Posted on Wednesday, 8th October 2008
Note: Sadly this restaurant closed in 2012.
Many moons ago I was beckoned to Bird Cow Fish on the back of some glowing reviews when it first opened in the trendy inner-city Sydney suburb of Balmain, although no doubt I’d have paid it a visit anyway on the sheer ingenuity of its name alone. For me, that particular experience was surprisingly memorable. I do not profess to be an amorous gnocchi fan, sometimes finding even superior versions to be a little starchy and heavy. So it was surprising to discover on that visit that it was the gloriousness of the gnocchi at Bird Cow Fish that wowed me, their version proving so incredibly light and delicate as to have the effect of melting in my mouth. Two and a half years ago, Bird Cow Fish relocated to a new farmyard, to another trendy inner-city suburb of Sydney, Surry Hills. Again I was beckoned, this time to see if I could recapture the taste that was.
Bird Cow Fish operates in an L-shaped room with a deli counter of goodies on display as you enter. Opening for lunch as a deli-cum-cafe with its own blend of single origin coffee, in the evenings it transforms into a bistro with a good range of Australian and French wines (from $30 to $110). With dark wood floors, dark wood tables (perhaps slightly too small during a dinner session to be entirely comfortable) and muted lighting, it was enough to give off a happening café vibe from the hip and buzzy crowd on the night of our visit.
So what of the gnocchi ($18.50)? My sister still believes it to be the best gnocchi she has ever tasted and I think I’d find it hard to disagree. Served with sautéed prawns and crispy fried sage in a dreamy butter sauce, it was as heart-stoppingly delicious and meltingly soft as that first time I tried it.
The other chosen starter of broad bean and fennel salad ($18.50) did not disappoint either, although it could not compete in terms of intense flavour with the gnocchi. Served with queso de al Romero (Spanish ewe’s milk cheese) and pangrattato (French bread croutons), I was met with occasional hints of firm, creamy, mild cheese, and crunchy bites of crouton.
A main of sirloin steak with garlic butter ($32.50) was tender and succulent. The fish choices of Tasmanian Atlantic salmon in an anchovy cream sauce ($35.50) and line-caught barramundi (a white fish found in the tropical climes of Australia) served with aioli ($37.50) were both cooked to silky smooth perfection. The aioli added a delicate creamy touch to the barramundi, and the anchovy sauce, which was without any strong hint of saltiness, proved both simultaneously intense in its flavour and gentle against the salmon so as to not overwhelm. In a lesser setting I may have felt inclined to lick my plate.
Dessert was a quince and pistachio pudding with sauterne sabayon ($12.50). On its own, I found the pudding too dense, but accompanied by the slightly tart slices of caramelised quince and the custardy sabayon, the warm pudding became something quite moist and decadent.
As faultless as the food was, clever execution was not limited to just the cooking of head chef Alex Herbert. It was also evident in the service, the manner of which was formal and precise. Running like clockwork, it was fine tuned to the point where I felt, just slightly, that I may have been asked if I wanted an extra side of vegetables just one too many times.
This minor matter aside, Bird Cow Fish wowed on my first visit and it did so again on the second. No doubt I will hear that farmyard call again, beckoning me back sometime soon.
Bird Cow Fish at:
500 Crown Street
Surry Hills, NSW
Phone: +61 (0)2 9380 4090