Monday, December 17, 2012

If you go down to The Woods today...

You're sure of a big surprise if you go to the Four Seasons Hotel Sydney expecting to find your regular hotel restaurant (or indeed, the now closed Kables).

Following the September opening of Grain bar adjoining the hotel lobby, The Woods bar and restaurant opened to similar fanfare earlier this month.

The wood-fired oven at The Woods, Four Seasons Hotel Sydney, George Street
Located on the ground floor, The Woods is a newer generation of a hotel restaurant that is its own entity and can stand on its own feet, serving lunch on weekdays and dinner six nights a week, in addition to the hotel's buffet breakfast daily.

It's helmed by Bar H's Hamish Ingham as executive chef and Rebecca Lines in front of house, with Joshua Niland as restaurant chef.

Main kitchen
The spotlight at The Woods is firmly on wood-fired cooking of local produce and artisan products. Peer into the centrally-located open kitchen of marble and stainless steel to see the wood-fired oven and grill, which are currently cooking with Australian mallee, apple and olive woods.

Cold kitchen
The roast and grill focus is a much-needed and overdue move away from menus dominated by deep frying or butter and cream. The evidence is in the array of appealing and unique dishes on the menu which is split into appetisers, entrees and mains.

The Woods bar has a much smaller menu which takes grabs from the restaurant's menu - which is also available in its entirety for those seated at the bar.

Dining space and herb wall display (right)
It wouldn't have been easy for the kitchen on its fourth night of dinner service as all of Sydney's top restaurant critics were also dining on the night, in addition to the media contingent that I joined.

Iggy's bread and our butter
We started with big, soft slices of Iggy's white sourdough bread and The Woods' own creamy, salted butter with an Italian white wine under the Babo label.

Plans are that The Woods will also bake its own bread in due course, in the wood-fired oven, of course.

Live scallops, summer purslane and citrus
The freshly-shucked scallops were the first of the shared appetisers, served in their shells and natural juices with a sprig of purslane. They had a briney flavour I've not come across before in scallops, countered with a sweet citrus addition.

Salad of cucumbers, grilled sea urchin and yoghurt
The gorgeously plated cucumbers and sea urchin wasn't a dish I would have ordered myself, but it was a stunning showcase of vegetable and the sea.

The lightly grilled treatment of the sea urchin roe gave it a sweetness on top of its natural creaminess, and paired perfectly with the pickled cucumber, while there were also raw and grilled cucumbers partnered with natural yoghurt.

Ash seasoned ocean trout, smoked trout roe and parsley salad
The bright-hued ocean trout was a crowd pleaser and ideal for sharing. Served with a fresh, green salad of parsley, the slices of raw trout and firm-textured, smoked roe were designed to be eaten atop toasted bread that reminded me of the steamed brioche at Grain.

Whole wood roasted crab, local garlic and pepper berry - for two
To the mains, I found it difficult to resist items from the wood fire, especially the whole wood-roasted crab.

Shared between two, the blue swimmer crabs were spiced sensationally with garlic and pepper berry, making the shells worth every bit of sucking effort.

I could have easily devoured the two crustaceans, so this is definitely a shared main dish that requires sides like the lightly dressed upside down lettuce and shoestring fries that our table shared.

Crisp skin wild fish fillet, giant snow peas and wood grilled fennel
The mains all looked quite delectable down our end of the table, including the grilled fish fillet; olive wood roasted Milly Hill lamb saddle, celtuce and sorrel; and aged Coorong sirloin on the bone with black garlic butter.

The Woods tart with ice cream
There were plenty of tempters on the separate dessert menu, and even a wood-roasted item which created some serious dish envy.

The Woods tart, which I think changes filling regularly, was a flaky pastry construction of plum and thyme, served with vanilla bean ice cream.

Janei goat's curd, mulberries and sugar cane
I was particularly pleased with the hotel's general manager Vincent Hoogewijs' dessert recommendation of the Janei goat's curd, served as a lightly formed ball with fresh mulberries and sugar cane in a powdered manner.

The berries were perfectly ripe and sweet, creating an absolute taste sensation with the creamy goat's curd. The simple combination of ingredients made for a stunning and unique dessert that has to be one of my favourites this year.

Chocolate swiss roll, grilled cherries and sesame
The chocolate swiss roll looked lust-worthy and certainly on the heavier side of dessert options, with more chocolate filling than actual sponge cake.

Semi private dining area
The restaurant fitout by Michael McCann's Dreamtime Design Australia creates a comfortable and even homely ambience, where lingering over dessert feels like the right thing to do.

The main dining space is split level and there's a hefty space designed as a semi private dining room, ideal for functions.

Dining space
Also take a moment to look up from your plate when dining at The Woods to the ceiling, which is covered in hand-drawn sketches of wood, produce, recipes and a letter even - like a peek into chef Ingham's mind.

There's lots to see and try when you go down to The Woods, and now forewarned, you won't be surprised when you don't find teddy bears or a stale hotel restaurant.

Food, booze and shoes dined as a guest of The Woods, with thanks to Four Seasons Hotel Sydney and RF Media.

The Woods (at Four Seasons) on Urbanspoon


Tina @ bitemeshowme said...

That main kitchen looks just incredible. The sound of that crab makes my mouth water. Such simple flavours but you can tell it's going to be good, especially at a place like this.

john@heneedsfood said...

What a gorgeous fit out! Hotel restaurants are never really my first choice but the style of food, as you've shown, is an interesting mix to say the least. The grilled sea urchin salad is making my mouth water!

Missy Piggy said...

The food looks amazing and I love the decor. Another one to add to the list.

joey@FoodiePop said...

I've just had lunch and I feel like some choc Swiss roll. :-)

gaby @ lateraleating said...

You don't see sea urchin that frequently in menus. And mulberries. Interesting!

Not Quite Nigella said...

I loved that you didn't feel like you were dining at a hotel restaurant! :D

Tina said...

Hi Tina - Yeah, the crab flavours were sensational - my first roasted crab!

Hi John - They're definitely changing things - this is not your standard hotel restaurant.

Hi Miss Piggy - So much more on the menu I want to try!

Hi joey - I've just had brekky and would like the crab...

Hi gaby - Yeah, almost never outside of sushi restaurants.

Hi Lorraine - Yup, I think The Woods is a destination restaurant; not a restaurant in a destination.


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