Zanzibar: The NEW Cross Eyed Dog

Rebecca Varidel
12th Jul 2015

The history of a suburb is always fascinating. Running through Newtown, what is now King Street reputedly follows an Aboriginal track of the Cadigal tribe. Then with British settlement in Sydney, the New Town Stores were opened in 1832 by John and Eliza Webster from which Newtown, at first unofficially, took its name.

The history of a pub or restaurant can be equally interesting. The Websters realised that alcohol was far more profitable, and so the store became Newtown's first bar The Daniel Webster Hotel.

Skip to 2015, and the hotel, now Zanzibar, is undergoing its next refurbishment with its middle level lounge - between the ground floor and roof top bars - engaging the British talent of Chef Dave Penistone under his gastro-pub brand The Cross Eyed Dog. While the restaurant food mixes quirky and classic to equal tasty, apparently the beloved Cross Eyed Dog has been stolen. Return of The Cross Eyed Dog will be rewarded with a dinner for two, or so The Cross Eyed Dog facebook page says.

Just to get that search party started, we took one for the team and thought we had better try out what that dinner for two reward might entail. So, here's our test run, and three mains that we tried from the new Zanzibar menu.

As Tasty As One, Two, Three

1. Mushroom Raviolo

While we tried beautiful cooked fish and beef, our top pick is a quirky dish. Mushrooms Raviolo (that is the singular in Italian of ravioli, even though spell check keeps trying to auto-correct me) reads as a classic dish. Inside the pasta pillow, a mince of tasty mushrooms beckons. Yep, so far, quite traditional. The Parmesan tuile starts to take it off centre, while still keeping it classic. But here's the twist. Big spreads of glass thin Vegemite adorn the pasta. Not to be unpatriotic, but I thought the British were more into Marmite or Promite than the Aussie yeast spread. I'm not particular a Vegemite fan, but this worked. The umami in the Vegemite and the mushrooms and even the salty Parmesan work well in this ménage à trois. Elsewhere for a snack, Grana Padano tops Garlic Flatbread with house dukkah and white bean puree. But in the Mushroom Ravioli there is no added seasoning Penistone says. The Vegemite and Parmesan add salt enough to the bowl.

2. Salmon

The Salmon, is beautifully cooked, moist, tender, flaky, still slightly pink. And I'm happy. This is a dish that is bandied about Sydney town but sometimes comes out lacking. Penistone gets it bang on. The others with the salmon are straight up, braised fennel, green beans, new potatoes, and then the twist- a sprinkling of pork crackling. It's a lovely well executed dish.

3. Hanger Steak

Then comes the Hanger Steak, a lovely flavoursome soft belly cut best eaten under medium rare, with chipotle butter, smoked jus, and the best darned hand made onion rings and hand cut butter pan fries. Press repeat any night of the week. Total pleasure.


Also on the menu, we're keen to keen to try other pub classics such as Fried Mac And Cheese ($10), Stuffed Mushies ($12.50), Beer Battered Flathead and Chips ($19.50),Beer glazed half chook, lemon myrle, fries, slaw ($20) and a range of five burgers starting at $14.

Yet the best value has to come from the Sticky Chicken Wings at just a buck each. Blink, you read it right. Sticky Chicken Wings are $1 each and come with (this name scares me) suicide sauce, blue cheese dressing.

And after all that tasty pub grub if you want to finish with something sweet, The Cross Eyed Dog comes back to quirky. Our Gimme S'Mores Salad plated biscuits, marshmallows, peanut butter semifredo, milkshake dressing, and was drizzled with hot milk chocolate. Dessert. Fun.

By the by, the mid-level lounge also mixes up fan-bloody-tastic cocktails from a sensible seventeen bucks. Our pick is the sensational Jammin' With Whisky: Wild Turkey Rye, Grand Marnier, fresh lemon juice, blackberry jam, egg white. That, and the fireplace make The Cross Eyed Dog worth a visit on their own. But who could call themselves an Aussie, if they didn't want to smack a bit of Vegemite on their plate? Even if, it is cooked by a British geezer. *wink*

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323 King Street
Newtown NSW 2042
+61 2 9519 1511

Mon – Sat 10am – 4am

Sun 10am – midnight