Here's an embarassing confession. When I first heard that The Burlington had opened in Crows Nest several years ago, I thought people were talking about the Asian grocery store that used to reside in the Prince Centre basement in Chinatown. It was there that I used to stock up on coconut Garden wafers, haw flakes and White Rabbit lollies. Memories!
In fact, The Burlington was the newest bistro offering by then husband-and-wife team Matthew Kemp and Lela Radojkovic, following on from earlier ventures that included Billingsgate and Two Rooms. Today the restaurant is co-owned by Radojkovic and executive chef Jacqui Gowan, former head chef of Subsolo and regular guest on Ready Steady Cook.
House bread and butter
The Burlington is surprisingly busy for a Tuesday evening, filled with couples or small groups of friends clustered around bare lacquered wooden tables. Banquettes in coffee-coloured suede run along both sides of the narrow room, and strategically placed mirrors on the wall create an illusion of more space.
The dining area extends into two further rooms out the back - unused tonight, but presumably utilised for busier service periods during weekends. There's a pleasant hum to the air with the tinkle of cutlery and various conversations swirling against the faint strains of background mood music.
Crisp pork belly with a 'Waldorf' salad $16
We start with the salmon gravalax ($18) for entree, the delicate slices soft and buttery with a slight aniseed tint from the border of finely chopped dill. Although the wedge of toasted brioche is deliciously eggy, it feels a little rich combined with the salmon. The radish and watercress salad does provide some refreshment.
Trying to resist crisp pork belly on a menu is a futile exercise in my experience. When it arrives, I immediately zero in on the crackling. It's a beauty. The feelings of desire toward a perfectly crisp golden tile of finest pig skin cannot be underestimated.
There's no cheating here either - the crackling is still attached to the flesh, which itself is fatty and tender, giving way easily to the prod of a fork.
Our waiter happily provides assistance with the wine menu tonight. The pork belly is matched with the 2010 Bress Pinot Noir, a light and crisp biodynamic wine from Yarra and Macedon in Victoria ($9 per glass).
Homemade pasta with spanner crab, roast garlic, chilli, tomato and pangritata $29
We'd been looking forward to the homemade pasta but it sadly seems to miss the mark tonight, lacking the silky sensuality we'd been anticipating, and instead feeling heavy and claggy in the mouth. I'm usually a big fan of pangritata (breadcrumbs fried with anchovies, herbs and garlic) but the overly generous pile seems to overwhelm the subtle sweetness of the spanner crab, especially when combined with the pool of olive oil at the bottom of the bowl.
Cabbage salad, speck, pinenuts $8
Cabbage salad is blighted by overzealous seasoning, with a saltiness that lingers on the palate. I'd expected a light and refreshing salad but this feels quite heavy and oily, with a rich dressing and the headiness of dark toasted pinenuts and panfried speck.
220gm chargrilled grass fed sirloin with potato fondant and bourguignon sauce $35
Happiness returns with the 220gram chargrilled grass fed sirloin, a slab of cow cooked to a caramelised and satisfying medium rare as requested. There's been much said about the public obsession with grain fed beef, which lends itself to extreme tenderness at the cost of flavour. This grass fed steak has both - flavour and jaw-friendly juiciness.
The steak is matched with the 2007 Perdu Shiraz from Heathcote, Victoria ($8 per glass), its blackcurrant notes enhancing the flavour of the beef.
Table service mustards and horseradish cream sides for the steak
The Burlington 'Splice' $15
Coconut pannacotta, mango jelly, pineapple sorbet
The Burlington 'Splice' had caught my eye as soon as I'd read the menu - yes, even before the crispy pork belly. It's an impressively elegant construction, made by alternating layers of coconut pannacotta with bright yellow stripes of mango jelly. Perhaps I'm too attached to the ice cream Splice - that glorious summer icon of frozen pine-lime ice block surrounding sweet vanilla ice cream that always melted too fast and dripped onto your feet - but this doesn't create the same feeling of nostalgia. The pannacotta is a little too firm and not coconutty enough, although we're impressed by the pineapple sorbet which is wondrously soft and fluffy.
Chocolate and caramel tart with white chocolate mousse $16
Instead I'm waxing lyrical over the chocolate and caramel tart, a surprisingly successful marriage of dark chocolate, thick caramel and piped white chocolate mousse that isn't as sweet as you'd altogether expect. The bitterness of the dark chocolate layer is what makes everything work, and I'm delighted to discover that the rubble on the plate isn't biscuit crumbs but shards of white, milk and dark chocolate.
Dessert wines make everything even more decadent. The 2010 Vasse Felix Cane Cut Semillon, from WA's Margaret River ($11 per glass) is very drinkable, without that cloying toffeed raisin flavour you get from many stickies.
Even sexier is the Cisneros Pedro Ximenez from Jerez, Spain ($10 per 60ml glass). One sip of this sweet sherry and you could swear that Barry White just started singing behind you. It's so sensual, you'll be crooning 'Can't Get Enough of Your Love, Babe' like nobody's business. Seriously. Or does that only happen to me?
Grab Your Fork dined as a guest of The Burlington.
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Burlington Bar and Dining
6 Burlington Street, Crows Nest, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9439 7888
Lunch Monday to Friday from 12pm
Dinner Monday to Saturday from 6pm
Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Crows Nest - Ryo's Noodles
Crows Nest - Waqu
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2/16/2012 02:14:00 a.m.