At first, it may seem somewhat eyebrow-raising that a Surry Hills restaurant called Butter would pair all things fried chicken (and uh, butter) with selling sneakers. However, after much thought, I arrived at an unavoidably delicious truth:
You’re going to need those sneakers for a marathon after an experience at Butter Surry Hills. Heh.
Date Last Visited: 20/2/2016
Address: 6 Hunt Street, Sydney
Recommended Dish(es): something involving fried chicken
Julian Cincotta makes no apologies for the restaurant that now occupies former Mexican/Korean fusion venue Ko and Co. The ex-Rockpool/Nomad chef features butter as an ingredient on, well, pretty much everything. There’s no deception here – you know exactly what you’re in for.
Of course, that is completely fine by me.
The vibe is decidedly clubby with reflectively polished, dark-tiled walls, blue & yello fluoro lights and a constant blasting of high-volume pop carrying the aesthetic. Disco balls and lasers could deploy from the ceiling at night and I wouldn’t be surprised.
That the restaurant sells sneakers, prominently displaying them out front says something. As Butter’s owners put it – “it’s just everything we love”. You can’t just buy them casually though – this is an appointment-only affair. I’m no sneaker-head, but I suspect that they’re not your average kicks. I’m only glad that I rocked up in sneakers myself – join the club, right?
Speaking of “everything we love”, that includes champers as well – spotted the Dom Perignon earlier? Yeah, who said you can’t have your fried chicken and overpriced bubbly at the same time?
My only thought when I looked up at the ceiling was “parents, good luck stopping your kids from looking up”. Saluté to the ballsy plafond.
Now, let’s talk fried chicken – it’s pretty much what you’re here for, as there is not too much else on offer. Well, other than tofu bites – which I suspect would be quite nice as a snack, and as a proverbial bone for vegetarians.
In mathematics, there is a structure called an “uncountable set”, defined as sets that have “too many elements to count”. The set of fried chicken joints in Sydney? Practically uncountable. How’s Butter any different?
To find out, we ordered a lotta chicken – starting with The chicken sandwich. Naturally, with a double patty (was there ever any other option?).
Before frying, all chicken at Butter is brined, and battered in an abundance of buttermilk which seals in moisture and keeps the chicken juicy, whilst remaining flavourful.
The most addictive aspect of the chicken? That absolutely insane level of crunch. It’s probably one of the noisiest pieces of fried chicken you can eat in Sydney (and that’s a great thing). Pretty much gold-plated textural perfection. While my hands got way too oily to take an insides shot by this point, I can also promise that the fillets are juicy all the way through, which is a feat that only the best Korean fried chicken joints can deliver.
However, it’s not all praise. Where the chicken does fall short, in a consequential manner is in the flavour itself. It doesn’t quite deliver. Usually, the batter provides the bulk of it (unless the chicken is marinated in a sauce/basting liquid), but here, only texture is on the cards. In this respect, half the battle is lost.
On the burger itself, the buns are remarkably sturdy, considering how frail-looking they are (though that’s probably because of DOUBLE FILLET), and can cop a huge soaking from the copious amount of umami-rich dashi butter (this is about as much flavour as you’ll get in the burg). Construction is thus quite robust.
The pickles do a great job of cutting through the oil – and boy, is there a great deal of that. It doesn’t excuse the fact that it’s an absolute monster of a grease-trap (probably one of the most unctuous burgers I’ve ever handled), but if that’s a legitimate complaint, you might want to take you and your kicks elsewhere. There’s probably a Sumo Salad close by.
True fried chicken aficionados won’t stop at a burger to showcase the beauty of the bird. Standalone pieces is where it’s at. Butter offers two distinct options – the 3Pac (three pieces), and a rather gargantuan portion known as Size 13s (no prizes for guessing how many pieces).
The coolest part if you get the 13s? They come in a shoebox. Totally didn’t see that coming /s
There is a problem though: while you can order individual pieces of chicken for $4 a pop, there is no “bulk” menu item for anyone who might want between 3 and 13 pieces. Personally, I found I could easily power through 8-9 or so pieces of chicken before becoming satisfied. Thus, 13s would be a bit of a stretch, but I’d have to order at minimum 2-3 lots of the 3pac. My question: can there be no in-between?
Note that for chicken pieces, you can specify levels of spiciness in the form of hot sauce – all the way up to Hot AF. My personal level is one down from that, as it still allows you to, you know, taste the bird. If you’re unsure, ask for the heat to be served on the side – a smart move that we weren’t savvy enough to realise on the day.
As for the chicken itself, it’s all boneless. While the argument can be made that meat on the bone is ultimately tastier (true) and jucier (also true), Butter’s boneless style unquestionably does not compromise on the latter. It’s that same juicy goodness backed by that celestial crunch. On the flavour side? There is work to be done here.
However, this is where the plethora of accompanying condiments comes into play – juicy, crunchy pickles for palate cleansing, three sauces (a sour ranch, a sweet mustard and an aioli), and two cups of crunchy slaw round out the package. The sauces are Butter’s secret weapon, and for me in particular, the sweet mustard is by far the best of the lot – it was only a matter of time before I mopped that stuff up. It was a huge boon for flavour.
After all this chicken, I wanted to wash it down with something smooth. Sure, I could drink water (boring), or some Dom P (don’t have a casual $200-for-one-drink budget), but why do either, when you have soft serve?
You get two flavours of soft serve on any given visit, which regularly rotate. During my stint, we had the option of either peanut butter w/shaved chocolate or Milo w/Milo crack rock. Kill the indecision and immediately get both – that’s the way to success.
The peanut butter soft serve is the more flavoursome of the two, though even then the peanut itself isn’t principally prominent, only present in hints. I had to concentrate to actually detect it, and double-checked the menu to make sure it really was peanut butter. The shaved chocolate on top had almost as much, if not more punch. Texturally, it was surprisingly less creamy than I thought it would be from a place called Butter – let’s just say Aqua S still holds the crown for creamiest soft serve.
The Milo is the more interesting option, due to the “crack rock” – akin to crystalline chunks of Milo – as hard to bite through but yielding a rather satisfying mouthfeel. It’s harder than your usual “ice cream cruch element” and also quite brittle, almost like pop rocks. The soft serve itself is a rather muted affair, not being particularly tasty as the Milo isn’t potent enough, however holds up reasonably well in the creaminess stakes.
The soft serves at Butter were a miss for me, I probably wouldn’t order them again unless the flavours on offer are exceptionally interesting.
Butter is a slick experience – there’s no place else where I can come in, order a shoebox of fried chicken, sip on $200 Dom (in my head), all the while deliberating the merits of whether canvas or leather cleats are the way to go.
For that reason alone, you ought to make a visit and judge for yourself. Don’t forget the kicks, but leave the diet at home.
This post is based on an independent visit to Butter Surry Hills
Feel your arteries clogging up? Let me know how your experience(s) at Butter fared!
- Some of the crunchiest and juiciest chicken you’ll ever have
- It’s a pretty cool concept
- The chicken itself needs a supporting cast to shine in flavour
- It’s not a cheap place as far as fried chicken goes
- It is difficult to say whether Butter can survive off of its novelty in the long term
I have a new scoring system! Read all about it here.
Most important takeaway – three separate scores for food, service and ambiance to give the final score. The new system is not compatible with any score given prior to 11/11/2014.
F6.5 | S3 | A2