Good food. That's the secret.
The Carrington, formerly a sleepy and seedy hotel pub, has been overhauled into a Spanish tapas bar that is now heaving each night with locals. We arrive at 6pm on a Tuesday and by 6.30pm the bar is practically full.
Chef Jamie Thomas has created a menu littered with Iberian snacks, from bite-sized pintxos of kingfish pastrami and olives, to platos grande that includes slow cooked beef cheeks cooked in Pedro Ximenez. The restaurant menu -- available in the large dining room at the back -- is more comprehensive, but we're happy with the pared down pub menu, having settled in with beers and ciders at the bar.
There's still plenty to choose, with the cheapest option at $5 for a meatball slider, topping out at $22 for the grilled skirt steak with mojo verde and fries. The bar staff raise an eyebrow when we order six dishes to share between the three of us - "that's a lot of food" we're warned, but we foolishly laugh in the face of calorific sensibility.
Basque chicken wings $14
Basque chicken wings arrive in a terracotta dish, a modest serve of three midwings and three mini-legs. The wings have been marinated in a spicy tomato sauce and are deliciously charred and blackened from the grill.
Mushroom and manchego croquettes $12
I can only detect a faint presence of mushroom in the mushroom and manchego croquettes, but the breadcrumb coating is crisp and the mashed potato is soft and comforting.
Chicken parfait, toast and chutney $10
We move onto the chicken parfait which has plenty of finesse. It's ethereally light and fluffy in texture, and we spread the creamy liver puree greedily on thin slices of toasted sourdough.
Cuban midnight sandwich $14
If I ever wake up in the middle of the night hungry, I'm going to make me a Cuban midnight sandwich. It's a beast of a snack - three slices of white bread sandwiched around roast pork, ham and Swiss cheese, then toasted until crisp and the cheese is molten and stringy.
Morcilla and apple slaw on toast $6
The morcilla and apple slaw on toast is the only disappointment, the blood sausage sliced a little too meagerly and over-seared so the delicate flavour and texture has been lost. The apple slaw is swaddled in mayonnaise so it's more heavy than refreshing.
Beef pie, olive oil, mash and gravy $18
But we find solace in the beef pie, round and squat and baked so the crust is tanned and glossy.
Inside the beef pie
It's jam-packed with tender shreds of rich beef, and we fall upon it hungrily with our forks. The mashed potato is a welcome dollop of buttery smooth carbohydrates and sprigs of peppery watercress offer some palate relief.
And yes, six dishes for three was probably one dish too many, but even then our dinner costs us less than $25 each. Bring on more interesting pub menus, I say, and we'll carry on eating.
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9/14/2011 07:39:00 a.m.