Low-key, cheerful and a little bit cheeky, Eathouse Diner is the kind of hangout everyone wishes they had in their neighbourhood. We follow the pointing finger instructing us to "eat here" and find ourselves in a deliberately kitsch American-style diner that is already half-full barely 15 minutes into service.
Turquoise walls trimmed with black-and-white check can't compete with the main focal point of the room, the curved Formica bar in shiny sports car red, complete with red and silver stools and a tilted mirror above shelves that are groaning with alcohol.
Chocolate cherry tart
At one end of the counter are bowls of fruit, ready for cocktails, at the other end is a happy jumble of water jugs and glasses, and cake platters of dessert.
Eclair and sponge finger moulds
You'll have to thread your way through the eclectic collection of second-hand chairs and tables to get to the bathroom, but you'll probably end up stopping at the glass cabinet filled with vintage memorabilia and trinkets that is either a trip down memory or a history lesson in design in product packaging.
If loitering by the display case doesn't prolong your absence from your fellow guests, then the collage of old newspaper clippings dotted with cutouts of nude female photos in the bathrooms definitely will.
Snowdrop Ice Cream vintage packaging
There's no food menu here - everything is listed on the blackboard by the front, a chalked-up list of specials that changes regularly.
The range of spirits, cocktails, wine and beers do appear on a laminated menu. We order a range of drinks but the Monteiths crushed apple cider ($7) is the most popular, served in a squat handled beer mug and clinking with ice. Cocktails arrive with fluorescent swizzle sticks, although we notice that some are bent from re-use.
Campari and ruby red grapefruit $8.50
Arnold Palmer $5.50
Duck liver pate with sweet 'n' sour onions $18
There are nine of us dining tonight and we elect to share all our dishes as a group. Duck liver pate is the first to arrive, and the smoky aroma of charred bread wafts irresistibly over us as the dish is placed on the table. We spread the thick hunks of bread with duck liver pate, highlighted with dabs of caramelised onion slivers.
Kingfish carpaccio with ruby grapefruit, fried garlic and radish $16
Kingfish carpaccio is the perfect appetiser for summer, velvety fillets of kingfish sweetened by segments of ruby red grapefruit and elegant matchsticks of crunchy raw radish.
Blue swimmer crab salad $22
I'd been skeptical about the blue swimmer crab salad, let down by far too many in the past, but this version ends up being one of my favourite dishes of the night. A tumble of mint leaves, witlof spears and fine shreds of red cabbage is generously draped with shreds of succulent sweet crab, tossed with a light and creamy dressing.
Rare beef with heirloom tomatoes, lentils and balsamic reduction $25
Rare beef is another highlight, a tower of melt-in-the-mouth slices of meat piled over perfectly cooked lentils and juicy heirloom tomatoes.
Jerk spatchcock with beans 'n' rice and mango salsa $27
The jerk spatchcock is a huge portion of bird, covered in a spice rub that will leave your lips tingling, and served on a massive mound of beans and rice. I'm not convinced on the soggy rice until I realise it reminds me of Chinese-style glutinous rice steamed in banana leaves, often stuffed with cooked mung beans. Once I make this connection, I eat the now 'sticky' rice quite happily.
A side of mango salsa adds a touch of the tropics but overall the rice and bean combination seems a little heavy for a Sydney summer.
Pan fried barramundi with kipfler chips and zucchini herb salad $28
Later that evening I notice that the pan fried barramundi is one of the first dishes to sell out. It's a classic case study in the art of simplicity, a fillet of barramundi seared so the skin is crisp without overcooking the flesh, partnered with roasted kipfler potatoes and a tangle of slippery zucchini ribbons and flat parsley leaves doused with dressing.
Caramel pork hock with hazelnuts and watercress and and apple $20
It will come as no surprise that caramel pork hock was the one dish I nominated for inclusion in our order. Two bowls of this is just right to share among nine committed pork fans but I'd struggle to see how one person could eat this entire dish on its own. Reminiscent of Thai moo krob, chunks of pork belly are deep-fried to a satisfying earth-shattering crunch, livened by watercress, paper-thin discs of radish and whole roasted hazelnuts.
The Eathouse Mess $9
There are a total of five options on the dessert menu and we take great delight in telling our aproned waitress we'll have "one of each, please". As soon as I observe out loud that The Eathouse Mess doesn't look very messy at all, an attack of eager spoons quickly proves otherwise. There's still not enough cream to make this a mess, in my opinion, and whilst we enjoy the fresh raspberries, the peaches have an odd fizz to them that leaves everyone pulling faces.
Banoffee pie $9
Banoffee pie comes not as a slice of a larger pie, but an individual tart. This can never be a good thing when it comes to optimal base to filling ratio, and I'm left craving more dulce de leche than I can find beneath the layer of cream and chopped bananas.
Chocolate and cherry tart $9
A wedge of chocolate and cherry tart has the slight bitterness of cocoa married with the sweetness of cherries, flanked by two fresh cherries and a dollop of cream.
Banana split $9
The banana split is a fancier version of that childhood favourite, three scoops of ice cream studded with roasted whole hazelnuts, chocolate sauce, wafer and secret rivers of dulce de leche. I'm on the hunt now for a banana split bowl just so I can recreate this at home, complete with the resort staple cocktail umbrella.
Strawberry and chocolate sundae $9
To my surprise, the strawberry and chocolate sundae vies for dessert favourite with the banana split, a parfait glass jammed with chocolate sauce, ice cream and fresh strawberries. A dribble of melted ice cream oozes sexily down the side.
Forget the fuss and kerfuffle of over-stylised restaurants. Just bring us good food and plenty of spoons.
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1/25/2011 01:57:00 a.m.