Four In Hand – Worth More Than Eight In the Bush
Yep, immediately you will (and should) be drawn to my post on 4Fourteen; the two are sister restaurants under the management of Colin Fassnidge and Carla Jones. They bring you fantastic modern Irish cuisine that’s quite possibly the best out there, and do so with flair and sophistication that may be quite the surprise!
But really, when it comes down to it, the hatted 4Fourteen, and two-hatted Four In Hand bring great things to Sydney’s already vibrant fine dining landscape. Shall we explore?
Date Visited: 25/11/2012
Address: 105 Sutherland St Paddington, NSW 2021
Go-to dish: spring lamb, 4 ways w/peas, beans & baked tomato
FIH is actually a bar first, restaurant (“dining room”) second. You walk past the bar area to actually reach the restuarant which itself is quite small – seating perhaps only 20 or so people in the downstairs section. Upstairs, private rooms can be booked for 10-15 people (I think). The decor is quite minimal and simple. Wood takes centre stage – comprising the stairs, shelves, mantles, chairs, and probably the tables too.
Other than that though, everything is kept quite simple, and there isn’t much to speak of. Not necessarily bad – functional while keeping it minimalistically classy.
There’s a picture of a squid so long, it’s split into two frames!
Funny how we never actually ended up having squid
What we did have was a 9-course chef’s degustation, prepared by none other than Fassnidge himself (and his team of chefs). Time to dig in and make myself (and you, dear reader) very hungry!
It seems to be a thing for fine dining restaurants to offer either sourdough or rye bread (wholemeal/grain options sometimes) as the dominant bread choices. I don’t mind it, but I can’t help but feel that if more options were on offer that would instantly raise the uniqueness bar.
In any case, FIH’s offer of sourdough was well received, freshly baked and tasting great with the house-made butter. Fatty and oily? Whatever – taste is king!
Oh and by the way, I absolutely love the lighting at FIH – the white tablecloth and the window light-spill from the right (I specifically requested a corner window seat – yeah I take my foodtography seriously) make for amazing natural light. Of course this didn’t last for long as the sun went below the horizon but enjoy it while you can!
First up, we have an amuse bouche of lemon & basil fish soup which tastes kind of like tom yum soup, except with a greater fishiness which is a LOT better than I make it out to be. It’s a great combination of tang and sour, and does an excellent job of priming your appetite.
The smoked eel with maguro sashimi, lemon curd & sea herbs starter is FANTASTIC. The quality of the tuna is superb – this is one of those rare times where the tuna’s taste actually surpasses that of salmon. It is THAT GOOD. Of course, it’s not /just/ the sashimi that’s fantastic, the seasoning (whatever it may be) which is FIH’s replacement for soy sauce. Actually, it’s likely there’s a soy glaze of some sort.
Whatever it is that makes the whole dish work, the fact remains that it does. To splendid effect.
By the way, you can’t ignore the sea herbs and smoked eel – they really do add to this dish in a way that can’t be seen as an afterthought – and actually keeps it from being bland. It’s a really well-thought out dish. I love it.
Ah, well this is familiar – a very, VERY similar dish exists at 4Fourteen. It makes sense considering what we know about management. This version of corned beef is pretty much on par with 4Fourteen’s rendition. It’s remarkable how consistent the two actually are. Feel free to read a review of that dish to gain insight into this one.
But of course, there are differences amongst the similarities – FIH lacks the salmon that 4Fourteen has, but gains the bresaola. Curious choice in pairing beef with cured beef. That thought disappears as you eat it though – it’s delicious. FIH is keeping the ball rolling with first two dishes; keep them coming.
Looks like FIH knows how to do their fish as well. Good cut of Spanish Mackerel that’s fatty; silky and tender to taste, and all combined with a vanilla purée and crunchy vegetables giving texture makes for a scrumptious dish.
The spring chicken with sage dumplings was a bit of a letdown compared to what we’ve had so far. The chicken itself was quite dry and generally blandish in flavour. I can’t be mistaken – as I found the vegetables to actually be more satisfying. Whoa.
As for the sage dumplings, that’s a different story – they were better than the chicken with some nice gooey texture not dissimilar to fish balls you get at an Asian supermarket. They taste much better than that though. I could’ve used a few more of those.
Still, unfortunate the star of the show wasn’t quite up to the performance.
Four ways of cooking lamb at Four In Hand, how about that!
12-hour braised FIH’s signature dish, this is the delicious lamb that made its way to 4Fourteen that one time for the Crave Sydney Food Festival dinner. Read about it more there, but suffice to say – it’s still the best braised lamb out there.
Roasted fatty and heavenly as a result, tender and inviting, this is a gorgeous roast and hits all the spots. The 4-”series” restaurants are serious about their lamb. Dayum.
Boiled I think it’s the neck anyway, the tougher cut of meat here is perfect for this and work very well in the lamb jus.
And…I don’t really know what the 4th method was….
Holy moly, it’s just such a rich lamb dish. Could I wish for a better lamb dish? Perhaps, but I’ll have a hard time imagining what it could be. Perhaps some marinated cutlets from the likes of Sokyo? [Review Pending]
That baked tomato by the way, was such an oddity – I’ve never liked them because I could never establish whether these things wanted to be crispy or wet, and that remains true here too. Wtf, baked tomato bro?
I’m a little surprised that FIH has a cheese platter on offer, but I’m always interested in cheeses even though I’m hardly an expert in them. Only my taste buds can guide me!
The Lavouche provided accompanies all the cheese, and thank goodness too as these are all quite strong.
England Blue - a super strong and heavy cheese and you can tell (it’s the orange one up top). This one I blew my olfactory senses away when I tasted it. Whoa, *drinks water*. But boy, I really did like it because of that. Tasters beware.
Sheep’s Cheese – aged in barrels within temperature-controlled caves, infused with olive oil, this cheese is a bit like cheddar, but less milky and creamy. It’s more firm and…confident in its texture. A great cheese I wouldn’t hesitate to put on my sandwich (below the England Blue)
Spanish Roquefort Mold - the bottom right one, this was extremely weird and somewhat off-putting. Powerful, stings the tongue like electricity, so strong it also tastes like it has almost pure alcohol put into it. I couldn’t really appreciate this one – this is one cheese too far for me.
Chaource Cheese - made in the Champagne region in France, it’s a standard-ish cheese not too unlike the basic stuff. It’s made from cow’s milk.
Powerful platter methinks. Please give me a few more apples. Full ones, thanks.
FIH’s signature dessert, the key as with these kinds of sweets is in the texture. The pumpkin popsicle is a curious creature – it tastes like an icy pop upon initial sampling, but then it begins to gather a sticky sensation, not unlike a honeyed popsicle. It’s different though as it’s not the same flavour – the natural sweetness of pumpkin come through, and you can’t help but take more and more bites. The roasted nut crumble give the texture kick needed for a dessert like this. No problemo!
Only issue with this dessert? Not actually enough sugar – you will find the level of sweetness lacking. Or is it me…?
Well in any case, that ends the meal.
HAHA just kidding, as if a degustation at a 2-hatted restaurant would stoop so low as to just offer you one dessert. This second one is actually better than the first I think, though the first is definitely more unique.
This really provides the flavours I’ve been craving. Where peanuts are involved, caramel is sure to be as well. GOSH IT’S SO DELICIOUS.
This dessert is awesome because there’s so many elements to it – peanut fudge, peanut parfait, peanut crisps…each with its own distinct texture and flavour. Yum yum. This is the kind of dessert that will be way too rich for some of you, and will make the rest of you sick after eating half a kilo of it – and that’s frigging awesome.
Four In Hand keeps the bar raised on an already-impressive 4Fourteen, these restaurants match so well – do go to both, and admire the taste sensations. You will not be disappointed.
As usual, feel free to leave a comment or three
The Good: so many dishes are just delectable. Clean and efficient service
The Bad: subpar chicken and a less-than-impressive signature dish mar the experience slightly
I give Four In Hand a grand total of eight and a half Caesars out of ten – 8.5/10