I’d been to Bloodwood once before, yonks ago, with Twinnie. We sat in the window, sipped cocktails and demolished a charcuterie platter. All these things were excellent and I always meant to go back but never did.
Did on Friday night, late. Hubby and I also sat in the window, enjoying the nostalgic grunge of Newtown where I’d lived as a student (along with much of Sydney’s student population). What used to be the “boring end” of King Street (towards St Peters) is now pumping with wine bars, trendy restaurants (a step up from the ol’ $7 pad thai takeaways), totally revamped pubs, and even a bar hidden behind an old butchers (Earls Juke Joint – not Betta Meats – pictured above).
We started with my favourite Tassie cider, Willie Smith’s Organic and an interesting American import, Clown Shoes ‘Swagger Hoppy’ Red Lager. Meant to move on to vino but these choices were too good.
The menu is intriguing and I honestly could’ve ordered all of it (bar the lamb, but that’s just my anthropomorphism). It’s of that modern style where things come in varying sizes and are designed to be shared, but you can still go down the traditional entrée-main-sides-pudding path if that’s your preference. We chose a number of smaller plates at random, with the killer suggestion of socca (a chickpea pancake-slash-omelette) from our awesome waiter. In fact, he was one of several awesome waitstaff – all were high vibes and chatty and well-versed in the food & drink.
We enjoyed two interesting and contrasting salads. The winner was the broad beans & fennel with radicchio, loads of dill, a lemony, slightly creamy dressing, and fabulous garlic croutons made from their house-baked soy-linseed bread. I do love a restaurant salad that appears so effortless but has clearly had a lot of thought put into its composition. The grilled cuttlefish with celeriac slaw was also very good – loved the Nepali spice mix, whatever it was (very earthy, with lots of black mustard seeds) – but methinks the potato crisps would’ve worked better as a garnish (like deep fried shallots) rather than a main component. The mouthfuls got a bit confusing.
The recommended socca was incredible and I am ever so glad Awesome Waiter (#1 of 3) pointed us in its direction. The chickpea base was a thick pancake made with chickpea flour, which was eggy and puffy like a Spanish omelette, and with a slightly crisped bottom. It was topped with Persian fetta, fried cauliflower, mint & dill, toasted almonds, and nigella seeds, and the menu tells me there was also quinoa but I didn’t notice this. It was STUNNING. An absolute MUST, and not something I otherwise would’ve thought to choose were it not for Awesome Waiter suggesting we offset our salads with a bit of substance. Also just in shot below is one of the crispy rice balls: deep-fried quenelles of sticky rice with a coconut, galangal and tamarind dressing and sprinkled with toasted red rice. Like a southeast Asian arancini (sort of). They were a complementary flavour match with the cuttlefish ‘n’ Nepalese slaw.
We had room left to share a pudding, and plumped for the trifle with strawberries, pound cake, port wine jelly, champagne anglaise, yoghurt mascarpone. This went beautifully with a glass of Ine Mankai red rice nihonshu, which I’d fallen in love with at Melbourne’s Golden Fields. The wine list (which we will explore properly next time) has lots of French and Spanish intrigue, and I commend their inclusion of nihonshu, which works so well outside the Japanese context (e.g. with trifle!) and more places should offer.
So! Whilst the povvo student in me still makes a beeline for the much-loved Pho 236, I am equally happy to explore Newtown’s dining brackets above $15. Bloodwood was one of its first cool foodie wine bars, and continues to be a credit to King Street – especially the (no longer) “boring end”!