My pal Daniel went here with a friend who has worked as a chef and said it was worth a try though he was a little worried about the service. I concur with both sentiments. We were here on a Saturday night, four of us, and I’m pleased to report that we were really impressed with the menu and the food.
It really is interesting and special. I like that the menu was quite focused, there’s a small selection of plates to share, appetizers and mains, and I could have tried them all! It feels like the dishes were all delightful in their own ways, with an emphasis on interesting textures and unusual flavours.
The glazed sweet potato with licorice and fig leaf cream was a standout. We loved the combo of licorice and sweet potato. The beef croquette with a seaweed salsa verde was a tasty morsel, and we wanted the recipe for the port and poultry paté with chamomile jelly (an interesting combo). The chef explained later quite how complicated it is to make, so we’ll have to just enjoy it there.
We tried three out of the four of the mains: Slow cooked chicken ballotine on hay cream, pickled onion, shiitake mushroom and Jerez sauce (pictured above, lovely, particularly the texture contrast with the puffed grain). Pan fried Blue eye fish, Apple and fennel puree and lemon myrtle was had by one of our party, who seemed to like it less than the two of us who had the chicken. And our other friend gave a thumbs up to his zucchini and green peas with lots of flowers and parmesan broth, which had less flowers than expected, but he really liked the flavour.
I’m a little worried for chef Roy McVeigh and his lovely wife though. It’s a tough market, our Surry Hills, and I’m wondering how they’ll do surrounded by so many more modest restaurants. It’s very high-end and creative food, with prices to match.
It felt almost as if the casual surroundings of Cleveland Street, and the relaxed decor, were at odds with almost formal quality of the food creations: in a good way, the dishes highlighted above could have been part of a degustation menu served by waiters in designer uniforms.
I have the feeling they might have been short-staffed that night, because the service really didn’t match the heights of the food, it felt distracted (especially when we were trying to get our first drinks!) and though friendly and earnest, a new restaurant really needs a firm hand. We were charmed that Roy came out of the kitchen at the end and gave us his business card. I plan to go back and we wish them all the best.
As I mentioned in the previous posting, I’ve decided these are not ‘reviews’ but entries for a food diary. Check out the profile and reviews from Jugernauts and Not Quite Nigella instead for great photos and fuller descriptions. And do give Dragoncello a try. They deserve your business.