Friday, May 16, 2014

Stanley Street Merchants: crowdfunded and open

Earlier this year more than $280,000 was raised to open Stanley Street Merchants through restaurant and bar crowdfunding platform, Icon Park.

For first season winners, the prize is three months' tenancy in a Darlinghurst restaurant space, with funding, fitout and marketing support.

Bar at Stanley Street Merchants, Stanley Street, Darlinghurst
Stanley Street Merchants opened its doors on Monday this week, offering breakfast, lunch and dinner in its brand spanking new Stanley Street home.

A three-part venue, the focus is currently on the ground floor restaurant which features chef Matt Stone's (Greenhouse, Perth and Silo by Joost, Melbourne) modern approach to locally sourced ingredients.

Street restaurant view
The fitout has a mod-rustic feel with the feature of the brick-walled space being the open kitchen, where chef Stone leads a small team in creating a well-balanced menu of smalls and bigs, for sharing or course-style dining.

Ground floor seating
Having supported their initial Icon Park campaign, I was collecting my crowdfund reward from Stanley Street Merchants - two drinks and a chef's tasting plate - as well as taking the opportunity to try out the broader menu from what had to be the busiest venue mid-week on the rather quiet Darlinghurst street.

Aperol Spritz (front) and Manhattan (back, left)
We started with an Aperol Spritz, garnished with a very traditional olive, and a classic Manhattan from bartender Bobby Carey (ex Shady Pines Saloon) while watching the workings of a very new restaurant.

While the kitchen and bar activity was pretty slick, some of the waitstaff proved fairly green, though as much is to be expected from a three-day-old operation.

Icon Park reward: Tasting platter for two
The tasting plate, or plank more accurately, comprised four items found on the smalls menu, starting with (from the right) fried spiced cauliflower florets. The soft, nutty flavour of the vegetable was accentuated with a unique and appetising spice mix, which also seemed to be flavouring the jar of almond and macadamia nuts.

Crisy crickets, Aussie 7 spice
I'm not sure if it was the same 'Aussie 7 spice' (as opposed to Chinese five spice) on the serve of crispy crickets. While I've come across deep fried crickets before, this was my first, slightly weary taste of them.

With a hefty amount of seasoning post a deep fry, I suppose anything would taste decent. The crickets were passable, with a texture much like cooked prawn shells and not too much flavour of their own. Like prawn shells, watch for the sharp bits (legs or antennae) that can dig in the mouth.

Fermented vegetables
Last was the fermented vegetables, served on a metal jar lid. The soft pieces of cabbage and carrot tasted of a light vinegar pickle and would make for a refreshing snack with a beer.

Chicken, corn, jerusalem artichoke
We moved on to a selection of the big plates, which are plated as generous individual serves; certainly some of the largest I've seen for a while sub-$30.

The roasted chicken portion was served on a creamy corn puree and dressed with jerusalem artichoke chips, what seemed like kernel-less popcorn and a shock of deliciously deep fried corn silk - that usually annoying 'hair' between the husk and cob of fresh corn.

It was a clever use of corn in a classic pairing with chicken, for an overall homely, satisfying and flavour-packed feed.

Yellow eye mullet, roe, cos, nasturtium
The fish main was a pretty sight of vibrant green blobs and three thin but well-cooked fillets of yellow eye mullet.

The beautifully fresh fish was a joy to eat with the uniquely sweet nasturtium puree, and well supported by the grilled cos lettuce, which was filled luxuriously with a seasoned mix of orange roe pearls and chives.

The ease in which innovation and locally sourced and foraged ingredients came together so harmoniously on this dish is a credit to chef Stone and his kitchen team.

Mash potato, wattle seed (front) and mixed leaves, herbs, salad (back)
We added a side of creamy-but-not-overly-so mashed potato which was sprinkled with a powdered wattle seed, adding an unexpected sweet earthiness, while the dressed green leaves comprised mostly iceberg lettuce and rocket.

Poached quince, macadamia, wattle seed, buttermilk ice cream
We also had the pleasure of dessert, with several tantalising options available. The cool night-appropriate poached quince was divine in presentation and taste. Softly spiced and cooked, the fruit was paired with lightly tart buttermilk ice cream and a rich macadamia nut puree that I could eat by the bowl full.

With pretty flowers and unidentified crumbles, this was a fine dessert fit for a hatted restaurant.

Charcoal roasted marshmallow, ryeberries, flowers and ants
It's only now that I realise that there were ants in my marshmallow dessert. I guess I was distracted by the prettiness of the freeze dried raspberries and citrus, rose petals and lavender flowers; or the very tart, brown ryeberries, or indeed, the sticky, gooey square of roasted marshmallow.

There was a particularly bitter aspect to one of the toppings, which I had blamed on the lavender although now, perhaps the non-discernible ants were at fault.

Street view
While I'd expected queues out the door during their first week, Stanley Street Merchants' rather quiet opening may slipped under a few radars although it seems there is still work to be done on the upper levels.

In any case, the restaurant and bar are in full swing and should become a neighbourhood favourite in quick time for its great menu that's genuinely centred on local produce. Pop in to Stanley Street Merchants over the next three months to see the crowdfunding dream live.

Stanley Street Merchants on Urbanspoon


Cindy (a foodie's joy) said...

I have put this on my list. Intriguingly delicious looking dishes!

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

Hehe hubby has eaten ants and he told me that they taste quite bitter!

missklicious said...

Looks a lovely new venue! I love the look of the desserts

Down To Feed [DTF] said...

crickets look interesting,and not too sure about ants in marshmallow .. but the ice cream looks so good :) definitely one of the most interesting list of dishes Ive seen so far

Helen (Grab Your Fork) said...

I love that you didn't even notice there were ants in your dessert until afterwards! Charcoal roasted marshmallows sound pretty awesome too.

Tina said...

Hi Cindy - Definitely some of the most interesting dishes I've seen for a while.

Hi Lorraine - I heard they were supposed to be citrussy... They were surprising to say the least.

Hi missklicious - Yep, definitely worth checking out. The quince dessert was amazing.

Hi DTF - It was an interesting meal all round :)

Hi Helen - Haha, I kept eating it going "There's something really bitter in here..." Loved the rest of the marshmallow dessert though.

Sara | Belly Rumbles said...

I was expecting big queues too. Food looks great.


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