Monday, April 29, 2013

The Bourbon marks the spot for New Orleans in Sydney

Change is afoot in Sydney's notorious Kings Cross. The strip joints are probably staying, as too the night clubs, but developments at the old Bourbon and Beefsteak are seeing the beginnings of a transformation for the beloved "seedy end of town".

It starts with the newly and grandly renovated New Orleans-inspired restaurant, The Bourbon by C.Inc Hospitality, which also own Cruise Bar and Coogee Bay Hotel. The kitchen is helmed by ex Becasse and Etch head chef James Metcalfe, who brings his fine dining background into new light at the more casual venue.

Pacific oysters, natural
While there are ambitious plans for the neighbouring club, basement bar, and a rooftop bar and restaurant, for now it's all about having fun with modern twists to New Orleans cuisine - of which I have limited experience although the city is in my top two list for US destinations I want to visit.

We started on a platter of Pacific and Sydney rock oysters in three different styles. Although I wished it were my preferred Sydney rocks served natural, the freshly shucked Pacifics were fresh and more than passable.

Rock oysters, Bloody Mary granita
Next up, I could taste the Sydney rocks through the icy tomato-based Bloody Mary granita which is a genius idea that peaks with a Tabasco sauce kick.

Deep fried oysters d'jour with Rockefeller mayo
Lastly, the crumbed and fried oysters were topped with a herb mayonnaise in recognition of the amusingly named oysters Rockefeller. The green sauce was a great partner (and distraction) to the unfortunately overcooked oysters.

Inside The Bourbon, Darlinghurst Road, Kings Cross
There's a cocktail list with The Bourbon 'signatures' (not bourbon cocktails though) and classics of which the negroni goes down a treat.

More interesting, though, is the range of beers of which there'll be a healthy range of US beers, including a couple from New Orleans.

(Note: the dishes below were part of a special tasting and are not the sizes served on the normal menu.)

Hiramasa kingfish ceviche, citrus, radish
Ceviche has definitely taken over as one of Sydney's most popular dishes, and with good reason.

The Bourbon presents its ceviche as thin slices of delicate hiramasa kingfish with a balanced citrus dressing, radish matchsticks, coriander and fresh red chilli with some bite to it. It was a beautiful dish that really kickstarted the palate.

Melon and ham - watermelon, serrano, mint, chilli, white pepper vinegar
The serrano ham wrapped watermelon triangles were quite the surprising dish. Prosciutto and rockmelon are beaten convincingly with this combination, and I don't know if it was the pairing with the juicy, sweet watermelon but this was some of the best cured ham I've had.

More red chilli and mint gave great colour and a different kicker to every bite with the unexpectedly well-matched vinegar dressing.

Gumbo - spicy duck broth, smoked sausage, red chilli, coriander
The pretty sample of gumbo was quite possibly my first taste of the quintessentially Louisianan soup.

A little fancy with a duck consomme, the soup featured okra, baby corn, red chilli, Spanish onion, coriander and a house-made smoked sausage. The gumbo was undeniably spicy, nose-snifflingly so, but with a great depth of full flavours.

Clam and corn chowder - little neck clams, corn, bacon
I was particularly excited to try the clam chowder; a thick soup that I can't see/read/think of without referencing The Simpsons.

The Bourbon's version featured just-cooked little neck clams, sweet pops of corn kernels and thick-cut cubes of bacon which imparted a fantastic salty smokiness throughout the creamy soup. The chowder was like a warm, comforting hug that's perfect for the upcoming cooler weather.

Classic Cobb salad - soft boiled egg, chicken wings, avocado, tomato, crispy bacon,
watercress, Bellingham Blue cheese, pickled shallots
Quite possibly the most un-salad-like salads I've ever seen, The Bourbon certainly has taken a modern take on the classic American Cobb salad. While all the key components are there, there was more than a hint of the kitchen's fine dining origins in its plating.

The crisp perfection that was the bacon with the boiled egg gave it a breakfast air, while the blue cheese, cos lettuce, tomato, avocado and watercress returned it to firmly salad ground. The deboned fried chicken wing was the point of differentiation and excellence.

Grilled jumbo shrimp, Creole butter, spiced salt
It's prawns like these that quell any thoughts of lobster from my mind; indeed, they are mini lobsters. Split in half and absolutely drowned in a spiced Creole butter before grilling, the "jumbo shrimp" was seafood and spice at its best - with a liberal helping of butter and lime, that is.

Jambalaya - spiced risotto, shrimp, chilli, lime, bacon, smoked sausage, watercress
Again putting seafood and spice together was the very Creole jambalaya; a must-have dish where New Orleans is concerned.

A filling main dish option, also quite spicy, jambalaya is like a paella or risotto, featuring chilli, bacon and more of that excellent smoked sausage, topped with prawns and watercress.

Glazed beef rib - four hours slow cooked
As part of the mains options, The Bourbon also offers a selection from the rotisserie of which the sweet glazed beef short rib is a crowd-pleaser.

Slow cooked for four hours, the beef was full of flavour and softened tendons, served with mashed potato, deep fried kale and its cleaned bone.

Fried green tomatoes, buttermilk dressing
I'm pretty sure I clapped my hands in delight when the fried green tomatoes arrived, as the movie of the same title has stuck with me since the early 1990s.

Unsure of what to expect, these golden crumbed wheels of unripe, green tomatoes were surprisingly sweet inside their crunchy coating, with the creamy buttermilk dressing adding just the right amount of richness to the tomato's acidity.

Lime cheesecake - jelly, crumbs, cheese, coriander; and
Pecan Tart (back, right) - burnt bourbon, vanilla chantilly
There are a number of particularly enticing desserts on The Bourbon's menu, especially those with US origins. The lime cheesecake was a deconstructed version with tart lime jelly and cheese mix, biscuit crumbs, crispy meringues and an atypical sprig of coriander.

Much more traditional was the pecan tart which was served as a chewy and caramelly sliced portion with a desirable tart shell.

S'mores - biscuit, vanilla ice cream, chocolate, toasted marshmallow; and
Beignet (right) - peppered stawberries, caramel, whipped cream
I was most excited for my first taste of S'mores: that most unhealthy but delightful-sounding medley of roasted marshmallow and chocolate sandwiched within a 'graham cracker' of which I'm not sure are are widely available in Australia.

The Bourbon ups the ante on the S'more, pushing it into restaurant dessert territory with vanilla ice cream and house made oat biscuits instead of graham crackers, covered in chocolate and topped with torched vanilla marshmallow. I'm not sure how purists will feel about it but I certainly approve.

The deep fried round beignet of dough with a caramel sauce was surprisingly my favourite of the dessert plate; perhaps for its warmth and relatively reserved sweetness.

Thoroughly full and Americanised, we managed a quick chat with head chef Metcalfe who's enviably off to New Orleans shortly for research purposes. I think he's done exceptionally well with the general theme he's been given, with the large menu filled with many familiar references to US dishes that most in Sydney would not have tried before.

While change in Kings Cross will be a longer-term issue, The Bourbon definitely marks a a change in thinking in the area that can only be a good thing.

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

The Bourbon on Urbanspoon


john | heneedsfood said...

I always think of that Simpsons episode when I hear or read the word "chowder". Chowdeeer/chowdaaar!

Not sure that the Bourbon will help polish up the Cross, but it looks like it makes it more palatable. Nice digs.

Tina @ bitemeshowme said...

Have to say I don't really make my way to the cross, if at all. Definitely has a great range of food - I can't believe you ate that much?!

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

We so enjoyed our meal here! Our favourite was the crab with the spiced browned butter and the prawns :)

Shanshan Lam said...

whoah so much food. That shrimp with the spiced salt sounds and looks so good. I can smell it from here.

Annie said...

gotta try that jambalaya. there's seriously not enough restaurants serving Creole food in Sydney. must try this place before it disappears!

Sherrie Huang said...

Love the look of all that Southern American cuisine! Everything looks so deliciously comforting :)

Vivian - vxdollface said...

haha im like john! chowduuuuur :)

lots of interesting dishes, keen to try a couple of their dishes.

Tina said...

Hi John - "Shao-dare?" There's more on the way for the building/complex so I'll be watching with interest.

Hi Tina - Chef arranged for smaller, tasting style dishes for us ;) Big menu, so still lots I wanna try.

Hi Lorraine - Definitely getting the crab next time!

Hi ShanShan - Yeah, that was a highlight of the feast!

Hi Annie - "before it disappears"? Agree though that it's a great sampling of Creole and Cajun food.

Hi Sherrie - It's a polished version of all these dishes I had heard of but not tried before :)

Hi Vivian - Yeah, great to have more diversity in Sydney and especially the Cross


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