Going forward, I’m going to try and keep small (< 3 courses – entrée) blog posts to under 750 words and larger ones (degs, many-course meals etc) under 1500. Verbosity has always been too strong a suit of mine, so let’s see how this goes…
I can’t say I’ve ever actually been to a restaurant run by an Irish chef before, or even if I did I wouldn’t really have remembered it. Then again, some foods we take for granted actually had Irish origins – bacon and eggs. Yep, that came from the Irish. *mind blown*. But still, it’s not like it has had the same penetration in Sydney cuisine in the same way as fast food, or your corner Asian takeaway joint have enjoyed.
Why is this? I don’t know, and it’s not my business to know. What is the business of head chef Colin Fassnidge (also of the two-hatted Four In Hand Dining Room), and he’s out on a mission to change it all. Bring on the corned beef, the Irish Stew, & oodles and oodles of potatoes. It’s gonna be fun.
Date Visited: 07/10/2012
Address: 414 Bourke Street, Surry Hills 2010
Go-to dish: 12 hour braised lamb shoulder
4Fourteen plays it fairly conservatively when it comes to decor – simple lighting, simple woodwork, simple but functional (and comfortable) tables and chairs. It’s not overtly pompous or fancy – just classic, rustic functionality. It’s a good feel and works quite well with the open bar smack bang in the middle of the restaurant. You can’t escape the alcohol! Considering there’s a glass of wine with each course, that statement should be taken literally. I drove to this dinner (and I’m on P plates)…oops.
Being regaled by live music is always nice. It wasn’t intrusive or distracting. I’m pretty sure this isn’t the norm – just for this Crave event. Without much waiting, we were presented with course numero uno:
Immediately upon first taste I knew that this would be one of my favourite dishes for the night. Sometimes, pure and simple does the trick. Corned beef is something that is easily made once learned, but takes patience and experience to actually get to that stage. My dad for example, still makes some of the best corned beef I’ve ever had, but he’s not consistent with it. Consistency, is key.
The beef is extremely soft and succulent, full of flavour. One of the defining features over corned beef versus other styles of cooking it is that the creamy texture of the beef (since it’s cooked for so long) and the flavours (a very nice umami, creamy even) gets carried through to every part of the portion. This isn’t like steak, where it’s the Maillard crust on the outside and tender on the inside – corned beef is a tender block throughout. Eat it with the curd – love it.
The smoked salmon I basically forgot about – the beef was the real star of the show. It was definitely fresh though, so you know it’ll be good anyway. Having it with the feta brings out more of the fatty flavour from the fish.
A bit weird that it’s served with watermelon – not sure where that fits into it, but it somewhat worked as a palate cleanser.
A potato soup, sure. This one’s cold though. Say what? So I should’ve known that Irish potato soup can be served cold – it was a shock to taste that first spoonful and have my expectations subverted. After the first gulp though, it got REALLY good. Best way to describe it would be that it’s a very creamy potato purée that has an abundance of starchy, milky flavour. It tastes seriously nice and I wanted more of it.
As for the nettle – well that was interesting. First time I’ve actually eaten nettles (I’ve always thought of it to be…inedible). It actually tastes like tough seaweed. I enjoyed chewing through its toughness – but it does give your jaws a workout. Weak jaws need not apply.
The soup’s flavour nicely masks the rawness of the oyster, which is usually served with a vinaigrette/reduction. The oysters were soft, and were a nice texture break from the uniformity of the soup.
Ohhh pig’s tail. I don’t have these often, but each time I have them I always get apprehensive – it’s a pig’s tail! But THEN every time I have it, I’m always impressed by its taste. It’s a crunchy, crispy affair – it’s definitely meant to be cooked with batter.
Black pudding – Boudin Noir is a staple of Irish cuisine, especially in the famous ‘Irish Breakfast’. It’s made out of congealed blood and thickener – and that doesn’t sound very appetising does it? Let me tell you that it tastes fantastic. I’ve had it many times before, and in fact there are Chinese variations as well. It’s not for everyone, but if you can get over the ick-factor, you’ll be rewarded with a full and rich savoury pudding that really doesn’t taste anything like its ingredient sum. The one at 4Fourteen tasted closest to…say a hash brown without the crispy texture. It’s hard to describe actually – just give it a go.
As for the crab, have it with the prosciutto (hello Italian influence!) and the purée and you have a decent, if not outstanding combination of delicious crab and ‘creamy bacon’.
The star of the show, and actually the signature from Four In Hand, is the lamb that is cooked for half a day. Phoooar, and boy does it show. I wish I had taken better pictures, to be honest (this was before my tripod-toting days) as they don’t do the lamb justice. Stewed to a medium-rare, the lamb is absolutely diving. It’s everything lamb was meant to be, and nothing more. Serve with generous amounts of the potato lamb jus, and its the most tender and heavenly lamb experience you could have. Den scoth!
As can be seen, it’s actually three different portions of lamb – but I don’t see the need to go into it. You’ll have your own part that’s your favourite, and they’ll ALL be awesome.
The dish comes with a creamy truffle oil-infused potato mash (unfortunately not pictured) which is actually hands down the best I’ve ever tasted. That buttery texture is just…ah, guilt trips be damned.
A rather unconventional dessert, this ‘paddle pop’ is something special. The apple centre itself is kind of like a toffee apple, and is very sweet and somewhat coarse. The crumble mix is what makes it really good – a sweetened treat in and of itself, it complements the slightly sour component of the apple quite well.
Roll it up with that honeycomb, and it’s a triple sugar hit in one dessert. Brilliant.
That wasn’t going to be the only dessert though! The final course for the night is more traditional. The poached meringue is more or less on par with the quality from Black Star Pastry – very light and fluffy, almost completely air. Feels cheap, but that’s the way it’s meant to be.
The ice cream is quite good, it’s a closer to vanilla than anything else, and is meant to be had with the granita which brings in a sour and crunchy element to the dessert. Sugar and palate cleanser in one. A safe finish to an otherwise interesting menu!
4Fourteen is definitely worth a visit, there are just too few restaurants that serve this kind of cuisine. Make your booking now!
The Good: a strong degustation with almost every dish a winner
The Bad: some elements only cater to specific tastes, plays it a bit safe on the dessert
I give 4Fourteen a grand total of eight and a half Caesars out of ten – 8.5/10