It’s the perfect day for Sunday lunch in the garden.
Woollahra’s Chiswick Gardens was purchased by the council back in 1939, in a bid to secure additional park and playing area within the community. At the time it was described as “An island area of beautiful level garden and lawn” and it remains that today – a beautiful green oasis in the heart of Sydney and the home of Matt Moran and Peter Sullivan’s new neighbourhood restaurant and kitchen garden, Chiswick.
Much of the mid-nineteenth century English style stable building remains, lovingly restored by Humphrey and Edwards Architects. The bar boasts a heavy exposed beam ceiling, floating wooden floor and zinc topped high table that stretches the length of the bar (love the old lobster pot-come-feature light up one end). The main dining area is bright and airy with polished concrete floors, antique woven rugs, white bentwood chairs – and today, the heritage widows and doors are pulled right back to let the outside in… step one foot out and you’d been on the lush green, perfectly manicured lawn. Chiswick is “A local place, where you can drop in for a quick bite or a drink at the bar, a special celebration with close friends or Sunday lunch with the family”. And today it’s filled with everyone doing just that… friends, couples, families and lots of familiar faces; Chefs Neil Perry and Rob Marchetti are here, Barry Humphries is here and I’m here with B2B.
Today I ask to sit at the bar by the window, so I can drool at the view over beds of leafy greens, purple basil, rosa radishes, snow peas and cherry tomatoes. Fake white butterflies dance around the lemon balm and lavender and I think if I look hard enough I might see Mr McGregor chasing Peter Rabbit past the watering cans.The heart of Chiswick is the 150 square metre garden that indulges Matt’s passion for fresh produce that’s honestly sourced and grown. He says, “Everybody wants to know where there food comes from these days - it’s the way of the future.
“The garden is accessible and experimental – there’s nothing better than going out to pick fresh strawberries and tomatoes and designing our menu around what we’re harvesting.” And I have to agree, it’s lovely looking out through the heritage windows and seeing whats growing in the ground is also on my plate.
Even the menus and wine list features close up black and white images of Kangaroo paw, ferns, agapanthas, parsley, thyme and rosemary – all plants and herbs from the grounds of Chiswick Gardens.
It is fair to say Matt Moran does make up my top 3 foodie crushes (along with Heston Blumenthal and Anthony Bourdain). I was fortunate enough to work with him in 2008, during his second foray into TV, on two series of The Chopping Block. It was a dream job spending days in failing restaurant kitchens all over Sydney while Matt attempted to turn their business around, imparting his pearls of foodie wisdom – and I sucked it all up like a sponge.The new Ellis Faas fuscia lips I’m trialing are staining the delightful glass of Italian Girlan Pinot Bianco ’10, Alto Adige ($11/$53) that we’re drinking with our entrée of Salt cured tuna, cucumber, coriander, seaweed, sesame ($20) and Pulled veal tortellini, broad beans, cornichons, shiso ($20).The tuna arrives served on an iridescent pale pink slab of Himalayan sea salt – we’re instructed to slide the tuna across the slab to get the saltiness… beautiful with the crunchy cucumber, seaweed and wasabi avocado.I can’t stop looking at the pretty tortellini. Translucent pasta parcels filled with pulled veal are hidden amongst broad beans and a ‘gribiche’ style sauce of pickles, vinegar, fresh herbs and egg (kind of like a tartare sauce but without the mayo) and baby nasturtium leaves… I can see a pot of them growing out of an old birdbath up the back of the garden.Matt sends over a Veal Slider “vitello tonnato” ($8) for us to share – a gorgeous little milk bun with veal pattie, slow roasted tomato and creamy, mayo-like sauce flavoured with anchovy… Heaven on a bun (yes, Heaven has an anchovy). Next is a Salad of baby cos, crushed hazelnuts, pomegranate ($13) and a glass of French Le Rose du Vallon ‘10, Cortes de Provence ($13/$63) that B2B says reminds her of Turkish Delight, to go with our Fish and prawn pie ($58).Look at that happy little pie bird… I would be singing too if I was being swallowed by a fluffy golden pillow of pastry.Tucking in to serve B2B a piece of the pie, the sauce bubbles up the sides and I’m faced with juicy chunks of snapper and parwns, soft and sweet onions, fennel and dill. It’s light but hearty and although I was warned of its size (designed to share between 3 people) I manage to get through a good three quarters of it.Unbelievably I still have room for dessert (it is a separate stomach after all) and I’ve been eyeing off the Baked meringue, yuzu, granny smith apples ($15) that keeps coming out from the kitchen.
We break in to the meringue igloo to find a creamy yuzu (Japanese citrus fruit) filling… perfectly tart and sweet with the refreshing green apple sorbet. With this we’re drinking a little sweet wine; Bloodwood ‘Silk Purse’ reisling ’11 from Orange ($14/$49).
B2B says she needs a turn around the garden before attempting to drive home… and it’s the perfect day for it.
This time we’re seated in the dining room by the window with a smattering of gardenia’s in full bloom within arms reach (I’ll admit the thought to pinch one did cross my mind) and in minutes the place is packed.It’s another gorgeous day and Shetland and BC have ordered us a jug of pimms to celebrate the sunshine. We’re just minutes from Sydney city but I can’t see any cars and all I can hear is the faint trickle of water from the fountain outside. Bliss.To start we share the Sliced kingfish, breakfast radish, lemon aioli, parsley ($19) and Char grilled scallops, artichokes, burnt butter, tarragon ($20).
Our kingfish is simple and refreshing and I know the radishes have been freshlyunearthed from their garden; ”We pulled out 650 baby radishes today” Matt boasted to us earlier. The scallops are insanely good – silky scallops with just a hint of char on a delicious bed of warm artichoke puree… BC threatens to lick the bowl.
I’ve been dying to try the Wood roasted Moran family lamb, chick peas, mint ($59) – you need a few people to share it – straight from Matt’s farm, ‘Green Hills’ in the central tablelands, it’s been slow roasting for 3 hours. Along with the Crab and pea risotto ($30) and some greens, Steamed broccolini with garlic and chilli ($10) for good measure.Our shoulder of lamb arrives looking mighty impressive and as we discuss the best way to tackle it the meat practically falls off the bone in front of our eyes… Amazing. I love the cheesy bitey risotto dotted with bright green peas, a scattering of snow pea tendrils and pearly white crab – I’d be very happy with a plate of this all to myself. Dessert is a done deal with the Caramelia éclair, almonds, sugar plums ($15) – the chocolate caramel éclair that Matt affectionally claims is named after his daughter, Amelia – was the sweet hit at the opening last week.
It’s pistols at dawn when it arrives – Shetland is the first spoon in and in-between bites says, “It’s like with every mouthful, I fall in love all over again”. The lovely light choux pastry log is topped with an almond crumble and filled with a chocolate caramel mousse… words can’t describe how good it is, you just have to watch the faces of diners around us as they take their first bite. This has to be a signature…Coffee and tea are served with Chiswick after dinner mints, which I love. ‘After Eights’ were always present at my parents 80s dinner parties and I remember trying to convince mum to open them for us before their guests arrived, or at least ensure there were some leftover for me the next day. Today they’ve been revived, looking like miniature blocks of chocolate, delivered on an antique plate (to match the antique spoon for my coffee). Cute.
I do need to give an honourable mention to the Crisp butter milk chicken, cabbage, harissa, mayonnaise ($20) that I sampled at the launch last week… because now I have cravings for it.
Now to come back and work my way through the rest of the menu… Can’t wait.
Chiswick - 65 Ocean Street, Woollahra NSW 2025 – 02 8388 8688