I had bought a voucher for this place almost a year ago from Lime and Tonic (a website selling package experience deals similar to that of TravelZoo or Groupon, but these places have been tried and tested) and all but forgotten about it, pushed to the back of my mind with work and social commitments taking front and centre. But I was cleaning out my inbox a couple of weeks ago and stumbled across it again – and it had been a while since I ate out with The Sister and her (now) hubby, so why not make a night of it? I called up to book a table for three – two to use the voucher of a three course meal each, and one to pay just as normal, and we were booked in for a Wednesday evening.
It was surprisingly hard to find a parking spot around the Crown Street area on a weekday evening, but once we did (a little down Foveaux Street), we trekked it up the hill to the restaurant. You could just see the bright lights of Oxford Street from the front of the tiny, inconspicuous-looking bistro tucked between the inner city terrace houses.
It’s small, warm and inviting inside, yet simply decorated. Black and white tiled floors, white-table clothed tables, tea-light candles and sturdy timber seating with a coffee and drinks bar on the left side of the entrance, which occasionally whirred and steamed as people made their after-dinner coffee orders throughout the evening. I imagine it would be quite nice to come in here and enjoy a glass of wine and a few of the small dishes away from the hustle and bustle of Oxford Street.
One of our friendly waitresses explained the voucher, saying that we were able to choose one item from each course on the menu, with a glass of house wine or beer (or soft drink or coffee, if you’re so inclined). So The Sister’s Hubby and I both went for a glass of warming red with all the chilly evenings we’ve been having recently. I forget what it was called or what vineyard it was from – all I remember is that it was French and was a little heavier on the scale of reds. I had ordered this in anticipation of saving it to go with my dessert.
For entrees we were also invited to select items from the “To whet your appetite” menu, and so I went with the Zucchini flowers stuffed with ricotta and preserved lemon, romesco sauce ($15.50):
Beautifully battered, the ricotta stuffed into the flowers hadn’t been overly-salted, as it often is. It was quite light in flavour but very aromatic when combined with the romesco sauce – a paste made of nuts and roasted red capsicum. It reminded me of the pesto I had once made.
The Sister had ordered Grilled Quail with Moroccan eggplant ragout, chorizo and crisp basil ($16.00):
It had a nice amount of brown-ness on the skin without having over-cooked the little bird. It was still very tender and juicy. It was an interesting combination of ingredients I would not have thought of, but it went together surprisingly well. The Sister’s Hubby passed on entrees, preferring to order sides with his main.
They had both ordered the same main – a Herb-crusted gurnard fillet with fennel puree, black cabbage and mussel cream ($28.00):
Gurnard is a type of perch, having a fairly mild yet sweet flavour with a moderately firm texture. Here, the herb crust on it was not as shell-like as I would have imagined crumbed fish to be, but quite crumbly and flavoursome. The fennel puree was amazing with other flavours on the dish, as with it being puree, you lacked the characteristic crunch of the fennel but were instead left with a creamy, aniseed-flavour mash.
I was head over heels in love with my Grilled pork chop with potato gratin, brussel sprouts and native Salt Bush, anchovy dressing ($30.00).
I’ve never tasted pork like this in my life. Sure, I’ve had plenty of pork belly, but even I occasionally cringe at the fattiness that remains after cooking. This was a perfectly lean, yet still juicy and amazingly flavoursome pork chop – the tender texture almost reminded me of chicken thigh, but leaner. The dressing was perfection and it was my first taste of brussel sprouts – and I loved it. The potato gratin was creamy and well-seasoned, and almost made me lose interest in our two sides: the Duck-fat chat potatoes ($8.00) and the Cauliflower cheese ($8.00).
Would you believe that this was the first time I have had cauliflower cheese? I’ve heard it’s a very common rustic winter dish, but I’ve not tried it for so long for fear of its high calorie count. Ahhh but who cares when it’s just a side size and you’re sharing it with two other people? 😉 For those who don’t know what it is, I’d basically describe it as cauliflower baked in a deliciously cheesy, creamy bechamel sauce. It’s so darn fine! And the duck fat potatoes were good too, of course. But then duck and potatoes on their own were good already- and then more so combined.
Our candle died just after we finished our mains, and the waitress who arrived to clear our dishes noticed immediately and retrieved a still-lit one from a nearby empty table to replace it, saying “everyone always looks so much more flattering by candlelight!” It’s great to have waitstaff that notice these things; because it’s such a small and intimate bistro, they do.
The time came around to dessert. I had read raving reviews of the Chocolate fondant with vanilla bean ice cream and honeycomb ($14.00), and while I’ve made one before it’s always nice when you’ve put in zero effort and you can just appreciate it for what it is. And appreciate it I did…
Of course, you can’t take a photo of a chocolate fondant without doing the moneyshot photo:
I was in seventh heaven. I would have licked my plate if it was publicly acceptable. As it was, my plate was scraped clean for the dishwasher. The Sister’s Hubby was also enamoured with his Spiced apple and rhubarb crumble with vanilla anglaise ($14.00):
He said he can make a pretty good crumble himself at home, but that their crumble topping blew his out of the water. He was also impressed with the consistency and the flavour of the creamy anglaise, pouring it liberally all over his crumble.
The Sister went for a different dessert to the both of us, selecting the cold Mandarin and raspberry Eton mess with coconut praline and mint ($14.00). And the way it was presented when it was arrived was nothing like I had ever seen an Eton mess presented like.
It was basically shards of meringue mixed together with the whipped cream in advance; one would think this would make it incredibly soggy, but because it had been done right before it arrived at the table, the textures were incredible – soft, crunchy, marshmallow-y, light, and creamy. Each of us were thrilled with our desserts and weren’t too willing to share after the initial bite.
All three of us had had one of the best meals that we have had in a while, and The Sister and her hubby said they were very pleasantly surprised at the quality of the food, variety on the menu and manner of plating for the price and that side of town (more known for its hipster joints). It’s exceedingly good value for the flavoursome and prettily-plated food that arrives (I might also point out that it arrives fast – a huge thumbs up!)
I’ll be sure to keep Watts on Crown on the radar for my next special dinner out….xx
Watts on Crown
368 Crown Street,
Sydney NSW 2000
(02) 8068 0461