I’m a person who has not traveled much, but has traveled enough to know that I want to explore more of the world. At the quarter-life age of 25, I have only been to parts of Malaysia, Singapore, Paris, Amsterdam, Cologne, Belgium, Osaka, Kobe, Kyoto, and of course, Taiwan. It has only been recently, perhaps a month or so around my 25th birthday, that I suddenly had a near uncontrollable desire to experience somewhere new. At the end of last year, I almost did a last minute – booking a flight to Singapore to arrive days within New Year’s Eve so I would spend that evening in a completely foreign city; that last second where time almost stands still.
A couple of my friends say that my recent desire to travel signals restlessness. The cliché that if you do not want to be grounded and settled, then you must be looking for something. I don’t necessarily think that is true; I have not met a single person with zero desire to travel and see the world at all. I have quite a few Facebook friends who have scattered themselves over the world for the last year or so; knowing that now is the ripe age to take advantage. You have the time and energy while you’re young; make the most of it. I have a broad list of a few places I want to go, to see, to do. Here are three from my list:
1. Visit the blinding white town of Santorini on the island of Thira, southeast of the Greek mainland. I loved Ancient History in high school and one of my substitute teachers was a grizzled old gent who was obsessed with the town; I think he had his honeymoon there, which would explain that glazed-over look he got in his eye when he talked about it 😉 Watered down red wine, olive oil, bread and balmy nights. One of my best friends Blondie and I have made a pact that we will travel there together at some point in our lifetime, even if we’re grey old grandmas.
2. Do La Tomatina in Bunol, Spain. Because a tomato-throwing festival. Makes sense for a foodie, no? I love tomatoes. I’m not sure how I’d feel about one in my eye though.
3. Visit the Galapagos Islands. I’m not obsessed, but I do love natural history and my favourite part in Biology was learning about Darwin’s theory of natural selection. I love birds in particular, and would love to see a proper Galapagos Albatross one day.
Funnily enough, America didn’t really come onto my list as a place I wanted to visit…until my sister visited with her then-fiance, now husband, told me about the food. And all the food. Oh, the food. How cheap it was, how often they were eating lobster, how more complimentary freshly baked sourdough rolls were brought out as soon as you finished your bread basket. I now want to visit the States…solely to do a gastronomy tour.
But until I’ve adequately scraped together a couple of thousand to pay for that plane ticket, I may as well see what America can bring over here.. 😉
Bowery Lane is a relatively new addition to the Sydney CBD on the office-lined O’Connell Street, obviously predominantly catering to suits. Grey, dark and moody with a masculine feel, it channels Manhattan-chic and class. There are a few long tables for communal dining and office groups, tables for small groups past the kitchen towards the back, and intimate leather-cushioned booths for two – cosy and small enough that you will probably have your knees entwined.
I was invited to dinner to sample some of Bowery Lane’s menu offerings. I arrived a little early to have a little wander around the restaurant. I always love watching bartenders do their work when it’s a little quieter. I enjoyed a Wall Street ($17): bulleit rye whiskey stirred with sweet vermouth, dry vermouth and Aztec chocolate bitters.
The kitchen also runs rather quietly. I breezed past and saw this amazing-looking burger just being plated up for service.
But I was getting ahead of myself. We started the evening with introductions and began the Deluxe Set Menu ($65 per person or $100 per person with matching wines) with Artesian Sourdough, Pepe Saya Butter and sea salt, Marinated Mt Zero Olives, Orange, Chilli and Bay.
Noone is going to turn their nose up at Pepe Saya butter, least of all a food blogger. We smear the butter generously on our neatly cut triangles of soft sourdough, interspersed with nutty grains and seeds. Break up the softness with the pliable, salty, moresome flesh of a ripe olive. Give me a warm summer’s evening, these ingredients and a glass of wine and I’m a happy girl.
But we’re only starting..the Chargrilled lamb ribs with chimi churri and rocket arrive, along with the Manchego croquettes with smoked chilli aioli.
The ribs were tender, the flesh cleanly sliding off the bone, but we were all only had eyes for those croquettes. Golden and crispy-crumbed, melt-in-the-mouth potato mash inside with that rich, creamy flavour and texture that only manchego has. Made all the more delicious with the subtle smokiness and tang of the chilli aioli.
But these weren’t even our entrees. Our entrees began with the La Stella Burrata, Candied Olive, Petite Radish, Confit Tomato, Torn Ciabatta.
Like Tuscany in a big plate. There are few things finer in life that the combination of milky mozzarella, fresh tomato and torn basil. It’s a perfectly refreshing salad, and the candied olives add an intriguing sweetness to the otherwise simple dish. Pop a candied olive by itself and the taste is a little strange – like a salty sweet -but had in the salad, it’s really quite good.
We were super keen for the Master Kobe Wagyu, 9+ inside skirt, chermula, lemon. Because wagyu. And KOBE.
It was a deliciously tender, marbled, smoky, glorious piece of meat. But what ruined it for me was the amount of olive oil drizzled all over the steak. Already a very rich protein with the high amount of marbling, the extra olive oil on top made the meat taste, well, oily. A very good steak can be eaten rare, and with very little accompaniment.
For me, the star out of the entrees was the House-smoked Hickory Salmon, puffed wild rice, bottarga salad burnet.
Thickly cut, the meaty chunks of salmon were strongly fragrant with nutty smoke, emphasised with the snap and crackle of the accompanying puffed wild rice. Rich and smooth without feeling greasy or fatty, the smokiness effectively cutting through.
It was decided that we would take a break from the deluxe set menu…and try two of the house-specialty burgers. The Tempura Soft Shell Crab Burger with Asian Slaw and Miso Mayonnaise, and the New York Cheeseburger with wagyu, bois bourdan, monterey jack, tomato, cos, caramelised onion and fries. The waitresses started bringing in the burgers, two at a time, and all we could do was sit and gape for a few minutes before scrambling for our cameras and phones. Even the tables around us were taking photographs!
Have you ever seen such a sight…? But we all kept in mind that the burgers would be rapidly cooling down, so after the photos were done we dug in. There was enough for a burger each…or for one to try a half of both the crab and cheeseburger.
I had the crab burger first, as I had been eyeing it up at service earlier on in the evening. There was a generous amount of soft shell crab battered and stuffed into the brioche bun, sweet and moreish, the slaw adding a refreshing crunch to the fried batter. The bowl of miso mayonnaise beside it was a little difficult to work with. Do you take the lid of the burger off first and spoon it over? Dab it onto the burger in-between bites? Tear off legs of the crab and dip it in the sauce?
Many of the bloggers were speechless over the cheeseburger, with its deliciously medium-rare wagyu mince patty and the tangy melted jack cheese.
I was already pushing full at this point and I groaned inwardly when the “mains” started to arrive after our burger demolition. Huge platters of roast meats for sharing and pulling apart, with accompanying vegetable dishes.
The Slow-cooked Lamb Shoulder, with lemon garlic dressing and watercress had been cooked for goodness-knows-how-long. It fell off the bone almost in a careless manner, so simply flavoured with lemon and garlic but such a beautiful piece of meat.
The Pork Collar and Scratchings, apple, parsley and fennel salad, spiced pear chutney was similarly tender but more sweet and had more delicate flavours with the apple and fennel. The crackling had a good initial crunch to it with the first bite, but then stuck to the roof of your mouth in a rather strange way.
The Whole BBQ Organic Chicken, lentils and grains with smoked yoghurt was one of the tastiest chicken dishes I’ve had out. It tasted so wholesome and healthy as well, presented so beautifully on a long wooden board, neatly chopped into portions. The meat was succulent with a gorgeous lightly charred glaze on it.
There were a few accompanying sides, being the Roast Pumpkin, balsamic, crisp oregano, Parmesan, a very green Baby Cos, Peas, Beans, Mint, and the curious Burnt Carrot, sesame and tahini.
I quietly asked one of the waitresses if we could have some takeaway boxes for the table. I could see everyone struggling with the vast amount of rich food coming out and it pained me to see such beautiful wholesome produce go to waste. And what better lunch boxes to pack than leftover shredded flavoursome meats and vegetables, added with some brown rice for an office desk lunch the next day?
Time had finally rolled around to dessert. We were told to select a dessert each off the dessert menu. I thought I might very well sink onto the floor and roll over at this stage; breathing was becoming more than a little difficult in my tight work pencil skirt. Rookie error. But I conspired with the girls around me and we agreed to each select a different dessert off the menu so that we would be able to just have a bite of all of them; none of us could stomach a whole one to ourselves.
The Jar of Cookies and Cream ($13) with honeycomb, vanilla and dark chocolate had us stupefied for a few minutes when it arrived, wondering whether it was in fact one of the other desserts. But cookies and cream it was, presented beautifully and delicately in a glass jar, adorned with fresh berries and micro herbs. Not quite cookies and cream as I know it, but refreshing and quite light on the palate and flavours.
The Strawberry Shortcake ($13) with vanilla bean ice cream and macerated berries was presented in a deconstructed manner. I can’t say I was expecting the hard pieces of meringue to come with it. Out of the desserts, I think this was the more disappointing one as it didn’t seem as if the elements were adequately tied together in the way a true strawberry shortcake is. I probably would have preferred an old-fashioned take on it over the contemporary.
The most richest-flavoured dessert was the Ice Cream Sandwich ($13), with gingerbread and hot chocolate poached pear, candied pecans. It was gingerbread ice cream sandwiched between two pieces of gingerbread cake, accompanied by half of a very strongly spiced and stewed pear. While the tastiest dessert out of the three, this was overwhelmingly a winter dessert and starkly different from the rest of the menu. I have to admit I was rather disappointed by the desserts, but then again I do dabble around a lot with sweets and pastry in my own kitchen, so I have somewhat of a ridiculously high standard.
Overall, an epic dinner and one of the most memorable dining experiences I have had as a food blogger. Bowery Lane certainly has its inner-city chic charm. I don’t think I’ll be coming back very soon to have the lavish deluxe set menu again, (after how full I still felt the next morning after this dinner!), but I’ll definitely return for a good burger and that beautiful, fragrant salmon entree.
Shop 1, Level 4
1 O’Connell Street
Sydney NSW 2000
(02) 9252 8017