Chubby Cheeks

Jackie McMillan
23rd Jan 2024

Chubby Cheeks opened in Paddington with a bit of a splash in 2018 with a menu created by executive chef David Claesson (ex-Glass Brasserie). The tea smoked duck breast and banana blossom salad ($27) has stayed on the menu since inception. In the hands of head chef Tom Penpanussak it gives good smoke from slices of tea-smoked duck draped over pickled vegetables and fresh herbs bound in tamari, chilli and lime. The price of this dish has only gone up two bucks in six years, which is perhaps the secret to their longevity, surviving both the test of time and the global pandemic. Wine markups are also reasonable (less than double) with no bottle on the list going over a hundred bucks and the option to BYO ($13/bottle) every Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday. The 2021 Arfion Chardonnay ($72) by Dave McKintosh (Giant Steps) suited both me and the cuisine just fine. 

The other thing Chubby Cheeks has in its favour is a very cheap tasting menu ($55/person) that is delivered in three courses. Dainty Hokkaido scallops on betel leaf ($7/each) were tiny but well cooked if a bit lacking in wow-factor. Big slabs of crisp pork belly sandwiched in steamed bao ($7/each) with pickled vegetables and lashings of sriracha spiked mayo. are a blunt way to shut up grumbling stomaches. They allowed us to delve into the duck salad more slowly, though we gobbled the accompanying school prawns, deep fried and tossed through sticky-sweet nam jim. The special satay sauce underlying crisp-skinned master stock choook ($29) was the highlight of this well-priced meal. It came with rice and wok-tossed water spinach for some greens. While some dishes, like the duck salad and the final green rice-flake battered fish fillets were pretty plain, lacking integration between the key protein and the salad, it feels churlish to nitpick at the price.