Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Bar H for hooray

Quiet corner location - check. Stylish yet unobtrusive interiors - check. Loads of friendly, welcoming staff - check. Gorgeous, fresh food - check. Huge wine list - check. Hooray, Bar H is new and fabulous in Surry Hills and so right just now.

Located on the corner of Campbell and Foster Streets (across from Cafe Ish and closer to Elizabeth Street than Crown Street), Bar H is part wine bar, part restaurant and all very casual, yet classy and welcoming simultaneously, with ex Billy Kwong head chef Hamish Ingham at the helm.

Bar H, Campbell Street, Surry Hills
On our downhill trek of Campbell Street, Bar H's warm lights and immediate charm were like a beacon to our hungry tummies and parched throats. There's a huge, long window of the open kitchen that opens out onto the footpath, and I see Hamish and team ready for the night's service.

Quinta de la Rosa, tonic and lemon (left) and Campari and blood orange juice (right)
Greeted at the door, we're led to a table for four directly opposite the tiny kitchen, with prime position on the comfy banquette. We order drinks first as we await the arrival of the other two of our four, and note minimalism in the way of mixed drinks on the menu. Wines, on the other hand, dominate the two A4 pages with local and international picks of not shocking prices.

Campari and fresh blood orange juice is a failsafe drink to start, the bitterness apparently stimulates the appetite. The juice was both sweet and refreshing, but for something different I chose the Quinta de la Rosa, a white port, with tonic and fresh lemon. It was surprisingly bitter too, lessened by squeezing the lemon quarters for some added sweetness and tang.

Warm olives with chilli
The menu at Bar H is superbly flexible, with little appetisers to nibble, more substantial charcuterie offerings, then salads and mains - with nothing too onerous for the small stove and prep area.

We have warm olives with chilli as we wait; big, green ones that taste like they've been picked not so long ago with red chillis that have more kick than their size would suggest, but never too much.

As we pit our way through the small bowl, surrounding tables virtually demonstrate Bar H's versatility: some snacking with beers at the bar while watching kitchen action; couples devouring cured meats with wine looking out to the quiet street; a bunch of guys making a meal of the menu's mains in a corner table; and a family in for the whole sharing experience. We were up for light eats pre further drinking.

Kitchen charcuterie plate
Our full table arrives to the decision that a French red would suit the evening; something I forget from the Côtes du Rhône that I wish I hadn't. Medium-bodied, fruity and very drinkable, even in stemless wine glasses of which I still have reservations about.

Our kitchen charcuterie plate arrives not long after, having seen meats sliced moments earlier at the slicer by the window. And what fabulous meats indeed: San Daniele prosciutto, jamon serrano and bresaola, the latter of which was sensationally tasty wrapped around especially long grissini sticks.

Tiny cornichons, mustard fruit and unexpected carrot ribbons completed the dish which I'd be happy to have every dinner time, or indeed before any meal.

Chicken liver pate, foie gras shavings, pickled cherries and sourdough bread
The chicken liver pate was promised with foie gras shavings, pickled cherries and sourdough bread, for what sounded a delightful spread.

The pate was stronger in flavour and not as smooth as I'm used to (the non-pate lover here), but nicely distracted by the crusty, grill-marked bread and sweet, soft cherries mixed with onion. The bit of foie gras I tasted was creamy and rich, much as expected but still putting a smile on my face.

Seared cuttlefish, pancetta, broad beans and watercress
Our next selections from the salad section were highly anticipated, for me especially the cuttlefish as I don't think it's a common menu item despite its similarity to squid. In fact I find it superior, and in this case, tenderly grilled for moments and needing no seasoning other than its partners of the salty crisps of pancetta and just cooked broad beans in the jungle of watercress.

Raw zucchini, asparagus, mint and soft boiled egg
I didn't actually know that zucchinis, or courgettes as one at the table put it, could be eaten raw - but what a discovery. Green ones shaved into ribbons and yellow ones sliced into thin rounds on this plate were velvety soft and a good sponge for other flavours.

Asparagus spears were also shaved while the two parts of the soft boiled eggs gave it an air of breakfast; a delicious salad-y one, that is; freshened up with whole mint leaves.

Strawberries, Woodside goat's curd, aged balsamic vinegar and basil
Done with the light eats, I was satisfied enough to bypass desserts although that clearly wasn't the plan for others. The strawberry dessert was the simplest and lightest offering of three, with gorgeously ripe strawberry halves drizzled in an aged balsamic that was almost caramelly, and then sprinkled with micro basil to finish.

The goat's curd was incredibly light, maybe even aerated, and matched extremely well with the strawberries, as if the contrasting flavours made the berries taste even sweeter. The micro basil was too cute though it reminded me of some seedlings I'd grown and subsequently killed.

Gorgonzola dolce
Cheese time was ever so gratifying with my first ever taste of gorgonzola dolce. A soft blue cheese without a particularly strong smell or taste that's usually distinctive of blue cheeses. And, as the name might imply, there was a sweetness to the cheese that was definitely not a salty blue.

Served with dried muscatels and figs, wedges of Granny Smith apple and a pile of crisp breads, it was the perfect way to end the meal and that delectable bottle of red.

At this point in the night, he kitchen was done and dusted, beers in hand signalling the end of another night. We'd been seated for hours and it was by far one of the most enjoyable nights out I'd had in a while.

Given Bar H is lumped into the new casual dining category that's popping up, I'd happily call it my new favourite so far. I think food is more substantial than that at Berta, while the atmosphere beats that at District Dining.

I think the freshness of the food and simple handling at Bar H is a real standout. I adore its versatility and will be looking to try out a brunch outing next. Hip, hip, hooray for Bar H.

Bar H on Urbanspoon


Vivian - vxdollface said...

gosh the strawberries look so good! making me drool :P what an interesting combination, must check this place out :)

hollypop said...

i think the H is for Hollypop and i need to get there soon.

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

I've tried strawberries and goat's cheese before but it didn't quite grab me as the goat's cheese was a bit too strong for my taste. Loving all of these new places though!

Anonymous said...

Heard a lot about Bar H lately. Food looks good. Hoping to drop in for nibbles soon.

chocolatesuze said...

mmm that quenelle of pate is calling my name! hey dude are you coming to the sydney food bloggers picnic on sat?

Gianna@TheEmptyFridge said...

Another Surry Hill's Gem to try..i just can't keep up!
although you had me at 'huge wine list'

hope to see you on saturday at the picnic!

Tina said...

Hi Vivian - I wasn't sure if I'd like the combo at first, but it's SO good!

Hi hollypop - H for hell yeah?

Hi Lorraine - The goat's curd wasn't too strong at all in this case. Not for non goat's lovers though :)

Hi Ellie - Nibbles, brekky, lunch, supper - so flexible!

Hi suze - Hope so! Let's see how the visa guys go. And the Dr....

Hi Gianna - So much new stuff popping up in Surry Hills - I like!

Claire said...

Hey Tina,

Your blog came up when I was searching for "ready made honey made ham" & I thought "who better to advice me than a Sydney based foodie?"

I tried emailing you but the email got bounced back.

So I agreed to cook a honey glazed ham for some friends, thinking I'd have two days off work to prepare. Now I have no days off work, and no ham.

I was wondering if you would be able to tell me where in Sydney I could buy a ready-made honey glazed ham?

I would be forever indebted to you & will pimp the shiz out of your blog for any guidance you could provide.

This isn't spam - I'm a woman on a mission.

Hope to hear from you soon, feel free to email me at

- Claire


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