The Stoned Crow, Broadway
- Vincent J. Santos
I sometimes miss the simplicity of my university days. As a Macquarie University graduate, I had the benefit of a sprawling campus with luxurious grasslands to sunbathe on during lunch breaks and a beautifully sparkling lake to admire from the rooftop of the student bar over a Thursday afternoon. Staying there for five years, I occasionally wondered what I was missing out on by not attending a “city campus” university, as my high school friends casually spoke of dropping by Broadway, Randwick or Newtown for lunch meet ups and shopping in-between tutorial breaks. Back then, Macquarie Shopping Centre was in sore need of a renovation and the most exciting part of my five years was the completion of the North-West train line so that I could zip to Chatswood during my breaks. In hindsight, it was probably good that I wasn’t situated in such a prime location for distraction as my attention span can be horribly short at the best of times; I doubt I would have completed my degrees to schedule.
The Stoned Crow is the new addition (or distraction) on the Central Broadway strip, expanding from its well-established Crows Nest location to set up a new nest on the other side of the Bridge.The venue is intimate and cosily dim, comprising mostly of tall bar stools and a few comfortable soft sofas for those who prefer to lounge. There’s also a row of bar stools facing the window overlooking the Broadway strip, friendly for anyone who fancies a solo pub meal. The two televisions hung on the ceiling alternate between golf and tennis but the soft unobtrusive music playing I recognise as predominantly Top 40 and some house; tunes that the local clientele would recognise. It’s relaxed, unpretentious and easygoing. I was here for a blogger’s event with my ever-willing plus one Night Owl in tow; with her bartender tastebuds it’s like two birds with one stone really (see what I did there….?) – I get the delight of her company and also the lowdown of her perspective on the drinks for the evening. We both opted to start with the New Jersey Moonshine cocktail – a mixture of Lairds Applejack and Fireball Whisky with bitters and apple.It tasted like apple pie in a drink; refreshing in the first sip, with a slight lingering sourness from the apple juice and bitters, before the whisky and the winter spice warmth of the cinnamon spread across the back of your palate. The food menu at The Stoned Crow offers your usual steak and fries, but they also have smaller tapas-style dishes such as their Homemade Pork and Beef Meatballs, Spicy Chicken Buffalo Wings and 3 Cheese Arancini Balls on offer if you prefer something small to nibble on.
I love the simple pleasures of a good meatball, swathed in a little bath of chunky tomato sauce, as well as the homeliness of a risotto; the perfect winter dish made even better by rolling into balls and frying into little steamingly hot croquettes. The winner for me were the buffalo wings though; messy to eat but that’s the satisfaction – using your fingers and gnawing away at the spicy glaze and flavoursome meat. I would have preferred a blue cheese sauce over the ranch sauce, but ranch is usually a more common crowd-pleaser. We shared a couple of the burgers, being the traditional Cheeseburger and their Grilled Chilli Chicken Burger.The burgers came in beautifully soft, glazed and toasted buns; nothing overly pretentious or hipster – just honest. It was a good size and texture for clamping down between two hands and to fit in-between one’s hungry lips. While the chicken was nicely grilled – still juicy yet lean – and made for a rather “healthy” tasting burger, my favourite was the original cheeseburger with its perfect medium-rare beef mince patty. Our other mains also arrived: the Crispy Peking Duck Pizza, Chicken and Mushroom Pasta, Braised Beef Cheek Open Pie and a bowl of chips. Always chips. I can’t become a vegetarian because I know I will just eat potatoes all day; potatoes cooked in any way are my Achilles heel.
The Crispy Peking Duck Pizza was absolutely delicious – crispy-skinned duck with meat that near melted on the tongue, refreshing slivers of cucumber, a healthy drizzle of hoisin sauce and a light, thin base. I wasn’t so much a fan of the open pie, as I felt that the beef cheek would have been better show-cased in a pot pie fashion with lashings of gravy that you could dig into, rather than lying open on a huge expanse of pastry. The pasta was good, suitably creamy, moreish and perfect for that winter comfort food carb fix.At this point we decided to go for our second cocktail, the Vera Green. While Night Owl and I are both gin appreciators, we were slightly apprehensive of the combination of Beefeater Gin, freshly juiced cucumber, limoncello and aloe vera. Neither of us are particularly great fans of cucumber, and the idea of aloe vera in a drink almost sounded like they were trying to be healthy.
How wrong we were. The Vera Green was a deliciously refreshing, vibrant and surprisingly smooth cocktail; a subtle bite from the limoncello neutralised by the aloe vera, the cucumber juice adding freshness and a slight lingering sweet flavour. This was our palate cleanser before our “sweet treat” and finale of our evening arrived: Triple Chocolate Brownie Swirls, served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.I laughed, as I was sure I had seen something similar – if not identical – to these at another event at a different bar, and our host for the evening confirmed that it was similar, but not quite the same. It was a little miniature scroll of pastry, with a piece of fudgy brownie embedded in the centre, covered with lashings of molten milk chocolate. With a tiny bit of vanilla ice cream on the side to balance it out, it was messy to share but enormously satisfying and a lovely sweet note to end our meal on. Overall – a cute, cosy bar with some crowd-friendly food and a nice variety of classy drinks to keep the local young ladies and gents happy. Wouldn’t hesitate to visit again for a casual dinner next time I’m in the area.