Monday, September 24, 2012

The Morrison: There's oysters in them doors

There was a time when I would only eat oysters cooked Kilpatrick style, with bacon and Worcestershire sauce. These days, with places like The Morrison Bar and Oyster Room opening up in Sydney CBD, I'm glad that I can appreciate oysters au naturale.

Oysters at The Morrison Bar and Oyster Room, George Street, Sydney
Just seven weeks old, The Morrison occupies the former Brooklyn Hotel on a corner of George Street, north CBD. I, for one, am glad Fraser Short (ex Keystone Group) and Sean Connolly (ex Astral) have joined forces to take over the sprawling former pub.

The Morrison from Grosvenor Street
The Morrison takes its cues from New York style oyster bars; the likes of which we don't really have in Sydney - until now. Inviting from the first step in the door, the warm glow of lighting shows off an atmospheric transformed front section with a bar area and some tables.

Out around the back, the space is unrecognisable with plenty of seating laid out round, another bar and a roof that's bound to come off if/when proper spring/summer weather arrives.

Pacific and Sydney rock oysters
We had the pleasure of both Short and Connolly at our table during dinner, explaining the evening's oyster selection. All freshly shucked, we were treated to a variety of Pacific and Sydney rock oysters served with a lemon cheek, grated horseradish or cabernet vinaigrette.

For a tasting like this, Connolly recommended starting with the milder tasting Pacific oysters - first, a gorgeous, rounded Coffin Bay that barely needed a drop of lemon. The larger Pacifics from the Hawkesbury River were ideal with a smidgen of horseradish.

The Sydney rocks were my picks with a heavier mineral flavour, and generally more pow, in the Clyde River and Macleay River specimens - the latter of which I could easily polish off a dozen. And of course, we had Pommery champagne with the oysters - as you must do.

Crab and lettuce tacos, chardonnay vinaigrette, salmon caviar
We moved on to crab tacos, which Connolly playfully called "chick food" as opposed to Sydney's current obsession of "dude food". Carbohydrate free and light as a feather, there's definite appeal in the snow crab legs encased in baby cos lettuce leaves - and not just for the girls.

The chardonnay vinaigrette doesn't take away from the delicate but generous crab while the salty pops of salmon caviar are basically the cherries on top.

Split scampi sashimi style, chilli, extra virgin olive oil and sea salt flakes
Things went from great to better with the arrival of the scampi - which I think is what happiness on a plate looks like.

Split in the shell (sans the blue head goop) and served sashimi style, some even with dark roe attached, the simplicity of the extra virgin olive oil, lime and baby coriander was all that was needed to make these silky, creamy crustaceans shine.

For those who like a decent spice kick, these bird's eye chillies did the trick in a barely manageable fashion.

Crab toast - snow crab, crème fraiche, lemon zest and chive on dark rye
The somewhat retro crab toast also featured snow crab, piled on thick atop dark rye bread with Pepe Saya crème fraiche, lemon zest, chives and other ingredients that made every mouthful zing, or sing with crab.

I have to commend the kitchen's generosity with the seafood - especially the abundant crab - as there's nothing worse than being promised crab and only getting a smidgen of what has to be my favourite seafood variety.

Saltimbocca kingfish tail, with red wine and caper sauce
Main meals were a bit of an event, with our table sharing two of the dishes from the value-conscious 'Communal' portion of the menu. It's fantastic to see the rise of the shared mains trend: for both budgetary reasons, and the act of physically sharing and serving up food.

The kingfish tail - oven baked on the bone - was done saltimbocca style with the entire tail wrapped in prosciutto before cooking. The result was a perfectly seasoned, moist fish with flavours unlike any other I've had before and without any small bones to contend with.

The finishing touch is a red wine and caper sauce that's so refined that licking the plate clean was almost inappropriate.

Free range lamb shoulder, raspberry vinegar, star anise
The hulking hunk of lamb shoulder - or as Connolly calls it, "the new pork belly" - quite glistens in its raspberry vinegar and star anise sauce, and is presented with a protruding serving knife.

Slow cooked over four hours, the meltingly tender meat partners surprisingly well with the sweet, subtly spiced sauce. I reckon it could even serve four people, with sides, or I suppose two or three really, really hungry people.

Divine alongside the lamb were the carrots with parsley, halved lengthways. Cooked to an almost-pulp -"Grandma-style" - I'd forgotten how sweet carrots can be and might have had two entire carrots to myself.

Duck fat chips
Connolly's duck fat chips are just as famous as the chef himself, with good reason. Served in a metal cone, these thin, browned, crisp chips are naughty perfection and understandably popular.

Wedge salad, blue cheese and hen's egg dressing
The wedge salad is a US inspired side featuring a wedge cut from a head iceberg lettuce, drizzled with an egg and caper sauce, with hints of blue cheese. It's an odd looking salad that brings the maligned iceberg lettuce back to its rightful place in the gourmet salad standings, I think.

Lemon and raspberry cheesecake, deconstructed
I was glad to see that we'd be sharing desserts, as the huge shared mains had already gotten to me. The cute deconstructed cheesecake of lemon cheesecake, biscuit crumbs, lemonade jelly and freeze-dried raspberries was the lighter of the two, with its myriad of textures delighting the palate.

Chocolate brownie, malt ice cream and caramel popcorn
But I was sold on the caramel popcorn that garnished the fudgey chocolate brownie and amazing malt ice cream. Rich overall, but not overly so, I thought the chocolate dessert definitely prevailed on this occasion.

Served with dessert was a delightful Brachetto from Bologna, Italy - an unusual sparkling red that was entirely appropriate as a dessert wine and one I know I'll be coming back for.

But so too will I return for the scampi, other seafood mains and starters, the friendly and welcoming ambience - and especially the oysters and champagne. Even if I have to clamber through the doors past queues, I think The Morrison easily has a firm place in the Sydney dining scene.

Food, booze and shoes dined as a guest of The Morrison, with thanks to Agency G.

The Morrison Bar & Oyster Room on Urbanspoon


Christine @ Cooking Crusade said...

Looks like quite the feast! I'm eyeing off that amazing looking lamb and those desserts - especially the brownie with salted popcorn mmmm

gaby @ lateraleating said...

OMG, everything looks SO good. Oysters, crab tacos, those gigantic meaty mains...

Helen (Grab Your Fork) said...

One can never have too many oysters! And that scampi looks amazing too.

Jacq said...

So glad that Sean Connolly is back! The scampi dish and the crab toast look fantastic!

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

I wondered where Sean Connolly would emerge. Love seafood so I know what I would choose!

Vivian - vxdollface said...

Ooh I'm liking many things in this post especially the creme fraiche and snow crab mound! Very keen to check this place out :)

Tina said...

Hi Christine - You mustn't forget the seafood! It is truly divine and not outrageously priced either.

Hi gaby - So much goodness it was very difficult to pick a favourite dish!

Hi Helen - Agreed on the oysters, and scampi too!

Hi Jacq - Scampi was probably my fave, but the crab toast is huge.

Hi Lorraine - All the seafood!

Hi Vivian - Yeah, I can't wait to go again. More oysters and scampi!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...