Sunday, January 2, 2011

Underbelly, aka ChipChipBoom (aka, Gazebo Wine Garden, Kings Cross)...

People get up to a lot of dirty things at The Cross. They do. The Cross is Sydney's respite. Respite from the pretty sea-salted, chai-latted nonchalance of Bondi Wankerism and the pine needled poise of the dreamy Blue Mountains. Respite from work and the 9 to 5 city grind. Respite from ambition and focus into dirtydirty, rotten play. Not being one for clubbing, coke or high class hookers doesn't mean The Cross' charms are impervious to a Good Little Lebanese Girl like me. Even I get my kicks here. Really, I do. There's saucy, sticky and kinky caking at the lovely Yellow. There's mustard drenched magic at Burger Fuel. There are those wonderful markets. I've even had a few good nights out here. A few laughs - oh, and a practical manymanymany-multiple orgasm of spiritual sorts that one time I managed to score -not a 50- but a Macleay street park at around 6.30pm on a Saturday. Man. Epic, it was. I'll always remember that park. 

The Cross has been good to a girl like me, and it didn't stop being nice the night I finally dined at Gazebo Wine Bar...
Our little congregation to wish Miss Pashley G a very happy birthday takes place in a whimsically laid out room, sort of inside/sort of outside, and through a menu that keeps the mood cheerful and snappy. Like Daniel Craig's general upper torso, this menu is wonderfully well put together, studded as it is with rich and sumptuous ingredients and flavours. The combinations are thoughtful and classic - but also slightly twisted. Lamb and Gruyere get together in a cheeseburger bed. Feta and Figs and Fennel are there to say hello. Crab hails from Alaska, Crudites say How-Do-Ye-Do to Fries. There's Rich Olive and Kingfish Carpaccio dotted with grape! Jamon and pine nuts and pesto. Stuffed and marinated. Fairy Floss and Double Duty Chocolate. Heavy, light, oiled and grilled. Beautiful, full flavours. This is a very mediterranean palate - my imagination is already whirring with the opening strains of cerebral saliva. Lots to choose from and lots of personality, no way this won't be delicious. 
Perhaps with the knowledge of what dessert and alcoholic transgressions we are about to commit, we do The Salad Thing to start. Lo and Behold, your token serve of greens can actually be something to underline and highlight rather than just tick off! This is lusciously dressed Rocket, Parmesan, Pine Nut and Grapefruit masquerading as salad. The leaves are green and light and alive, dewy with a tart-oily slipperiness that doesn't drench them out of their fragrant buoyancy. A salad so sharp, light and cool and balanced perfectly by a gently creamy parmesan with shyly pale-pink globs of grapefruited surprise. They sit there, the slices of fruit, gorgeous and glistening, like little startles buried in a murmur of smouldering sighs. Balanced, beautiful and suddenly...gone.
Eb and I have made the executive decision to share the gnocchi and the fish and chips. Despite being just a little too soft, the full bodied gnocchi is a bit of a culinary Berlusconi: Italian, Rich and a crazy confusion involving a lot going on - but unlike Silvio, this one goes down very well with its adoring public. The Sweet Potato Gnocchi, Johnny Love Bites + Nut Butter all march to the sparkling tune of a good smattering of Marjoram. Marjoram is like the spunkier, cooler younger cousin of Rosemary, and I am always surprised it doesn't pop up in menus and recipes as often as it probably deserves to. Buttered and heady with soft vegetables and cheese -perfectly perked by a little rocket, this dish is full and round and deep. You don't have to bite into it much, it's more tongue fodder than tooth food, it melts gently and lovingly away. Decent gnocchi, but my favourite pasta was The One That Came Next:
Stunning: The Alaskan Crab tossed with Angel Hair Pasta, Garlic and Chili is like the Sydney Property Market in the late 80's: rich, crazy and on fire! The texture of the spiraling pasta plaits through and around wonderfully salty shards of garlic-chilied crab, slightly oily but with so much lightness and texture and depth. It entirely upbraids the notion that pasta at a place that doesn't specialize in pasta usually tends to bland. This was beautiful to tangle around and a fork, delicious dangling strands that hold and cradle jewels of crab and rocket. So delicious to gobble. 

The colour of this dish always makes me smile, it looks so happy to see you when it comes out - so cheerful and welcoming, the least you can do is demolish it.
For the AllProteinLowCarbBunnies among us (Tatsu, I'm lookinatchoo), Gazebo's got your back: achingly poached trout - gentle like a whisper - with roasted peppers, caperish capers and salsa verde. Green against Pink. Glistening salsa besides softly pale flakes of oily fish. Light but Rich. Smooth, supple trout needs the texture of the veges to give it some more spunk. And there you have gorgeous dining that leaves you feeling light - but without missing out. It's classy fish. Dishy Fishy. Bourgeoiseafood. High Class, down the nose and with a merci beaucoup, madamoiselle. But hey, The Cross doesn't just offer you the High Class version, if a place ever was a celebration of The Low Brow, this is it. That's why those of you who like your fish a little more rock n roll have not a thing to fear, not at all...
Given that no one wanted to share the famed salt and pepper rubbed Snapper, it was left (with no regret) to pull in (HookerLine+Sinker) the Lightly Battered Barra Fillet with Tartare + Mushy Peas. Mmm mmm MMMMM. Usually I go out of the way to avoid getting or even witnessing a battering in The Cross, but this was just bloody insane. Good solid, crispy but translucentish batter with beautifully tender barra inside and stunningly salted mushy peas in Green-Green-Scream-Green and creamy-thick-globby-salted Tartare to smear into. 

But hey, despite how gorgeous the fish was, if you know anything about me by now you'll understand that it's always the Hot Chips that get me all a fluster. If you could dissect my Underbelly and take it apart you'd find it teeming with a (not so) secret, perpetual and insatiable appetite for The Chip. What can I say. Should I just confess, or rather profess: I am the ChipChipBoom Girl, and there's no use trying to hide it anymore...
For my brother it's ample cleavage, for Danny it's good swell, for my Dad it's a book, for EB it's a small yappy Dog, for me it's always been Hot Chips. What's your thing? Your thing that when it crosses your path, or someone speaks about it or you hear about it it captures your imagination entirely and holds its mesmerized - and stunned for minutes that might be hours. Hot Chips don't just distract me, they disconcert me. I can't focus. If I see someone eating them I need some. I love them when they're amazing and I even love them when they're bad. My Favourite Chip Of All Time Title is neck and neck between the Parmesan Chili Frites at The Local Taphouse and The Twice Cooked French Fries at Little Creatures Brewery, Freemantle.

These Gazebo chips were delish. Crinkle-cut-old-school crunchy and absolutely grunt worthy with the TrumpRich tat-at-tat-tarty tartare. Although you can never been sure, the anatomy of the perfect chip is usually oblong- they're wider than they are thick/tall. Bigger chips are less oily than fries and give a better soft potato inside to crispy skin ratio. Golden and crisp and so steamingly biteable. Salty and stinging and saucy and sizzlingly oiled. Vinegared, if you like. Tomato relish splashed. Mustard doused dijon-dancing. Squirted with lemon. Always salted, sometimes peppered. Plain. God! I don't even like fried food but I will always baulk over some damn good chips. The paper the Gazbo wraps the chips in gives them a gorgeous tactility and anglo-aesthetic. White paper with flickerings and smudges of hot oil are the perfect Chippie lingerie. 

Chips are so subtly varied. You know what i'm talking about. There's always the slightly more burnt browner ones, the ones that give more crunch. You bite into and against these and then mix them up with some of the softer less cooked more fluffy-potato-mash-like ones. And those celestial little chips of chips that eventually end up in the very the bottom, fragments and shards of toothsome terrificness. I didn't want to share these, but I had to. Bugger. Thank God I never lived in potato famine days.
A decent cheese board starring some home made jam in quince, way too much riesling and...
The Mixed Berry Champagne Jelly with a SideScoop of Vanilla Ice Cream. Look, truth be told, I don't fancy alcoholic desserts in general, but Tats, Eb and Ash went gaga over this intensely champagned jelly. It's a very strong, loud and clear champagne flavour - not at all too sweet. The solidified transparence of the berry-studded jelly was a perfect contrast to the rapidly melting vanilla.
As late afternoon turned into a sexy summer's eve and a tantrum-threatening Sydney sky finally collapsed, spent and exhausted into stormy and unbridled meteorological fury, the kooky niche of Gazebo was the perfect place to cosy up and just keep drinking. Shadowy with candles and filled with champagne sipping-storm watchers. It's a mixed bag of lollies clientele wise: beautiful, well dressed, rich, has-beens, wanna-bes, young, old, g-string flashing, immaculately groomed...and us. Pictures of the Queen and the Late Princess Diana add to the charming anything-goes clutter of this little inside/outside wedge of Sydney drinking/dining paradise. Garden furniture, wooden surfaces and burgeoning little mounds of colourful flowers make it feel a little out of The Secret Garden. A place that comes alive at night and revels in its half hidden smallness. This is Sydney's answer to the funky Melbourne Bar/Dinner spot. I hope we see more of these smart-but-casual set ups that welcome the thirsty or the hungry, or both.
The Cross is a dangerous place, as such it's always wise to have legal counsel in fashionable tow: happy birthday Ash (Little Ms Freehills), here's to what is very hopefully a wonderful year with lots of Loulou, Zara and important legal briefs. Sorry we didn't make it out darn-cing that night, but frankly, we couldn't keep up!
Gazebo happens at 2 Elizabeth Bay Road, Elizabeth Bay. Ph 9357 5333, website here. There's a lot of fuss over the Potts Point food scene that I don't think is that justified, this is honestly one of the better meals i've had in the area and for far more reasonable money (and in a more relaxed atmosphere) than the haute Italian places around the corner. Gazebo has a lot more personality as well, and a very welcoming and warm staff - which, let's face it (in the East) isn't something one ought to ever take for granted.
So, this is my honest account of what went down in The Cross the night we tried Gazebo. If you run into Clare Werbleloff and she says 'the fatter wog said to the skinner wog, oi bro, you ate my chips', well, she might just might be telling the troof. Just this once, anyway.

Gazebo, mate. Call your cuzes, it's fully, fully sick.


Helen (Grab Your Fork) said...

omg those fish and chips look amazing.

amanda said...

they were pretty good, helen! no more chips for me for a month i think. hope new years was good x

Anonymous said...

That description of your chip obsession matches mine perfectly. Good to hear I'm not alone.