Mostly, I have simple needs. I like good food and good times!
I asked my friend Kitty to join me on a food adventure at local restaurant, Sixpenny. Only open since the beginning of March this year, it’s getting noticed quickly. I left a message for a booking on their answering machine and to my dismay, a review of Sixpenny by The Sydney Morning Herald’s restaurant reviewer Terry Durack was published a day later.
My reaction? Imagine this with a raised, shaking fist:
“Damn you Terry! How will I get a booking at Sixpenny now?!”.
A little overdramatic as I was still able to talk my way into a 12pm seating for Saturday lunch. Can I add that I really do like Terry Durack and I’ve read his work for about 20 years. I used to read his articles in issues of Gourmet Traveller magazine long ago. I’ve just always loved food writing.
On Saturday, I arrived first at Sixpenny and chatted to the waiter and somehow ended up performing a stream of consciousness about warm days, iyengar yoga and how I consider bootcamp to be a form of self torture. Call me weak but I don’t want to pay someone to bully me. Thank god Kitty showed up before I talked him to death.
There were two choices for the meal – a degustation of 6 courses or 8 courses. Kitty and I looked at each other and although we talked it through, I knew we’d go for eight. I mean, she’d brought the fat kid* with her.
The Sixpenny space itself is small, but with plenty of breathing space between tables so it’s perfect for private conversation. Filled with Scandinavian style dark wooden furniture, the custom-made ceramic lights with a shiny glaze on the inside stood out in the sparsely furnished room. The light pedants and all of the tableware were fired by Bendigo Pottery, the oldest working pottery in Australia. The plates and bowls were solidly heavy but still very beautiful. Sheer white floor length curtains softly diffused the afternoon light, making me wonder if the restaurant becomes very dim at night.
Sixpenny does vegetables very well. Everything tastes like you’re wandering around a garden picking sun-warmed vegetables and flowers to eat. Some of their produce is grown in their garden out back or sourced from a Bowral farm. Rather than walk you through every course, I’ll just mention my personal highlights. To accompany the food, Kitty and I had a glass of BK rose which was very drinkable and not very sweet – just how I like it.
To start, warm housebaked sourdough bread and marscapone butter. You’ve never had butter this creamy.
Then some snacks. Who doesn’t like snacks?! The rye bread was earthy, with intense, almost coffee tones and was topped with virgin whipped butter. It was like a macchiato with cream.
The rye bread came served with garden pickles. Included carrots, spring onions, daylily petals and a cucumber the size of your thumbnail.
Fingerling potatoes made into salt and malt vinegar chips.
The knuckle sandwich made with pork knuckle and brioche toasts. Cute name and tiny buttery-rich toasts. Beside them, duck tongues with cartilage removed. Before you get turned off, duck tongues are nothing to be scared of. My mother would buy these readymade at Chinese BBQ shops when I was little and I’d look at the container a little sadly, knowing that many ducks died to fill it. Everyone knows animals only have a single tongue each! [If you know an animal with multiple tongues, please let me know.] To be honest, at Sixpenny, it tasted like a sliver of any roasted meat on a baby lettuce leaf.
Cheddar cheese and onions were inspired by you guessed it, cheese and onion crisps. They tasted like their inspiration without any harsh onion flavour. Also lacking that artificial, thirst inducing aftertaste. It was a clean, simple and moreish course.
Crab, macadamia and camomile leaves. This course was fragrant with crab meat and sweet with the macadamias. The fresh camomile tasted much better than the tea. Softly floral, it would be an amazing dessert ingredient. I wonder what a fresh camomile leaf ice cream would be like? I think this was Kitty’s favourite.
Coorong hanger, smoky cauliflower and mustard leaves. Have I mentioned that I love smoky food? I do and I loved it.
Extra surprise course of suckling pork which the chef decided to grace us (and I assume everyone else too) with. Crunchy crackling and soft pork, it was a dependable crowdpleaser.
Meyer lemon sorbert in a candied Meyer lemon rind segment on a smudge of lemon gel. Refreshing and slightly bitter, it reminds me of bitter lemon.
Daylily bud sitting in a pool of warmed honey. The tender daylily buds were picked from a local garden whose owner grows a lot of edible flowers. He’s happy for Sixpenny to pick whatever they want. I’m happy too and suddenly feel overcome with a desire to scavenge around my neighbourhood. Daylily owners, beware!
Honey mead sorbet with bitter cocoa sauce and banana. Kitty claims she couldn’t taste the bitterness but the cocoa was mildly bitter and all the better for it.
Now comes my favourite and since I’m not a dessert person you have to believe me when I say it was goddamn delicious. Delicious, I tell you!
Jersey milk ice cream, thin shards of frozen cookie dough and burnt butter. You heard me. Burnt butter! I love brown butter and the chefs had taken it right to the edge of being edible. The milk solids were burnt and had become crispy and slightly bitter. Served molten at the table, it was ladled over the creamy ice cream and solidied like chocolate Ice-magic. It tasted salty so I’m thinking it was either salted butter or they added salt. It was genius, like a buttery salted caramel-toned crackling.
Now as Kitty and I sat and enjoyed our meal, we’d seen other tables come and go. First to arrive, we were one of the last to leave the lunch service. If you’ve counted up the courses, you’ll notice that it’s far more than eight and I didn’t even describe them all. The snacks were pickles, rye bread, malt chips, duck tongue and the knuckle sandwich. So I think that’s meant to encompass one course. The daylily bud with warm honey many also have been a palate refresher rather than a proper course as it wasn’t listed on the menu.
I thought we were done and ordered a fresh lemon balm tea to end the meal. Kitty had fresh peppermint. But I’d forgotten about the petit fours which are fast getting a reputation – housemade versions of classic Australian biscuits. They were cute and well made but almost were too much by that point.
I’d originally had plans to go to yoga class that afternoon at 3pm but found myself still at Sixpenny at 4pm, full to bursting and wondering how I’d ever be able to eat another meal.
Strangely, both Kitty and I didn’t feel like eating much for a few days after the Sixpenny experience. It was truly the best meal I’ve had for months; maybe since Momofuku Seiobo in December last year. [Don’t be fooled by the fancy restaurant name dropping. I often eat at cheap and cheerful places too!]
Let’s just hope Terry doesn’t mention Sixpenny again or we’ll have no hope of getting a table and returning.
83 Percival Road, Stanmore NSW 2048
Open for lunch Sat-Sun; dinner Wed-Sat
Phone: (02) 9572 6666
*This is not an allusion to pregnancy. It’s an allusion to Kitty’s ability to eat like a fat kid. Awe inspiring.