The Eat-In

Hello again. It’s been a while.

In high school I studied the work of an Australian poet named Robert Gray. One of the recurring themes of his work is the transient nature of time. It’s taken me years to appreciate things and to recognise that they’re often merely a product of their time. In other words, I’m not always the best at letting go.

On Thursday, I had dinner at casual, pop up restaurant The Eat-In in Chippendale. Open since February, it’s run by the people from Full Circle. The Eat-In meals consist of a set menu of five to six small courses, focusing on seasonal and sometimes foraged produce.

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There are two dinner sittings available, either 6pm or 8.30pm. I’d have preferred dinner at 8.30pm but with my friend Jen joining me, I knew she’d be far too impatient hungry to wait for the second sitting. I did notice people wandering in at 7pm and 7.45pm so maybe you can just come in off the street for a feed. On the day of the booked dinner, I was texted the warehouse address. The quasi-secret location is part of the experience so I’m not going to spoil their fun!

We arrived at 6pm on the dot as requested. Hovering outside as the gates were locked, I called out a friendly ‘hello!’ into the hallway and one of the chefs Tom came out and unlocked it for us and let us in. The location is a sparsely furnished warehouse space equipped with an open kitchen. The ever evolving menu is handwritten and placed on the large communal chipboard tables where several desk lamps throw out discs of light.

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First up was a little bowl of olives and housemade pickles to share which were a good nibble as Jen and I settled in and caught up on recent happenings. It had only been three weeks since we’d seen each but it felt much longer.

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Most of the Eat-In’s courses are designed to be shared which works well with the communal table set up. The first few dishes came out so quickly, I wondered if we’d be out of there before 7pm. I asked if we could slow down slightly only for the waitress to scowl at me as she grudgingly agreed. To be fair, she did become more genial to all as the evening progressed.

The first official course was the avocado. The segments were perfectly ripe so you had creamy, yielding flesh contrasting with vinaigrette. I scooped that baby up in no time at all.

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Next up, the pine mushroom frittata with fried sage leaves (it leapfrogged ahead of the duck salad which came third instead of second). Isn’t it funny how unpalatable raw sage leaves can seem? But fry them in some fat and they become crispy and moreish. If you happen to dread surprises, The Eat-in crew share the menu of the day menu on Twitter and Instagram. They can cater for vegetarians so just let them know in advance.

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Our plate of duck salad seemed a little small and lonely compared to those around us but it was still good. With hazelnuts, watercress, pear, parsley and mint, you can’t go wrong. I love duck salads in all forms and have been making them myself lately. My eating habits at home tend to be something like Vegemite toast or a crispy duck salad with molasses dressing. It’s always either simple or time consuming but not much of the happy medium. What do you like to cook and eat at home?

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The roasted ricotta with homemade passata, fried basil leaves and a hunk of bread drizzled with olive oil might have been my favourite from the night. Really simple but so good as the passata had a less acidic tang than commercial passata and tasted incredibly fresh and light. The creamy ricotta was also made by the team. Overall, it was like the best tomato and basil soup you’ve ever had.

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Jewfish came next with a caper and almond crust. It was baked on slivers of mandoline-cut potato and served with a bowl of beans, housemade pancetta and fresh basil leaves.

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The Eat-In is now BYO (I have a feeling that they were previously serving wine but it may have come to the unwitting attention of local authorities) so I had brought along a bottle of Argentinian syrah that my friend Adam had given me for Christmas. After a first sip, I decided that Adam is a really wonderful, generous person with excellent taste in wine.

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Just as I suspected, dessert of ‘hearts’ was coeur à la crème, a classic French dessert. Cream cheese and yoghurt were mixed with vanilla, lemon zest and sugar. The mixture was hung in cloth for hours until firm and the whey drained out. This time, no sappy heart molds were required. Resting on a compote of rhubarb, plums and strawberries, the fruit provided the necessary tartness to temper the creamy heart. So rich, this is the perfect shared dessert.

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It’s harder to do simple things well than to distract people with lot of technical achievements and obscure ingredients. The end result was similar to my sweet labne cheesecake I made a while back. Although of course, The Eat-In’s version was richer and the compote was far superior. Jen and I were completely sated, yet not weighed down with excessive food.

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As your meal draws to an end, the total bill is scribbled onto the table with chalk, only to be wiped away for the next sitting. The lifespan of The Eat-In will be just as transient. With a month to month lease (and a verbal agreement of a four months duration), it’ll be gone before you know it. So if The Eat-In appeals, text ‘em quick and book a space. I’m already returning next month.

The Eat-In
Open for dinner Thursday, Friday and Saturday. 6pm or 8.30pm sittings. Walk-ins may also be possible but best to check with them first.
Text: 0406 525 123 to make a booking

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