Even when you know the pedigree of the Chef and Restaurateur, sometimes the quality of a new restaurant opening delivers beyond expectation and is a delightful surprise. One Ford Street, located downstairs at the back of The Cricketers Arms Hotel in Balmain is, that's for sure.
The talent of Chef Sam Bennett was already well known, from wonderful days fronting the kitchen at iconic wine bar Fix St. James, and his time at Glebe Point Diner. Yet above and beyond his fabulous food history in Sydney, Bennett has raised the bar to deliver what is possibly the new next best thing. With pub appropriate pricing, the menu has that seemingly simple Italian leaning for which Bennett is renowned yet imparts surprising complexity of flavour with dishes that are perfectly executed in his hands.
Small bites start at just five bucks a piece, with both from the opening One Ford Street menu offering a sensational first taste of the new courtyard venue. Bennett referred us to his Dad's smoked trout pate on toast, as the must try dish. The trout sings beneath a light smoking, which enhances but doesn't dominate, with the mouth dancing to tune of the flaky cream. Seasoning in this, as in all his dishes is masterful. His balance needs a greater superlative. Also offered by the piece, Quail, cabbage & barley panzerotti sits the crisp ethereal pulled poultry pastries on top of a sticky sweet and salty dressing, with soured tendrils of red cabbage chiffonnade that are just melted past their raw crunch. Again at just $5 each, incredibly they are offered at that price in a central share pottery bowl and individual plates deftly silver served.
At other tables we see crinkle cut pickled garden vegetables enlivening a plate of cured meats, and a pretty tomato and goats cheese salad, also from the starter options. The first bracket also showcases Simple market fish carpaccio ($16), Oysterblade cipriani, mustard, pizza crusts ($18) and perfect moist and tender seafood option of salted Fried swimmer crab arraabiata ($25) which comes with a textbook but unnecessary plating of two sauces, including a ramekin of perfect dreamy aioli. Unnecessary? Yes, because the crab is so beautifully seasoned and cooked that anything else, even the wedges of lemon are not needed.
Further down the page, three inventive pasta choices - of which we devoured two - again demonstrate Bennett's skill to a standing ovation. If we could stand, after the generous portions (but more on that later...)
Sausage cacciatore, spelt parpadelle, gremolata is a wondrous hearty bowl of crumpled spicy meat with wholesome al dente ribbons of perfection, and just 24 dollars. We Googled malloreddus to find out it is Sardinian in origin. Half a sweet shellfish takes centre stage, in the wonder of Tiger prawn, shellfish sauce, malloreddus ($26). The morsels create sighs of contentment from the other side of the table.
All four mains are offered at $32 each. Bass groper sits amidst a fine white chowder with tender tasty pippies popping with prosciutto, the cured meat salting the wondrous broth. And then there is the lift from the cabbage shred, in wilted glory that retains its crunchy ping, and the show of tarragon that takes the dish from earth to heaven. Another masterpiece, but not to be outdone, Lamb T-bones are piled unctuously with meat and fat, sensationally infused with mint and perfected with spring fregola salad and almonds. Divine does not do either justice.
One of us was clever enough to wear stretch, but the other one of us wanted to undo her zipper. Later, at home the skirt needed to be removed by scissors, as neither of us could resist more of this magic by finishing with something sweet. A whimsy of nostalgia shows it face in the three childhood colours of - chocolate fudge, vanilla, berry ice cream - Neopolitano ($11) and a smaller piece of choux magic arrived as a Tiramisu éclair ($6). If we could have fitted more in, had a nap, slept some of it off, I'm sure we would have kept eating. Because every mouthful of every dish was better than best.
The news is already out. Some of the tables turned over twice while we were feasting. And all the time, One Ford Street service was everything that is should be, outshining most hatted Sydney restaurants, and created holistically the terrific type of rounded night of which guests sometimes only dream.
One Ford Street also offers 'No Fussypants' a sharing menu for only $65 per person (ordered for the whole table) where you let the chef do all the work, with dishes selected by Bennett based on what is seasonal and fresh. The dishes might be from the menu, or they might not! Sounds like the perfect night out to me...
|1 Ford Street|
|02 9818 4232|