What's it like to be a head chef for the first time? Is it nerve-wracking? Is it exciting?
In the weeks since Barrel Bar and Dining Cremorne has opened, Chef Zac Stanning has been finding out, and finding his feet. With Chef Luke Davenport, he's standing on firm ground delivering a unique take across the Barrel Bar and Dining menu of smaller and larger plates that change daily. These are young chefs to watch. And they have more than stepped up to the plate.
Barrel Bar and Dining, as the name suggests, could be mistaken as having a core value of serving drinks. Not that there is anything wrong with that- is there? With sommeliers as working owners, the bar does indeed have a terrific wine list. Out front, the north shore customers sit and sip on stools, at the bar or on high tables looking out on to Military Road.
While the front room and its wine, is warm and welcoming, the star of the venue has to be the food- available in both the front bar and the larger restaurant space behind the kitchen. From a keen understanding of produce, the kitchen builds layers of flavours and textures including a couple of vegetarian stars priced at only fifteen bucks each.
24 slow cooked carrot, smoked carrot puree, pickled heirloom carrot, salted honeycomb, crisp carrot tops takes the Dutch orange theme and constructs a mind-blowing experience. Who knew carrots (and only carrots) could be this good? Stretching the repertoire even further, Sautéed king oyster mushrooms, lemon garlic puree, parsley sponge juniper berry powder, mushroom bark, mushroom pangratta is a sensational delight. From the ethereal Ferran Adria microwave sponge, to the crisp fungal crunch of the bark, this marvellous dish brings shadows and sunlight, valleys and mountains, peaks and troughs that discerningly play with all the faculties. Either of these vegetarian options are worth a trip to the north-side, no matter where you live. And that's just the start of the destination dining exclamation.
Do you think coffee works with seafood? Well in the amazing 12 hour cured Queensland king prawns, vanilla and coffee bean jelly, lemon, thyme, coriander, pine nuts we see, taste and smell the subtle interchange. The transluscency of the cured seafood and floral tribute dabbles light on the dark plate offsetting the discriminating contrast of jelly, and other accoutrements. Again, we're presented with another outstanding dish, and another reason to travel.
With safer options such as Duck liver parfait, fig jam and toasted brioche the craftsmanship of the brigade pushes forward. The parfait, sweet with port and rich with the offal, is supremely creamy, light and airy, without loosing out on depth of taste. The impression that this is a kitchen that cares continues.
Then when larger plates are delivered the creativity and care with produce is sustained. Tiny beads of tart persimmon with line caught local snapper demonstrate dexterity and inventiveness and also balance. The fish is also accompanied by more traditional components such as charred zucchini, yellow squash puree, crisp corn kernels, lemon and garlic.
This much needed north shore venue is a welcome addition to the area. Barrel Bar and Dining is a terrific place to eat, to spend regular time with friends, or to have a special celebration night out. And as the cinema, the Cremorne Orpheum is just a few paces down the road, Barrel Bar and Dining also makes a great road stop for before or after the movies.