Complete with tree-lined path, flowing fountain and a neatly groomed hedge lining the elegant white building, Chiswick is exactly the kind of place I’d picture an English garden party, complete with strawberries, champagne and ladies wearing fancy full brimmed hats. Not that much of a stretch of the imagination, considering that such events wouldn’t be out of place in Woollahra. Indeed, the restaurant has been flocked to by the local Ladies who Lunch, but for now the bustling vibe and helpful service keeps stuffiness at bay. However, Chiswick is undeniably an Eastern Suburbs scene, a hotspot to see and be seen, but this is to be expected when you mesh a celebrity chef, suburbia and all the current ‘casual eating’, ‘kitchen-garden’ buzzwords.
The impressive re-vamp of the former Prunier’s site has also drawn crowds, us included – I came with the fam as my parents were married at Prunier’s and were curious to re-visit. Funnily enough, our table was in the same place as their bridal table was.
The new décor makes you feel like your dining in a very well decorated home, with inviting touches like coat hooks, brightly colored rugs and oversized lamps creating warmth in the open plan dining room, looking out onto the garden through cream framed floor-to-ceiling windows.
The kitchen-garden is also the focus of the food, emphasizing seasonal, sustainable produce. A hybrid of Moran’s famous fine dining style and a ‘local bistro’ ethos, the menu strikes a balance between comfort and un-familiarity, recognizable flavors yet not things that the average person would cook at home. There is an emphasis on share plates, which adds to the dinner party feel.
An entrée of silky ravioli plump with melting strands of veal is artfully surrounded by baby capers, blanched soybeans, sharp vinagarette and tiny shards of hard-boiled egg white. A less refined, more playful veal starter, the ‘vitello tonnato’ slider with toasty warm brioche bun, tender pink veal patty, totally un-fishy soft anchovies and a creamy lick of tuna mayo is equally delicious. More Italian classics need to be burgerfied. Carbonara bacon n egg roll? * Since my visit this item has been replaced by a snow crab slider, which I may have to return for. *
The Americana influence continues, and ends, with a share bowl of crisp buttermilk chicken. There is no dainty way to do deep fried chicken, but there are delicious ways, achieved here with good crunchy batter, tender meat and a creamy harissa mayo, hot but not crazy hot like harissa can be.
More deep fried action can be had with some nice n chunky hand cut chips. I was more enamored with the accompanying black garlic (fermented garlic) aioli, and pair it with everything at the table.
Chiswick’s signature dish, the Moran family grass fed lamb is a lamb lovers dream, but equally pleasing to those who aren’t usually fans – our waitress tells us that she does not eat meat but eats this lamb, because she ‘knows where it comes from’. My dad and brothers usually loathe lamb and warily murmured protest to ordering this, but one forkful had them murmuring ‘mmm – I like it’. That elusive falling off bone texture is adeptly achieved here, after a process of brine soaking and slow cooking for anywhere between 2 to 10 hours. The accompanying sides are simple, some sweet cherry tomato halves and pesto-slicked chickpeas, both whole and pureed. Don’t worry if you fear you wont manage the whole whopping serve – wastage can be avoided via a doggy bag, happily provided, to take home any leftovers for perfect pita-stuffing the next day.
Ordered incase the boys didn’t like the lamb, the beef is served plainly, with a crisp watercress salad and some peppery white horseradish, both creamed and fresh, grated on top. My brothers prefer meat more medium than medium-rare, and on requesting this they were assured by our waitress that the chef would oblige, as ‘Matt Moran has a reputation to uphold’.
For dessert, a neat square of buttery dark chocolate mousse atop an equally dark biscuit base reminds us of a terry’s chocolate orange – not a bad thing. The accompanying mandarin sorbet is a beautifully light counterpart to the rich mousse, though we wished there was more of it.
Éclairs are not really my thing unless chocolate covered, but for those who love cream and don’t have much of a sweet tooth this dessert would be perfect.
The poached quince crumble is cozy, just sweet enough served with a gently spiced ginger ice-cream. Eating this reminds me of being in England, and looks very fitting next to the vintage mismatched cup and saucer presented with tea, of which there is a nice selection. Mint tea is made from the garden, whilst herbals are by Penelope Sach, and black teas are by The Tea Centre. As the name suggests, my ‘Petal’ tea was light and floral.
Actually, I feel like Chiswick’s next venture should be afternoon tea. The setting is so perfect! Can’t you imagine scones served with jams made from the garden?
Though that’s probably too girly to suit Moran’s rep…