More Than A Pub Dining Room

Rebecca Varidel
29th Apr 2015

There's a history in Sydney and around the world, particularly in the UK of either chefs starting out on their first ventures in pub dining rooms, or adding them to their high end dining repertoire during the course of their careers. Some call this gastropub. Others might just say its good eating- excellent food that sits somewhere above bistro or café food but a little under a restaurant. The term gastropub was was coined over twenty years ago in Britain - in 1991 when David Eyre and Mike Belben took over The Eagle pub in Clerkenwell, London - and officially added to the dictionary just three years ago.

The latest local example is at the Charing Cross Hotel, where Chef Matt Kemp elevates pub food with incredible local produce, a marvellous menu and masterful cookery.

If you haven't eaten al la Kemp before, his food displays his British background, aggregated with his strong knowledge of classical cookery, just perfect for the gastropub fit. Eight starters offer plenty of choices from just ten bucks for Flatbread with Rosemary, garlic & sea salt, chickpea dip. That same flatbread also appears later in salads, where we can vouch for its can't-get-enough of it yumminess. That British background peeps through with his own Piccalilli relish to go with Crispy pigs head. This is exactly what you want and one of his must try dishes. Inside the generous pigshead croquette the flesh is moist and mighty. And the piquancy of the pickles is a terrific offset.

On the lighter side of starters, a highlight of the current Charing Cross Hotel menu is Roast scallops with baby spinach & tarragon puree, braised squid and brown butter. There's highs and lows in flavour with the green sauce lifting the beautifully cooked seafood. And for a cold and another lighter-side starter, lettuce cups and a pomegranate and Bloody Mary dressing embrace the Kingfish ceviche.

Kemp makes you want to eat salad in any season. Care and attention create ambrosial examples. Their superiority also stems from a base of great produce. Sydney chef now gardener Martin Boetz' is supplying many of the best chefs in Sydney, and Kemp is one. For Hawkesbury Organic Salad: figs, salt baked beets, Rivergum Blossom honey and goats milk curd, most of the produce is sourced from "lover of all things to make people nourished, & to stop fast food taking over!!" Boetz. Kemp also uses goats milk to make his own beautiful curd. The garnish of honey is still in the comb. And the salad makes the Charing Cross Hotel destination dining.

It's probably wise to start slowly, as big generous mains are both tasty and filling (and value as they're mostly under $30). Kemp gets his North African on, with a sensational and warming Braised lamb neck, ras el hanout, Sicilian cracked wheat salad, charred lemon (which also makes this kitchen right on trend). And again, with Swordfish, grilled eggplant, chickpeas, mint & Za'atar, spiced yoghurt: a cornucopia of flavours and textures that is a true delight. The pairings of Borrowdale Farm pork belly & pastrami strut their stuff with whitlof, pear and radishes is divine.

While all of these are available as al la carte there is even more good news. The Charo Dining Feast offers $55 per head value for five courses from start to pudding, with beverage matching of five 100ml glasses of international (Australia, French, Spanish) wines or five beers for an extra $30.

And you better leave room in your dessert belly for pudding, especially the signature Hot Snickers Pudding with Peanut Butter Fudge Ice Cream & Caramel Sauce. Dessert double up is warranted here, as Chef Matthew Kemp makes The Best Bread & Butter Pudding around!

Communal offerings, by the way, include 12 hour braised shoulder of lamb, globe artichokes, borlotti beans, confit truss tomatoes & green sauce; Corned silverside Rangers Valley waguy beef 9+, Savoy cabbage, Dutch carrot, kiplers & liquor, wholegrain mustard Chantilly; Whole grilled market fish, fire roasted pepper piperade, shoestring fries & aioli.

Do I love it? Well if the answer isn't a very obvious already, YES, yes, yes. Would I go back? Hell yeah! Would I move Sydney suburbs to make the Charing Cross Hotel my local? Yeup, I am definitely thinking about it.

Loading Map....
81 Carrington Road
+61 2 9389 3093

Mon – Thu 10am – midnight

Fri – Sat 10am – 2am

Sun 10am – 10pm