It's the name that gets everyone at first. Gastro Park? Head chef Grant King (ex-Pier) has a sense of humour and a quest for adventure, as diners slowly realise they've been let loose in a fun park of a menu. The critics can't seem to get enough of it, and after only six months of trade, Gastro Park was awarded two hats in the SMH Good Food Guide 2012.
The restaurant itself doesn't give much away, housed in a glass-walled elongated corner in the back streets of Potts Point. Wooden tables and bentwood chairs give it a bistro feel. A large marble slab in the middle of the room holds an enticing display of cheeses, housed beneath impossibly tall glass cloches.
Bread and butterrrrrr
We spend several minutes perusing the menu, split into snacks, entrees, mains and desserts. Most dish descriptions include a comprehensive list of ingredients, littered with intriguing components like elk, hare and tuna bone marrow.
The intricate presentation of simple bread and butter is a preview of the evening ahead, the creamed butter projecting forth across the slate like a surging tidal wave.
Clockwise from top left:
Textures of duck with local wild mushroom tagliatelle $28
Foie gras and wild hare with beetroot, plum vinegar and red cabbage granita $18
Seared scallops, serrano ham, creme carrot, endive caramel, marcona almond $28
Soy and mustard glazed swordfish belly with pickled cucumber $16
Around the table we've ordered a motley collection of entrees and snacks to start. Nothing appears as we would expect, with ingredients scattered, clustered and stacked in ways that encourage you to hover, dip and swoop freely.
Shavings of foie gras on top of the wild hare melt like delicate snowflakes caught on an outstretched tongue. The granita of beetroot, plum vinegar and red cabbage is cool and refreshing on the palate, with fine ice crystals.
There's an element of balance to dishes, with the sweet and fatty soy and mustard glazed swordfish belly countered by thin ribbons of cool and tangy pickled cucumber.
Thai inspired kingfish sashimi $16
Thai inspired kingfish sashimi arrives as six quivering slices of firm sweetness but our initial attention is drawn to the bright red island of tomato granita, spiked with the thinnest slices of the world's smallest cucumber.
Seared venison, wilted elk, soy, ginger and bonito dressing $16
Cured blackmore short rib grissini $14
Seared venison with wilted elk is a romantic embrace of game and mushrooms, surrounded by a kaleidoscope of black and white sesame seeds. The cured blackmore short rib grissini is perched dramatically on a white barrel that looks more like a bone. The cured short rib reminds us of prosciutto although the addition of parmesan errs this a little on the too-salty side.
Raw scallop with tuna bone marrow, lime, sea salt, olive oil and chives $16
Raw scallop with tuna bone marrow is one of the most breathtaking dishes of the evening. The tune bone looks more like a tree trunk, filled with alien-like bubbles of bone marrow that are oddly light in flavour, tasting more like a jellied tear. Whisper-thin shavings of scallop glide down the throat, covered in scattered leaves of parsley and chive, and though the tuna bone tree had just shaken off its foliage.
Liquid butternut gnocchi with mushroom consomme and sage $26
I'd chosen the liquid butternut gnocchi, another dish that creates a buzz of excitement as it's delivered to the table. The waiter takes great care to pour the mushroom consomme through the ring of parmesan cheese perched on top, creating wafts of salty umami aromas as the balls of butternut gnocchi rise and bob about.
The butternut gnocchi is more like a pumpkin soup, formed into balls using spherification so biting into one releases a gush of liquidised pumpkin.
Crispy scaled snapper with smoked potato puree, calamari crackling and ink sauce $39
The crispy scaled snapper is my choice for main, quite a large piece of fish with the scales fried on still-attached so they curl up like dragon scales. The smoked potato puree has an intriguing complexity but it's the calamari crackling that is my favourite, puffed up and airy with a resounding crunch.
Textures of rhubarb and citrus $20
With indecision over what to order for dessert we take the plunge and simply order one of everything. Textures of rhubarb and citrus is a mixture of tart and sweet, with flavours of rhubarb, mandarin and grapefruit complementing each other on the plate.
Chocolate honeycomb, mandarin sphere, cookies and cream $22
The chocolate honeycomb sphere involves an element of spectacle with an instruction to break open the delicate dome with a decisive crack of a spoon.
Pain perdu, caramelised apple and balsamic ice cream $18
It's hard to resist the caramelised cubes of pain perdu, coated in a shell of sweet toffee. The balsamic ice cream has a mellow acidity that works well with the dice of cooked apple and shards of toffee.
Nitro pavlova with guava, pineapple and coconut $20
The nitro pavlova is probably my favourite dessert of the four, a confounding mix of temperatures and textures that is light and refreshing. Giant bubbles of coconut milk hover beneath a cascade of slippery basil seeds. The nitro pavlova shatters easily but is deliciously icy cold.
Like most fun parks, it's not light on the hip pocket, but what price for fun and a whirlwind adventure?
Grab Your Fork dined at Gastro Park as a guest of Destination NSW.
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Potts Point - Doma Bohemian Beer Cafe (Czech)
Potts Point - Hugos Bar Pizza (Italian)
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11/07/2011 12:49:00 a.m.