I often travel to the major centres for work, and when I do, I “tack on” a weekend for myself to explore, enjoy and dine out. This time I was in Sydney, with some time to kill while waiting for the hotel room. With 4fourteen just around the corner, it seemed like a perfect opportunity for a casual Friday lunch. A few beers and some great food seemed like a great way to kick off the weekend.
4fourteen opened in Surry Hills earlier this year, a more casual and laidback alternative to chef Colin Fassnidge’s Four in Hand. Living by the same nose-to-nail, meat-centric philosophy as Four in Hand, 4fourteen, however, is stripped-back, with its raw warehouse dining room and food designed to share. The menu starts off with individual serves of nibbles and rolls, leading into small, large and larger plates for sharing; as well as ‘salads and starches’ to accompany and ‘pastry’ to end.
Put simply, this is traditional food (with the occasional twist), done perfectly, served with a playful family-style approach and friendly, warm service. I know if I lived in Sydney this would become one of those favourite neighbourhood eateries to visit with friends and share a great meal and good times.
(On a slight tangent, when did the word ‘traditional’ become a euphemism for old-fashioned, bordering on boring? To me, traditional is the food of family, soul and love; it’s the kind of food that you turn to when you need comfort and that brings back memories. Traditional to me is never going to be boring or old-fashioned, it’s who we are and where we came from.)
A moreish treat of a deboned chicken wing, sitting atop rich, smooth chicken liver parfait. Apple chutney cuts through the richness of the dish, and a crispy tortilla adds that element of crunch and texture. This is one of the best snacks I’ve had for a long time, I could have eaten a plate of them with a few ales.
What eatery worth their salt doesn’t have some kind of dude food roll/slider/bun these days. The menu features five different options from crab to pork belly, we went for beef brisket, knowing we’d be having pork as a main dish. The bun was soft and fresh, and the meat was tender and delicious, yet the smoked mayonnaise didn’t come through as strong as I thought it might have, and I did wonder if a more flavour-packed relish/chutney or chili-laced mayonnaise might have set off the rich brisket better. The roll was tasty and welcoming, but just needed a small tweak.
On the ‘larger plates’ area of the menu, this dish was filled with generosity (especially as it came with its own side of colcannon), and was served ‘family-style’ in a blue cast iron casserole dish. Slices of juicy, perfectly seasoned, well-flavoured roast pork, with fantastic crunchy crackling, served with a whole baked apple and cabbage that still had a lovely bite to it. This was a wonderful, homely dish, designed to share and bring back memories of family Sunday roasts.
A traditional Irish side dish, a creamy mashed potato with parsley (amongst other ingredients) cutting through the richness. I love when you have something so simple, yet so delicious, and it reminds you never to write off something as simple as the potato!
Roasted carrots are one of those treats that you don’t come across as often as you should, the sweet flavour and that soft, almost chewy texture. I think the ginger and cumin could have had a bit more of a kick, but the yoghurt and mint played off the sweetness of the carrots perfectly.
A play on the Bounty chocolate bar, deconstructed with a gorgeously silky chocolate mousse, shavings of toasted coconut, bites of ice-cream dusted in cocoa and the crunchy texture of a Brandy snap style tuile. It’s one of those desserts designed for you to go hunting through, finding treats hidden under a jungle of shavings and a shower of cocoa.
While the Bounty was an abundance of flavours, textures and contrasts, this dessert is about simplicity. A decadent white chocolate ice-cream smothered in that heavenly cousin of salted caramel, Dulce de Leche, finished with layers of the same Brandy snap tuile as the Bounty. This was a wickedly sinful dessert, showing that simplicity can wow; 3 components done well.