a quick bite or simply have a casual drink.
Cooking with wine can be really fun if you know how to do it properly.
Flavours are fresh and vibrant at CHISWICK but during these vibrant dining times in Sydney, I believe prices at this casual eatery can and should be more competitive.
Service is attentive and though we felt short of space in the main dining room which was almost to capacity, the large communal table appears totally closed during this busy lunch service. Opening it up could have made the difference in our dining experience.
So dear readers, do you have a favourite casual restaurant in Sydney and if so, what is you favourite dish there?
65 Ocean street,
Woollahra New South Wales
Tel: +61 2 8388 8688
Opening hours: Lunch Monday – Thursday 12pm to 2.30pm Friday – Sunday 12pm to 3pm Dinner Monday to Thursday 6pm to 10pm Friday & Saturday 5.30pm to 10pm Sunday 6pm to 9pm.
CHISWICK has a semi-private area that can hold between 30 – guests. The ‘Collective Menus’ which are designed for sharing, will be available for all private dining bookings.
Please see reservation policy here.