Any chef within Merivale’s environment is already a name to be talked about amongst Sydney’s food enthusiast circles, that much is for sure. But Ben Greeno resounds louder than most – the man behind the (then) three-hatted Momofuku Seiobo, he is commonly described as one of Australia’s best chefs.
It would be expected that a man of such talent would strive for greater heights with each career change, perhaps one day taking to the world stage. Instead, off he went to Merivale, to work at The Paddington – a pub. Well, that’s a bit of a plot twist.
Date Last Visited: 26/12/2015
Address: 380 Oxford Street,Paddington, Sydney, NSW
Recommended Dish(es): the chiggen
Not that Merivale’s pubs are anything like your average watering hole – they’re classy establishments with a strong attention to food, and as a non-drinker, this is what gets me into one in the first place, but having Ben Greeno in there helps the case along.
As for that particular career change? It may seem a little odd, and perhaps even a “downgrade”. However for Greeno, it’s a chance to oversee an entire restaurant operation. Managerial experience, as it were – a logistical challenge worthy of his command, which is not an opportunity readily meted out at a high-end fine diner.
It’s fairly easy to ascertain the food focus at The Paddington. In fact, there are three items of interest – the rotisserie ovens are all on display at the open kitchen. This centuries-old cooking method makes a resurgence at the pub, to the point where it is undisputably the centrepiece of the entire operation. They can churn out hundreds of chickens a day, with beef, lamb, whole fish options available as well.
That’s half of the menu. Small bites and starters (all to share) comprise the rest. Fortunately, it’s not overcomplicated – spanning a comprehensible one page only, just the way it should be.
Of course, don’t forget that drinks are just as much a part of the experience – The Paddington is cleverly situated at just outside Sydney’s lockout zones, and thus service continues well into the wee hours of the morning. You know, as if the chicken itself weren’t enough incentive to come here.
Let’s get some food, shall we?
There are around 10 or so starters on The Paddington’s menu, but nutellasum & thegirlswhoatetheworld, as well as yours truly all settled with crab on toast. It was a risky bet, as I’ve been pinched all too many times by bland and uninspiring crab dishes. Fortunately, this particular bet paid off – it’s a slathering of sweet and salty, fully legit crab meat on a crispy, buttered sourdough. Greens maintain a freshly verdant feel, but it’s really the sweet crab that does the talking.
On the downside? It a fair bit saltier than it needs to be. There goes two glasses of water!
If I didn’t know any better, I almost thought we ordered a burger when the smoked trout & duck egg w/English muffin was put before us. Oozy, rich duck egg, a pile of sharp, smoky trout and more fresh greens all squeezed between ultra soft muffins makes for a “share plate” that really shouldn’t be shared. Again, a case of over-salting rears its head with the trout, but overall the effect is somewhat mitigated by the bun.
It is truly an effort to share this, and if I had my way, it would all go straight down my incessantly talkative trap. For me, it was actually the muffin that did it – despite not being outstanding in appearance, it’s toasted, pillowy softness is bun heaven. I could just have eaten it by itself with a smidge of butter. Mmm mmm.
From the rotisserie, we have two unapologetically sizable slabs of wagyu beef, seasoned w/mustard and served w/roasted broccoli & greens. I wouldn’t have been able to tell it was rotisserie-roasted from its looks, and certainly I would not have associated the spit with meat so pink, tender and plump. In fact, I was never a fan of rotisserie-cooked meats, because my only recurring experience with them were chooks from the supermarkets, and we all know just how dry a feed they inevitably turn out to be. Not so with the beef – in fact, it’s almost got a sous-vide quality to it, an achievement I honestly have no idea as to how Greeno accomplished.
That said, it seemed like I was the only one eating it, with the girls much more apprehensive. I can understand their hesitation – the meat itself is almost completely lean, and thus doesn’t really deliver much flavour other than what the mustard seeds impart. I wouldn’t go so far to call it bland, but it is no bastion of flavour, that’s for sure. Perhaps ask for a side of gravy, something like…
…the gravy that comes with the rotisserie chicken. Now, the humble chicken is really where The Paddington comes into its own. It’s daring enough to consider charging $38 for a rotisserie bird (whole), it’s another level to call it a drawcard of your establishment.
Don’t get your expectations up too high – The Paddington’s chicken won’t exactly change your life, but it’s certainly multiple leagues beyond your store-bought birds. It is, by default, the best rotisserie chicken I’ve ever had. The key is that the chicken is not dry. It’s juicy, plump and it carries plenty of flavour from a salt brining process. The gravy is quite interesting as well – it’s noticeably full-bodied, as if it were a stock concentrate. A liquid stock cube, as it were. It delivers more than enough flavour to the chicken, use sparingly.
All chicken comes with sides of chips (exactly like McDonald’s, I kid you not), and lettuce (again, really salty for some reason). It’s The Paddington’s happy meal alright!
Is The Paddington worth visiting? Like most places I review, it is definitely worth trying for yourself. For me, a lot of the food was saltier than I expected, but the chicken, while not transformative, does live up to an expectation of “the best rotisserie” chicken. In terms of texture, it is unsurpassed, and while some Portuguese chicken joints have an edge on flavour, The Paddington doesn’t disappoint, per se. If you visit for food, make sure you get “the chiggen”. Whether it’s worth the $38 asking price, versus a $14 bird from Frango’s, is your call.
Oh, and get the crab toast as well. Tchyeah.
This post is based on an independently paid visit to The Paddington
Merivale hype or the next best thing in Paddington? Let me know in the comments below!
- The rotisserie ovens deliver some delicious, delicious chicken
- Very fresh greens are used throughout
- For the drinkers – it’s outside the lockout zone
- Once the novelty of the rotisserie produce wears off, there’s less for foodies to talk about
- Dining at The Paddington makes me crave what Ben Greeno will do next, not what he’s doing right now
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 | S4 | A2