Proving neatly that you can get crabs, even if you use protection, I gloved up and donned a bib for the launch of House of Crabs. In a flurry of fairy lights and crab pots, they've taken over the first floor of The Norfolk Hotel; and suddenly Sydney has it’s first American seafood boil (common in coastal areas of the United States, like Louisiana and Chesapeake Bay).
The Hotel Marlborough
Step back into the hyper-real backyard of your nostalgic childhood past at the Garden Bar. It’s not just Kodachrome colours, Astroturf and exposed bricks (from that reno. Dad never quite finished), the food’s also got a nostalgic bent. There’s the classic Backyard Platter ($18) of cubed cheddar, cabanossi, French onion dip and Jatz, or the dish my Mum thought was the height of sophistication – the Prawn Cocktail ($19) with iceberg lettuce, dill, witlof and cocktail sauce.
As Sydney celebrated Mardi Gras I had my own Fat Tuesday at this revamped beauty. It’s big, fat, loud food for big, fat, loud people, underpinned by solid French technique, courtesy of ten-year Becasse stalwart James Metcalfe. Get messy (perhaps revisiting some of your earlier memories in this iconic spot) with butter-drenched Grilled Alaskan Crab Clusters ($19/250g) or Jumbo Shrimp ($24) in Creole butter so tasty, you’ll damn your arteries and demand Warm Bread ($3).
How do you get rich, Central American style cuisine on a plate without coming off as a carnival? Get the Corner House boys to serve it in Bondi. For instance, their Fried Chicken ($27) with creamed corn, corn bread and gumbo sauce is the Deep South epitomised, but it's so pretty. And Tacos ($7), sure they feature in every diner/pub/pop-up in Sydney, but these ones are special. They're deconstructed and come with big chunks of tender meat; the jerk chicken and pulled pork options are more like a barbeque than a pocket-sized snack.
“Do you love it already?” I hear Megan say at the next table. Later she coos: “it’s a guilty pleasure,” about another dish. I’m here for the cocktails (all $17.50), starting with an Enmore Collins, where Tanqueray Gin is gently underpinned with house made ginger syrup, lemon juice and fresh mint. Terrific. But after overhearing Megan’s excitement, I reckon I should eat. She’s right: the duck rillettes with peaches, foie gras and duck fat toast, are heavenly.
Forget Paul Hogan, it’s the southern states of the US that know their BBQ. Pizza Capers have taken this on board with their Bourbon Chicken and Bacon Pizza ($15.95/regular) encapsulating the smoky BBQ flavours of classic American street food. They also throw some Tassie blue cheese on for good measure and load it up with sizzling bacon.
Sitting in this street-level dining room done-up as a basement, surrounded by urbane hipsters boasting manicured facial hair and buttoned-up shirts, I found myself somewhat perplexed. Sure French-Canadian Poutine ($20) in Sydney is still a novelty; whereas in Melbourne you can eat, what’s essentially chips, cheese curd and gravy, post-clubbing at Lord of the Fries.