Posted on Tuesday, 14th October 2008
In a few days I am sadly due to leave the glorious sunny and temperate Sydney shores to traverse my way over many seas back to the onset of autumn in London. Like a good movie, a splendid ending was called for. I wracked my brains, wanting a memorable story with a grand dining finale. So like a good location scout, I searched and searched and think I found the spot. It’s called The Restaurant at the 3 Weeds, and here is my story…
The story begins when, as a little six year old girl, I first registered the existence of the 3 Weeds Pub in my young consciousness. Back then, it was known as the Rose, Shamrock and Thistle, a pub situated roughly somewhere halfway between where I used to live and where I went to school. There would be many occasions when I’d walk past it, realising it was a place where those big grown ups would go to drink and be merry.
Fast forward the tape a little to me as a young university student, and I’d become one of those grown ups who frequented the establishment, especially on those occasions when there were talented aspiring rock bands doing the rounds of the pub circuit on Friday and Saturday nights. The 3 Weeds resonated tradition and history, so it was with some surprise that I discovered that where it was once the stomping ground to many talented musicians, it now played host instead to the 2007 Best Restaurant in a Pub*.
To explain this, we move to the subplot which runs something along the lines of tightening council regulations and stricter noise control guidelines. Recognising times change and things must move on, it was with some nostalgia (and sadness) that the rock bands were gradually forced away. And so some three and a half years ago, the pub was totally renovated and the restaurant created.
Back to the scene at hand, at the Restaurant at the 3 Weeds and you have the central characters: my sister, mother and I. The camera flashes up with a picture of me registering surprise as we walked through first the cozy, buzzy more casual bistro area, to the formal dining room towards the back of the restaurant. The pub has undergone a total transformation. Like a little girl who has grown up to be a young lady, the restaurant was now seductively soft but sophisticated, with a warm smile, gentle glow, attractive curves and an easygoing manner.
The director was head chef John Evans, who coaxed fine performances from all concerned. The starter of slow-cooked pork belly dazzled ($20), the meltingly fatty bits of tender meat merging with finely crisped crackling. Served with and the rich, deep flavour of morcilla, a Spanish blood sausage, it was a textural triumph, almost Academy Award ‘Oscar’ winning worthy.
The mains also put on fine showings. The mushroom ravioli served with truffled celeriac sauce ($28) proved quite delightful, even if it was a little under-sauced. The finely diced mushrooms which filled the belly of the plump ravioli were like little bursts of exquisite flavour, and contrasted nicely with the intoxicating sauce, so superbly aromatic it was like the fragrance of a sweet smelling perfume.
The fish of the day was a pan-fried blue-eyed trevalla, more commonly referred to as cod although it is not actually cod. Served with sweet corn puree ($34) it was also a crowd pleaser. Adorned with a meaty, fat scallop cooked to al dente perfection and crunchy beads of borlotti beans, the puree provided a sweet delicate juxtaposition to the meatiness of the fish.
The daube of beef, served with tarragon and parsley gnocchi ($33) was so meltingly tender it fell apart on first touch, even if it was cooked with a little too heavy a touch of red wine that disturbed the balance of the flavour of the meat. However, the crisp café de Paris butter, a ball of butter mixed with a plethora of spices, proved a surprising twist to the story. Here, it was crumbed with fine Japanese breadcrumbs and deep fried, and when released, it burst open with flavoursome melted butter as if to smother the meat with tender yummy kisses.
In the final scene was a baked ricotta cheesecake with strawberry and basil salad ($15). The ricotta cheesecake was lusciously creamy, although I found the puff pastry, baked flat and caramelised, to conflict with the script for it was a little dry and uncomplimentary. I would have much preferred a buttery biscuit base, although the tease of bursts of flavour and aroma from the tiny slivers of basil ribbons in the salad more than pulled its weight in garnering praise.
Throughout the evening, recognition must be given to the staff on set. Wonderful and attentive, they oozed graceful charm, even if at times the timing of the delivery of the food was perhaps out of sync and slightly slow in pace.
The credits roll (thanks to mummy and sis!), and with the parting shot you see me, the once little girl, looking happy and satisfied from the delicious meal and excellent company. Belly full, I smile. What a befitting finale to a wonderful time in Sydney.
*As awarded by the Restaurant and Catering Association.
The Restaurant at the 3 Weeds at:
193 Evans St,
Phone: +61 (0)2 9818 2788