The struggle of aimlessly drifting along mazes supermarkets call “aisles”; struggling to absorb impenetrable food label jargon; eyeing down that seemingly tempting $7.5 for 3 bunch of Asian veg yet refusing to admit that half of it will spoil. And then there’s the act of cooking itself – what a BOTHER. Wouldn’t it be nice to throw caution to the wind, clear your mind, and take yourself to Impromptu Dining where everything’s taken care for you?
Date Last Visited: 15/2/2017
Address: Shop 7 24-30 Springfield Avenue, Potts Point, Sydney, NSW
Highlight Dishes: grilled asparagus w/burrata, peanut butter mousse w/chocolate malt soil & honeycomb
Price Guide (approx): $60pp plus drinks
I was invited to Impromptu Dining courtesy of the restaurant owners. As a result, The Usual Disclaimer applies.
You may not know the head chef & owner Daniel Backhouse, but boasting a CV at the likes of The Bathers’ Pavilion & Berowra Waters Inn means this fine dining-attuned chef is doing some pretty cool things at a non-fine dining price point. Unsurprisingly, the on-trend practice of farm to table and produce-driven dining is apparent – the menu is short, succinct, and transient. However, it doesn’t acknowledge produce sourcing, which would make a bit of sense for this type of restaurant. Personally a non-issue for me, but a value-add nonetheless.
Contemporary wooden side-chairs and semi-polished wooden tables characterise a natural & organic space, sharply contrasted by the monolithic kitchen counter’s dark metal shades. Due to Impromptu Dining’s narrow footprint, the restaurant frontage can be described as “cozy” – it can perhaps accommodate 30 diners, not many more.
On our visit, Impromptu Dining’s menu appeared to be an exhibition of Australian produce with very light-touch Asian influences. On the one hand, it seemed familiar but then again, Daniel’s cooking certainly sports a character unique to him. Let’s dig in.
Tempura warrigals – $6
Even though I’ve only visited once, I’ve already made the executive call that every meal at Impromptu must begin with tempura warrigals. If you google “warrigal”, you’d be forgiven thinking you’re about to be served tempura dingo. In reality, these are warrigal greens, a vegetable that’s a prime candidate for representing Australian edible flora.
The crunch was clean, crisp and the greens deliver a sweetness that’s tinged with an earthy bitterness in aftertaste. Fingers got oily and a small pool of oil accumulated at the bottom of the bowl but surprisingly, there was no unctuousness in the actual leaves themselves – score! These were addictive; I’m glad they don’t come in a bigger serving.
Scorched Western Australian honey bug, lime, brioche toast – $16
In a cruel stroke, the torched WA honey bug comes in the relationship-breaking number of three. Incredibly tender, almost sashimi-like bug riding a soft brioche boat boasted a sweet finish, enhanced by a wholesome & nutty lime curd (though mind you, I didn’t taste the lime in there). Little baubles of finger lime adorned the top of each piece of bug, adding a bit of citrus that the lime curd itself surprisingly lacked.
The honey bug stole the show – I almost completely forgot the fact that there was brioche. Ah, how powerful the mind is at changing our perception of events :’)
I did wish the bug would be torched just a little bit more – the extra smokiness may have been amazing. Nevertheless, we were about to wage war over the third piece but decided to play it civil and just cut it up in half – it’s just not the same.
Grilled asparagus, burrata, bottarga, pangrattato – $22
Trust me, it’s as much of a surprise to me as it is to you that our favourite savoury dish is the grilled asparagus. Sure, the spears were small, but what they lacked in size was made up for with incredible flavour. You know how a good vegetable tastes really like that vegetable? This asparagus really tasted like asparagus. The most asparagus-tasting asparagus is a strange compliment, but I’m sure we’re on the same page. Sweet, earthy, sufficiently charred for maximum flavour, this was the bomb.
Of course, the asparagus had help – plenty of crunchy pangrattato (fancy Italian word for deep fried bread crumbs) gave texture, bottarga added salinity, and chewy, semi-gooey burrata was there simply because it needs to be. Oh boy, do I love burrata.
Duck breast, blood plum, beetroot, buttermilk – $22
Though I knew I was getting the duck breast as one of the mains, it took me a second to find it underneath all that blood plum. Mind you, they weren’t an interference; in fact they were the best part of the dish. I was converted instantly by its intense sweetness that’s unlike any other plum I’ve had.
While the poached plums were excellent, I couldn’t say the same about the duck. The fat between the skin and meat wasn’t adequately rendered, resulting in an oleaginous piece of meat that while tasty, was a bit excessive. The duck meat itself was cooked well, as you can see in the picture.
In terms of garnish, the buttermilk didn’t add much, if any flavour, however I did appreciate the earthiness the beetroot puree brought to the dish.
The duck doesn’t have to go back to the farm, but perhaps a few more minutes on the pan to render out the fat a bit more wouldn’t be a bad idea.
Sirloin, salsa verde, barletta onions – $25
Any similar concerns around the Jacob’s Creek sirloin can be confidently put to rest. The slab of beef was cooked pretty much perfectly; medium leaning towards rare. Grill marks made their presence known visually and on the palate, though perhaps my bias towards a crustier steak left me slightly wanting.
The salsa verde sauce and a dark-coloured condiment not similar to a soy-like demi-glace provided a ton of flavour, but the best member of the supporting cast were the grilled smoky-sweet, juicy & crunchy barletta onions. good things do come in small packages!
Top right: crisp potatoes, smoked golden syrup – $13 (pictured is approx half-size)
We didn’t order it, but the folks at Impromptu also gave us a half-sized version of their crispy potatoes w/smoked golden syrup. These are baked potatoes on steroids with a nutty honey drizzle. It’s not a flavour combination I’ve had before, but it rapidly grew on me. Frankly, the fact that the potatoes themselves sported the most amazing of chewy, buttery crusts would allow them to happily take on any condiment and still be excellent.
I can see why we were given this side dish – we should have ordered it from the get-go.
Basil ice cream, poached rhubarb, crumble – $14
Of the three desserts listed on Impromptu’s menu, I opted for what was seemingly the most refreshing – a “green is good” basil ice cream w/poached rhubarb. You know what made this dessert special? The fact that it wasn’t a sorbet. I love sorbet but it’s over-represented when it comes to herb-based desserts – not this time. I get the full, creamy impact of perfectly-churned ice cream with the fresh & vegetal tinge of basil which, as someone who’s partial to such herbal flavours in sweets, was right up my alley.
The generous helping of poached rhubarb was also particularly memorable, to the point where for awhile I thought I was eating some sort of poached fruit, before snapping back to reality. A perfect balance between sweetness, tenderness and earthiness; a great rhubarb experience – words you don’t often hear.
Top things off with some crunch and I’m beginning to think Impromptu really knows how to end the meal on a sweet note.
Peanut butter mousse, chocolate malt soil, honeycomb – $14
But if you thought the basil ice cream had in the bag, the peanut butter mousse is the thief that commits daylight robbery on the trophy. As someone who wouldn’t hesitate to proclaim his distaste for foams (personally, one of the most pointless inventions of gastronomy), this was a foam that defied expectations. It carried a volume of peanut butter flavour that somehow broke the laws of physics – remember this is foam. There was a density to it that should not have been there, but simply is. Balanced on top are equal parts chewy (though slightly teeth-sticking) crumbed honeycomb, and deliciously crumbly chocolate soil.
Yep, it’s just a bit of froth, honeycomb and dirt. No biggie, right? But it was an amazing dessert, likely to be one of the most memorable ones this year. Ah, it’s only February.
Daniel and the team at Impromptu Dining have pulled off a show that, despite the restaurant’s name, clearly demonstrated a well-planned menu. I could come back here for the desserts alone, and in a twist the tempura warrigals, asparagus and sirloin would be the proverbial icing on the cake.
This post is based on an invitation to Impromptu Dining.
What do you think? Tempted to make an impromptu decision and head over to Impromptu Dining? Let me know how your experience was!
- Totally unpretentious dining with a focus on just making things taste good
- Excellent desserts
- Uh oh, the duck was a bit quack!
- A lack of acknowledgement of produce origin on the menu
Would I return: yes
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.
F7.5 | S(N/A – invite) | A2