People who want a cheap feed sometimes go to a club. But often the grub isn't that crash hot.
Not at the Epping Club. There the club supports members with reasonable prices and numerous value for money eating options. The food is terrific and it is getting even better now that it's under the guidance of Executive Chef Nick Whitehouse.
A familiar face from MasterChef the Professionals, Whitehouse brings a Michelin Star background which includes cooking for celebrities such as the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Slipknot and Kelly Clarkson to the venue.
The first facility in the Epping Club to get his makeover is Rawsons Restaurant. Bringing premium fare to Sydney's North West, the new look Rawsons Restaurant offers innovative shakeups to British and French classics. This is the kind of food that you would be happy to have at any price. But get this: at dinner only one of the mains, the steak, nudges over $30.
Between us we tried a number of dishes. Oh wow. Sorry, that should be WOW! Take a look at that scallop, seared but still lusciously rare. With it the intriguing Whitehouse invention of honeycomb vinegar is beautifully sweet and sour. One tip: the honeycomb vinegar is also fabulous with the bread and lovely tangy house made cultured butter. It's the kind of thing you want to wake up with in the morning. Yes, it's that good.
Nick Whitehouse admits to having a bit of a thing for smoking. Not that type. Smoking food. In this case salmon, which is smoked in-house and has been preciously dry cured. This is perhaps the best example of smoked salmon I have had in years. The tender flesh retains its texture, the fish is still the dominant flavour, what Whitehouse has done is add some complexity in the cure then smoke, but not too much complexity mind you. It's a bit like my Goldilocks dish. And this one. Finally this one, gets it right. Even the accoutrements - tiny capers, rye crumbs, sour cream cheese, dill - get it just right.
The poached free range chicken breast was the next unexpected adventure. I do love poultry when it's poached; it is such a lovely treatment that keeps it so wonderfully moist. Mixing it up in texture it's served with its crisp skin. With it cock-a-leekie (a step up on the traditional leek and potato mash), and baked carrots which still have their yummy skin. Nice. The treat of the plate was a prune. Often a classical accompaniment with pork, the plump pitted prince completes the plate with just that little touch of rich sweetness. But not too much. It's a marvellous touch.
We also tried the steak. As you walk into the restaurant there's a cabinet for the whole dry aged pieces. Again this steak is a classic but has benefited from the Whitehouse touch. This is perhaps the most traditional of the dishes on the menu but it's well rounded with contemporary updates on classic accompaniments. And did I mention the decadent triple cooked chips?
It seems he also has a thing for towering dessert soufflés. Be patient. Remember to leave time for the a la minute order. Mango. Ethereally fluffy, offset with the sweet tartness of fruit puree. Believe me it is worth the wait and the calories.
The bones of the room still feel a little RSL club. Yet even that has its benefits. The room is spacious and so is the distribution of the white clothed tables. So unlike some CBD hatted restaurants you are not nearly sitting on the lap of the stranger at the next table. And make no mistake. This food although suburban reaches that hatted territory. By introducing new pottery plates, Whitehouse has brought the restaurant into the now, and not only by his food.
So what's the verdict?
Rawsons restaurant is a top notch establishment even if you don't think about the (small) price. The food is creative and interesting, well crafted and delicious, a little bit modern and a little bit classic, and is supported by knowledgeable and professional service. This joint shouldn't be a secret spot for locals. Even if you don't live in the north west of Sydney, take a trip soon. First stop Rawsons restaurant. Next stop the Epping Club bistro (which Whitehouse is updating right now).