Where: 65 Flinders Street, Darlinghurst 2010
Opening Hours: Tue - Sat 6 - late
Phone: 02 9332 3180
Upstairs at the Flinders Hotel, diners are welcomed into a hazily-lit room not unlike a washed out countryside manor. Padded, colonial-style upholstered banquettes line the walls and the distant hum of partying ‘flindroids’ downstairs is enough to spell out the evening's good time ahead. Bird-caged lights hang low over a tight four-seater bar, the mood is sultry and hipsters aplenty. Welcome to Duke Bistro, an eatery with the smarts.
Known for its ‘bistronomy’ style menu, Duke favours progressive food that enjoys the culinary paradox of being experimentally refined. And this place is no new kid on the block so why the interest? Duke's got a new head honcho. His name is Nicholas Hill. Fresh from three years at the Michelin-starred Ledbury in London, Hill's menu is seasonal and carries on the playful spirit pioneered by ex head chef Thomas Lim. His food is approachable and based on simple, easily identifiable flavours.
Start with the white tuna, oyster cream and verjus ($14) for a perfect combination of pop and crunch; the fleshy tuna an interesting tongue tickler to awaken the buds. Follow this with the potato risotto with taleggio ($16) to satisfy your cravings for hearty winter comfort food. Next we'd recommend you give the mackerel grilled over herbs, fennel and gremolata ($18) some attention. The fish is meaty with an unpretentious seasoning to give it the desired 'tang'. For the more carnivorous amongst us, the lamb shoulder, goats milk, dried olive with rosemary ($26) might be the winner. Sink your knife in and the meat simply falls apart, just the way we like it.
From the afters menu, the donuts with lemon curd and cream ($12) are a standout. Douse your warm gooey dough balls in the curd and cream and down in one. Alternatively the chestnut mousse with roasted chocolate ($12) speaks of a refined dessert element. Tipple wise, Sydney wine guru Joel Amos' menu offers us a considered wine list based on natural, raw wines from boutique producers, sourced internationally.
Duke Bistro's food is clever, interior charismatic and staff well versed. There's also the involved factor. Hill offers a tasting menu on Tuesdays ($60 per person), welcoming guests to experience works in progress. We thank you, Duke, for having substance and class. You come highly recommended, because you're a quirky gem.
By Lisa Omagari
Tuna, oyster cream and verjus
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