“Succulent strands of meat appear as I sink my fork into this lamb shoulder”
Known more for expensive boutiques pampering to ladies of leisure in Sydney’s eastern suburbs than good restaurants, the stigma on Double Bay is slowly but surely changing over the last few months.
“I have heard some good things about this place” the Monk tells us. “And none of you pesky food bloggers or anyone else for that matter has written a single word about this restaurant” he adds.
“Well, lets check out the freakin’ joint then” I suggest.
So on a beautiful Saturday afternoon, Mysaucepan and I are here with the Monk for a lazy lunch.
V I N E, Double Bay
We are greeted by an enticing cocktail bar with spirits and aperitifs lined up against a white timber clad wall.
“You must be the best dressed bartender in Sydney” I say to the gentleman in a bright orange necktie behind the bar as I walk into the restarant.
“Thank you sir, my name is Mikee Collins and I am the General Manager here. Welcome to the VINE” he greets us while adding cucumber slices into a couple of Hendricks gin & tonic.
Surviving a 25 metre fall off an apartment building in 2011, Collins has made a come back to the industry with new zeal. His pedigree includes setting up Merivale’s Ash Street Cellar, Alira Moorish Food & Wine Bar and Gazebo Wine Garden.
He has now teamed up with owners Gavin Douchkov and Manny Karson and signed on Drew Bolton as head chef whose resume includes stints at Napa Valley’s French Laundry and Darley’s at Lillianfels in the Blue Mountains.
The dining room is soaked with natural light and cane chairs lend a tropical feel that spills onto a private courtyard where guests mingle.
The elegant setting reminds me of Hotel Centennial yet the casual vibe of this room makes me feel as though I am in the comforts of my own home.
A wooden communal table sitting thirty is a permanent centrepiece and is hosting an entire group for lunch today.
Mysaucepan‘s French Martini is bittersweet with Chambord raspberry liqueur, vodka and pineapple juice.
“No more sauvignon blancs OK!” I declare to Mysaucepan and the Monk. We agree in a heartbeat.
One varietal that all three of us unanimously concur is a citrusy pinot gris on a warm sunny day like this.
Ramato in Italian means copper coloured.
Our 2012 Marco Polo Pinot Grigio is made with skin contact on the grapes producing an alluring copper colour. Flavours of pear, jasmine and apple combine to produce a refreshing and crisp wine with amazing texture and minerality.
This wine is as good as its mark-up from $19.99 per bottle price on many on-line liquor stores.
Roasted bug tails, lime, fregula and spiced white carrot
According to the chef, the roasted bug tails come from the Gulf of Carpentaria off the Northern Territory and Queensland.
The fregula is al dente just as the bug tails are firm and beautifully caramelized.
Bursts of finger lime add citrusy notes while crunchy roasted almonds allure my senses to a rich and velvety seafood broth.
Quail poached in five spice, bone marrow, dried fig, blood orange, witlof
A quail is de-boned and quartered, one half poached the other deep-fried.
Five spice is subtle though I find a little bitterness from the deep-fried portions being slightly overdone. Wedges of blood orange and fig add more sweetness to a deep brown honey and marrow glaze.
Rankin cod, banana prawn, asparagus, galangal scented shrimp bouillon
A few chunks of crisp-skinned cod, banana prawn and asparagus are swimming in a pool of galangal scented shrimp bouillon redolent of a Marseilles-inspired seafood bouillabaisse.
This dish is elegant though for a main, it can be a lot more generous in size.
Slow roast shoulder of white Pyrenees lamb, black olive, roast tomato, spring peas, fondant potato
Blistered truss cherry tomatoes sit on a slow roast Pyrenees lamb shoulder, its skin golden brown from the oven. Chunky pieces of fresh zucchini and spring peas are thrown into the mix with roasted fondant potatoes and black olives.
“How can I forget?” she replies immediately.
“Of course, especially when we needed a doggy bag too. The slow roast lamb shoulder would be my choice since we have Monk‘s help this time.” I request.
“But a slow roast doesn’t fully show the skill of a chef” Mysaucepan and Monk laments.
“Who cares?” I say. “I bet it’s going to be tasty!”
Succulent strands of meat appear as I sink my fork into this lamb shoulder.
Fondant essentially means cooking with stock but I would have preferred these potatoes cooked through a lot more.
Bold pieces of skin-on potato may be rustic with country style wholesomeness but sadly, they are bordering on dry and chalky. Thankfully lamb juices at the bottom of this roasting pot are coming to the rescue.
While our cod fish main is rather puny for $34, the size of this lamb shoulder is far more generous. A few pinches of salt bring out gamey flavours of meat and fat.
From previous experience, doggy bagging our shared lamb rack at Hotel Centennial was a bloody delicious meal the day after. And it’s no different with this lamb shoulder because it brings back wonderful moments from our lunch yesterday.
And it’s a delicious Sunday lunch for me as I write this blog post for you.
So dear readers, are you happy ordering restaurant dishes that are tasty but don’t show much skill from the chef?
2 Short street
Double Bay, New South Wales
Tel: +61 2 9363 0010
Mondays closed. Tuesdays to Wednesdays 3pm – midnight, Thursday to Saturday 12pm to midnight, Sunday 12pm – 10pm (Dining room 12pm – 5pm)
For events and functions, email firstname.lastname@example.org