Faboosh – Bouche on Bridge REVIEW
Bouche on Bridge
6 Bridge Street, Sydney NSW 2000
Chef: Harry Stockdale-Powell
Cuisine: Modern Australian
It takes a ballsy, confident chef to open up across the road from a former employer, especially one the calibre of Eleven Bridge (Neil Perry). This is the first inkling to expect something out of the norm when dining at Bouche on Bridge, the now home and hearth of British-born executive chef Harry Stockdale-Powell (ex Rockpool est 1989, Marque) and business partner Emma Darrouzet.
There is chatter at the moment about the long term viability of fine dining in Sydney with critically lauded venues closing (Marque, Cafe Paci, Silvereye, Sepia) or reinventing (Eleven Bridge, Spice Temple, Four in Hand), so it is with interest that I book a table at the newly opened ‘casual-fine dining’ venue Bouche on Bridge.
Chef Stockdale-Powell is an advocate of quality produce from Australian providers. Although can I just add that if you have ever visited Flinders Island off the coast of Tasmania, you will probably balk at eating Wallaby (it’s considered a pest, even though it’s actually a nice rich beef-like meat). But I digress.
The restaurant doorway is nondescript and lulls you into a false opinion, until you ascend the stairs, greeted in earnest and ushered through the dusk-lit room. Like a beacon on a foggy night, the mezzanine is brightly beaming and bustling with activity (this is the mystery location of the kitchen and also the soon to be launched Chef’s Table). At the rear of the restaurant is a beautifully stocked, elegant bar where all the drinks action takes place and perhaps where the long term point of difference will realise itself with bartender, Matt Linklater (ex Bulletin Place) and Head Sommelier Seamus Brandt (ex Rockpool Bar & Grill) in charge.
The menu is a sectional selection with ‘Sea, Land, Farm, Savour & Sweet‘ from which to choose. This evening we come prepared with extra guests so we can sample as much of the menu as possible (although disappointingly Wallaby is nowhere to be seen). Our first selections come from Sea with ‘Oysters, blood orange, wakame‘ ($4 each) followed by ‘Kingfish, beetroot, pomelo‘ ($18), topped off with ‘Diamond clams, celeriac, beer‘ ($29). The favourite were the Diamond clams for their sweet, salty, buttery flavour.
We continue grazing onto Land which are dishes with ingredients from the earth (veg-centric). There were two clear favourites here with ‘Asparagus, duck yolk, grains‘ ($19) and ‘Kipflers, lardo, anchovies‘ ($14). The char on the asapargus and the crunch of the grains worked beautifully with the creamy yolk. Whereas the Kipflers were overwhelmingly moreish from the (thrice?) cooked potatoes to the salt of the anchovy and flavoursome depth of the lard (almost drooled writing that).
The Farm was a robust selection of bone marrow, pork, lamb, chicken and beef dishes. The ‘Wessex saddleback, white strawberries, charred lettuce‘ ($34) and the ‘Chicken, hay, white soy‘ ($24 half/ $39 whole) were highlights. The dishes were simply presented with generous portions that were perfect for sharing.
In an interesting addition the Savour section of the menu (I’m guessing) appears to be about savouring every last bit of the plant/animal, like duck neck, pork hock and liver (chicken parfait). This is a beautiful concept and one that the Foodie Mookie crew supports in earnest. There is so much of the plant/animal that is wasted when it can be used to create delicious dishes like ‘Pork hock and cumquat terrine, fioretto, crème fraiche‘ ($16) and ‘Rabbit rillet, pickled chive flowers‘ ($16). The latter reminded me of the lovely ‘local line-caught fish brandade‘ dish from Three Blue Ducks in Byron Bay.
At this point we can see the home stretch with three desserts in our sight, so we jump in and order all three dishes on the Sweet section. The ‘Hazelnut, chocolate, malt‘ (think a large frozen Baci chocolate – $16) and ‘Mandarin, shortbread, fennel‘ ($18) are rich and delicious however it is the ‘Beetroot, goats milk, liquorice‘ ($18) that is by far the stand out and once again reminds me of the signature dessert ‘Carrot, yoghurt and licorice’ on Cafe Paci’s degustation (RIP Cafe Paci).
Bouche on Bridge has assembled a crack team and clearly has Sydney fine-diners in their sight. Those same diners who are still reeling from brilliant chefs and venues whose doors are now closed for business.The menu is reasonably priced and eclectic enough to peak curiousity. This combined with obvious talent in the kitchen and on the floor bodes well for Bouche on Bridge’s longevity. There is a definite curiousity at Foodie Mookie HQ that will warrant a return visit to see how the menu evolves with the seasons and suppliers.
I’m also quietly wondering if the staff at Bouche on Bridge and Eleven Bridge wave to each other across the road knowing that this healthy rivalry will help fill the void left by those dearly departed restaurants from Sydney’s fine dining scene.