It was my brother’s birthday this weekend and as has now become tradition, I took Friday off work to hang out with him. After the constant bullying I endured and the constant crying he put up with (from his perspective!) when we were kids, it’s funny to think that we get along so well these days.
We had a 7.30pm booking at 4Fourteen, the new restaurant from Colin Fassnidge of the Four in Hand. Cara Jones who also worked at the Four in Hand is the head chef. A display on one wall displays locations around the world that the chefs have worked at. It’s a quirky, personal touch and probably the only time you’ll ever see New York listed alongside Ulladulla.
On entering 4Fourteen, we were given the choice of sitting at a table or on the counter with a view of the open kitchen. I love to cook and my brother agreed the view was more interesting so the counter it was! I liked the mirrors that lined the kitchen perimeter to enable spying on the chefs. The menu is divided into the following headings; Fish, Meat, Salads and Starches and Pastry. It’s presented on a clipboard which has been decoupaged with sultry pin up girls.
When I initially made the dinner reservation, I’d mentioned that it was to celebrate my brother’s birthday. This doesn’t mean that I’m one of those customers. You know the ones; people that ruin a good vibe and sprout the deepest sympathy for waiters and service industry professionals in general. I just hope that for special occasions, my companions and I don’t get seated next to the toilet or by a drafty door. Usually I don’t know if it even makes a difference! But sometimes, just sometimes, there’s a surprise payoff for your efforts. Five minutes after we’d ordered, my brother and I were presented with two ‘live’ scallops served with horseradish and seaweed. These were compliments of the house for his birthday. Completely unexpected and so delicious.
I had Jerusalem artichoke soup with Parmesan oil to start. It was really smooth and I liked the sea lettuce. It tasted like normal seaweed so was a familiar flavour.
I’d read that the Irish Breakfast was a must order. I think breakfast might be my favourite meal of the day and I was secretly hoping that since it was Irish, it might involve potatoes. A single duck egg is nestled amongst slices of spicy chorizo, pearl barley braised in balsamic vinegar, soft blood pudding, prosciutto and watercress. It wasn’t a very large dish but felt quite rich. Pearl barley is something I love to cook with and it added some needed chewy texture to the dish. I’d order it again but it is a bit of a heart attack on a plate.
I also snuck a taste of my brother’s suckling pig with prunes, cauliflower and pistachio pesto. It’s a huge dish in comparison to mine, with a cabbage and radish salad on the side which includes more nubbins of pork. In addition to the crackling on the suckling pig, giant puffy pork skins adorned the dish. Strangely pale, it was reminiscent of popcorn or crispy styrofoam. It had a packaged puffy pork skin quality but looked a bit more fun than it tasted.
For dessert, my brother had the donuts and apple – cinnamon donut holes that sat on a small pool of baked apple sauce. It was served with a small canning jar of vibrantly green apple jelly which tastes like fresh Granny Smith apple peel. It was a light and refreshing accompaniment for the warm donuts.
As for me, I chose the daily popsicle. I heard ‘Nutrigrain’ flavour and my mind went blank with excitement. For those who haven’t ever had the pleasure, Nutrigrain is a brand of cereal which is sugary sweet and yet somehow marketed as ideal food for triathletes. Crazy! Crazy delicious, that is. But since I’m not a child, I haven’t eaten Nutrigrain for years. Our desserts came out and the waitress presented my popicle on a small wooden board, complete with a lit birthday candle. Wishing me a happy birthday, I was surprised and blurted that it was actually my brother’s birthday, not mine. I think the waitress felt a bit bad that she’d been told the wrong information but we didn’t mind. It was a funny moment.
My popsicle was like a sweet buttery, biscuit-y bowl of the cereal milk ie. the best part! It was served with a citrus yoghurt that at first I thought was labne since it was salty. But when I asked, I was told it was probably preserved lemon that made it seemed seasoned. The popiscle didn’t need it. Ignore the crumbs that have fallen onto the puddle of yoghurt as that’s just from my gleeful, messy enjoyment of the popsicle. I was waving that thing around, telling my brother how addictive it was.
4Fourteen is spacious and with wooden floors, it can get quite noisy inside. To counteract this, they have white, sound absorbing rectangular blocks that hang from the ceiling. It’s cosy despite the high ceilings and the service is friendly and affable. With a smartly priced menu, I think 4Fourteen is perfectly suited for the current economic environment. That doesn’t sound sexy but with Sydney restaurants closing left, right and centre, it’s an important consideration. People aren’t looking to splurge regularly on very fine dining. My brother and I had three courses each and it was all very affordable. Prices were comparable to the chain pub that’s close to his place that fills me with mouth-frothing rage. But that’s a story for another time.
I’d return to 4Fourteen in a heartbeat. But if I’m considering ordering the suckling pig or the Irish breakfast, I should probably up my exercise routine, to make sure my heart keeps pumping. Just in case.
414 Bourke St. Surry Hills NSW 2010 [Entrance via: 72a Fitzroy St]
Open Tuesday-Saturday lunch from noon, dinner from 6pm; Sunday lunch from noon-6pm
Phone: (02) 9331 5399