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the four in hand, paddington

August 23, 2013

outside the four in hand, paddington

It is not often that I find myself in Paddington. I feel it far too trendy for me, too put-together for a girl who wears mens’ cardigans and jeans-she-bought-on-sale. The kind of girl who finds herself over-excited and arriving at The Four in Hand for her much-anticipated birthday dinner fifteen minutes before it opens.

Oops.

(To be fair, it was my birthday, I’d had a fantastic nap that afternoon and we’d skipped lunch in anticipation.)

I wasn’t sure what to expect, but there it sat, tucked away, two streets off the main drag of Oxford Street. A cream-coloured, cement rendered pub, glowing with television screens and yellow lightbulbs, the crowd’s cheers audible from a little way up the road. And tacked onto the back, black framed windows, a cosy dining room and an ink painting of a squid that I hope to find a replica of for the walls of my home some day.

After a cheeky drink, we amble in to the restaurant (it’s open this time), take our seats on the plush banquette, and place our order:

“Two of the five course degustation menu, one with matching wines, and could I possibly substitute the lamb for pork?”

“Of course!”

Wonderful then.

tuna sashimi with lemon curd, cucumber juice and sea herbs

tuna sashimi with lemon curd, cucumber juice and sea herbs

We started with a demitasse filled with seafood broth, golden, slightly smoky and sour. Bread is set on our plates, a curl of creamy butter and salt flakes alongside.

(We finished our bread before the end of the first course and were rather pleased at receiving a second one each, which was dutifully wolfed down with the last vestiges of the butter).

I am glad for the bread, as that pre-dinner drink had made my hands oddly shaky, and I would have been quite upset had I been unable to capture (and afterward, remember) this dish.

Clean, yet fatty. Sweet yet zesty. Juicy yet crisp.

Slices of tuna sashimi awash in a sea of buttermilk and cucumber juice. Dollops of lemon curd – more bitter and savory than sweet – and the saline crunch of samphire and the curiously named pigface to heave your palate underwater where the sea is soft and cold, the air briny and sweet. We drank a wine alongside (white, not the red pictured) and remembered our trip to the Mediterranean.

fennel custard  with crab and hazelnuts

fennel custard with crab and hazelnuts

Next came a patch of forest on an earthenware dish.

Fronds of fennel tops shading a medley of soft, sweet crab and crunchy, roasted hazelnuts. A silken fennel custard is topped with candied pieces of the same that give ever-so-slightly between the teeth before the sweet, aniseedy crunch.

And as we eat, we remember traipsing through the woods, keeping a lookout for deer. Getting lost in amongst the trees with only a faint GPS signal and our wine-hazed memories to lead us back to our beds that night.

warm corned beef  with bresaola, buffalo curd and nashi pear

warm corned beef with bresaola, buffalo curd and nashi pear

Away from the sea and further into the woods with a jenga-block construct of warmed corned beef and nashi pear. Warm, meltingly soft and briney. Crisp, sweet and juicy. And all of it topped with a draping of brescaola, and surrounded by a sea of buffalo curd speckled with shaved horseradish.

Koji is still at sea (or, to be more specific, wishing for an endless supply of picked crab and fennel custard), but I am enamoured with the clash of textures and flavours, the nose-clearing effects of horseradish against the soothing familiarity of corned beef. The fat, smoke and salt of the brescaola against the fresh nashi pear.

roast lamb with buttermilk, lamb and smoked hay jus // suckling pig with crisp tail, parsnip and sprouts

roast lamb with buttermilk, lamb and smoked hay jus // suckling pig with crisp tail, parsnip and sprouts

And here, our adventures diverged. Koji’s onto a plain of curled slices of pink roast lamb with crisp radish, warm buttermilk and smoked hay jus; a dish that he declared his favourite of the evening and reluctantly offered me unlimited forkfuls of. It certainly was tempting, particularly when hearing him murmuring happily at the confit rib, grilled tongue and the rest, but I was nice and declined after the first, being rather pleased with my own selection… for I had suckling pig!

Not a whole pig, mind you (though that is an option for larger groups who book ahead), but rather, a crisp tail croquette, bricks of roast belly, confit shoulder and tiles of crackling served alongside sweet roast parsnips and my ever-growing-favourites, the roasted sprout.

A floor staff mix-up meant we weren’t offered the cheese course, though the platter selected by the table next-door had us wishing we had been, and were instead ushered straight to dessert, a dark trail of cocoa-dusted malt ice cream, shatteringly crisp tuile and a slick of sticky, toffee’d malt. The “chocolate malt”, surpasses its simple description, and as well all of the dishes that evening, is scraped clean of even the last specks of powder.

chocolate marquise with malt ice cream // dulce de leche petit fours

chocolate marquise with malt ice cream // dulce de leche petit fours

We don’t eat out that much, Koji & I, and can be quite picky about our birthday and anniversary meals.

We can be fussy about big crowds and loud spaces, about brusque service and impractical cutlery, about getting dressed up and dolled up to eat a meal that wouldn’t be out of place if we’d made it in our own kitchen (and that we could have eaten in our trackies instead, darn it).

But the Four in Hand had us glad to get up and about, had us feeling no less than lovely in our special-evening-out-attire and had us grinning as we stumbled up the street to find ourselves a way back home, into our comfortable pyjamas and bare feet and doonas.

Which is all you can ask of a birthday dinner, really.

(Well, that and being able to pop your head into the kitchen to say a slightly tipsy “HI!” to a very busy Colin Fassnidge as he sweats at the impossibly narrow pass).

outside the four in hand, paddington

 

The Four in Hand, Paddington

105 Sutherland Street
Paddington NSW 2021
e: [email protected]
w: www.fourinhand.com.au
Open for lunch: Tuesday to Sunday from 12:00pm – 2:30pm
Open for dinner: daily from 6:00pm to 10:00pm
(bookings highly recommended)

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  • #1
    August 23rd, 2013

    What a lovely birthday dinner. Funnily enough I was planning to go here for my birthday.. and like you, I’m definitely not in the area if at all because it’s just not me. Seems there are exceptions.. like this! 🙂 x

  • #2
    August 23rd, 2013

    Omg YUM! I really, really wanted to try Four in Hand the last time I was in Sydney but didn’t get the chance. Looks like I really missed out! And uhhh, didn’t know Paddy is *that* kinda area cuz I’m normally in casual hoodies/sweaters 95% of the time too haha…

  • #3
    August 27th, 2013

    Gosh I’ve been dying to visit four in hand for ages now, but like you I don’t visit paddington all that often… But this looks like the perfect place for a birthday dinner and looks like you had a beautiful meal. Happy birthday!

  • #4
    August 27th, 2013

    Sounds like a wonderful celebration dinner! Happy Birthday 🙂 I’ve yet to get to four in hand so I’m putting it higher up on the “must get to” list after reading this.

  • #5
    September 20th, 2013

    I went to Four in Hand for Mothers’ Day. had a fantastic lunch. Shame they didn’t offer you the cheese course 🙁

Shez