Review: Gowings Bar and Grill, Sydney

To cap off my friend Jake’s recent stay in Sydney, he treated K and I out to a nice dinner at Gowings Bar and Grill. I protested initially, wanting to find somewhere a bit more budget-friendly, but he said, “Look, you’ve saved me $400 by allowing me to sleep on your couch the past few nights, so I have a bit of money to spend on dinner!”.

Luckily, we managed to walk in and get an early table at 6pm without a reservation on the proviso that we could vacate by 8pm. As the night progressed, you could see why they had such strict rules around dining times as the tables filled up quickly even on a Sunday night. Wait staff had to be quick on their feet to keep up with demand and unfortunately we were left waiting once or twice when things got busy.

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As we perused the menu, the waiter came back with some warm bread and Pepe Saya butter to start. I loved the softness of the baked bread roll, and I needn’t talk about how excellent Pepe Saya butter is as everyone already knows about the deliciousness of the handcrafted butter.

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Gowings has an extensive wine and cocktail list, thanks in large part to their popular cocktail bar adjacent to the restaurant. K opted for a Negroni, Jake chose a Floozie cocktail, and I searched the menu in vain for alcohol-free mocktails. When I asked the waitress who was taking our order, she simply said, “Oh, we can do mocktails to order. What kind do you prefer?” It would have been great to see a note to that effect on the drinks menu! Nevertheless, my “sweet” mocktail “with berries please” was very fresh, spritzy, and more-ish when it did arrive, so I can at least rate their mocktail efforts highly.

Barely seared sumac ocean trout fillet (lentils & carrots, 64d free range egg, raw green bean, radish and chive salad, served rare at room temperature), $36
Barely seared sumac ocean trout fillet (lentils & carrots, 64d free range egg, raw green bean, radish and chive salad, served rare at room temperature), $36

K goes a bit mad for anything that’s been cooked in a water bath, so the Ocean Trout Fillet was his main course of choice. The free range poached egg, cooked at a consistent 64 degrees Celsius is the star of the show here. Glistening proudly on top of the trout, a river of runny golden yolk bursts forth as soon as you touch it with your fork. The trout was deliciously tender and the bed of lentils crunchy and lightly spiced. Combined with the runny egg, it’s simply divine.

Pepper "Steak au Poivre" (Angus Hereford, Cape Grim TAS, 250g) with Gowings Red & Green Whole Peppercorn Sauce with Cognac, $38
Pepper “Steak au Poivre” (Angus Hereford, Cape Grim TAS, 250g) with Gowings Red & Green Whole Peppercorn Sauce with Cognac, $38

Jake’s recent break-up has meant that he’s been spending a lot more time in the kitchen preparing meals – with a lot more meat than he used to eat. He’s determined to perfect a medium-rare steak, and has been following Heston Blumenthal’s method. This Steak Au Poivre at the Gowings Bar & Grill has set a standard that he wants to emulate at home – perfectly cooked medium-rare pink steak, with a delicious creamy pepper sauce.

Seafood Pie (filled with snapper, ocean trout, prawns and scallops in a puff pastry crust), $42
Seafood Pie (filled with snapper, ocean trout, prawns and scallops in a puff pastry crust), $42

I generally opt for seafood when given the choice, and the Seafood Pie caught my eye. I always think it’s hard to serve up the perfect seafood pie as more often than not, the seafood in the mix gets overcooked and becomes too dry or chewy. It’s a test that Gowings passed with flying colours – the pastry was sinfully buttery and rich, the pie filling creamy, and seafood fresh and full of flavour. It was a fantastic mix of seafood as well, with fish, prawns, clams, mussels and fat juicy scallops all making an appearance.

Sauteed mixed mushrooms, mint, parsley baked in a paper bag, $10 and Paris Mash, $10
Sauteed mixed mushrooms, mint, parsley baked in a paper bag, $10 and Paris Mash, $10

We ordered some sides to share. I had just a small amount of the Paris Mash as my seafood pie is already quite potato-y, but I do enjoy the little that I have – it’s ridiculously buttery and creamy, but still has enough texture to make it more than boring mashed baby-style food. The Sauteed Mixed Mushrooms were completely excellent and more-ish with just that slightest twinge of mint to elevate the earthiness of the dish.

The French American Warm Butter Cake, $16
The French American Warm Butter Cake, $16

I’d never heard of a French American Warm Butter Cake before, but the description on the menu was enough to make Jake’s mouth water: “Sweet n sour poached vanilla strawberries, a hint of chilli, young basil, chocolate and almond chips. Super iced down like really cold double pouring cream.” Not just cream – it’s super iced down cream! While I can’t speak to the dish as a whole, Jake certainly seemed pleased with his choice and the strawberries that I sampled were certainly extremely flavourful and quite unique.

Baked Chilled White Chocolate Pot, $16
Baked Chilled White Chocolate Pot, $16

K opted for the Baked Chilled White Chocolate Pot, served in an interesting large-handled dish. I particularly liked the texture and punch of flavour offered by the salted caramel crisps on top, but the dish as a whole was very enjoyable with a smooth white chocolate cream.

My Pavlova, $16
My Pavlova, $16

I opted for a slightly unusual take on an Australian classic – the My Pavlova. While it still features the classics of vanilla cream and passionfruit pulp, Gowings has given this classic dessert a bit of an Asian twist with the added toppings of coconut (fresh green coconut flesh, and candied toasted coconut) as well as sliced bananas. It’s quite south-east Asian in that respect, and the dessert is heightened and enhanced by this melding of flavours. The only thing that could have topped it is if they had added some pandan flavouring to the cream!

Overall, Gowings offers a pretty top-rate dining experience. Our meal was necessarily quick as we didn’t have a reservation, but I can see how it would be a great place to enjoy a long meal over several excellent cock/mocktails. The bill does start to add up though and before you know it, you’re shelling out three figures per person – so I would reserve this one for special occasions only.

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