I have to admit, the Inner West is not my usual watering-hole but with the majority of our party of four hailing from nearby, I did some research and came up with a handful of options.
Having been establshed in 1881, The 3 Weeds in Rozelle definitely has the atmosphere of a grand old pub. (It was allegedly once owned by Dawn Fraser and as such was the homebase of the Balmain Tigers. According to the taxi driver who drove me home that night, it even boasted a tiger's head which lit up when the team won a match!)
The tiger's head is long gone and like most old pubs today, it's been modernised with all the best amenities without losing the old world charm (ladies, the bathrooms are worth a visit, I can't speak for the gents but will assume the same interior designer oversaw the fit-out of both!).
The pub is almost Tardis like; larger on the inside than out, it boasts the very descriptive Back Bar, Wine Bar, Lounge, Living Room, Front Bar and the Restaurant, most of which we didn't see when we entered. It has two main areas in which to dine, the lower priced Back Bar Bistro (with an equally scrumptious looking menu) and the more sophisticated "Restaurant".
From what we saw, both are serviced by the same kitchen but through different entrances so when you are in the Restaurant you don't see food disappearing out a side door!
But it was Head Chef Leigh McDivett's menu which sealed the deal.
Multi Award Winning and lauded by the Critics, the description of flavour combinations and photographs of sample dishes on their website sounded promising; and we weren't disappointed.
The dining room is beautifully appointed, spacious without losing ambience and atmospherically lit without being visually challenging.
Granted we were there on a quiet Tuesday night rather than a post-work Friday, and our only competition was a lone couple, but the service was always friendly and professional, never overbearing or intrusive. They took my egg allergy seriously and there were choices which didn't compromise my dining experience.
So what did we eat? For once, (due to a couple of us nursing colds) we didn't sample each other's food, so I can't give you personal accounts of everyone else's dishes but my fellow diners assured me that they were very happy with their choices. Each dish was presented beautifully making each a visual as well as tasty feast.
The gustation started with an Amuse Bouche, a complimentary serving of Ceviche of kingfish with chilli & lime dressing and horseradish ice cream.
I have to admit that I am writing this a little while after the meal so when I couldn't recall who had eaten this or for what course (even with the menu in front of me), I had to ask the manager, Nicholas Luhman, which dish this was. As soon as he told me, it all came back! The elements of this dish were just enough to whet our appetites and leave us wanting more. The tomatoes provided a crunchy foil to the velvety kingfish. It was just that the rest of the meal had been so good that it completely slipped my memory!
My Galantine of quail and foie gras with sweetcorn puree and basil jelly ($24)
I fell in love with this dish from the first mouthful. The quail melted in my mouth, the sweetcorn puree was completely smooth and the seasonings were complementary. A sprinkling of pork crackling garnish had me wondering if I'd been delivered the right entree at first but I would have happily licked the plate if it had been the polite thing to do! Worth going for this dish alone!
W's Roquefort mousse and pickled beetroot with tomato and white balsamic sorbet ($19)
J's Freshly Shucked Rock Oysters with lime, sake and black pepper granita ($18)
E's Smoked eel and squid ink cannelloni with seared scallop, caramelised peach and sea urchin roe ($23) MAINS
J and I both ordered the Pan roasted fillet of Palmers Island mulloway with blue swimmer crab, fennel Avruga smoked herring roe and lemon balm salsa verde ($36)
A delightful combination of textures and flavours, the fish was perfectly cooked while the skin was crackling crisp. My only gripe with this dish (bone to pick?!) was chewing on what felt like a piece of plastic but was likely an overlooked portion of scales or gill.
W chose an entree for her main of Confit fillet of king salmon with celeriac puree, salmon roe and basil sorbet ($24)and E chose the Assiette of Riverina lamb (Roasted rack, braised breast and caramelised sweetbreads with white onion puree, olive and asparagus) ($36)
We also shared two of the sides - the Truffled Mash and a Salad.
The former was spoon-lickingly smooth and served with large strips of parmesan which melted into the hot mash while the latter was dressed with an even balance of tanginess to sweetness.
My choice was limited (by my egg allergy) to the Mille-feuille of strawberry with basil and strawberry sorbet ($16)
This was delectable! The pastry was so thin and crispy that it wasn't difficult to break through, the strawberries were finely sliced and the mini macaron were so gorgeous and remained crisp till the last bite. The highlight was the basil sorbet.All very light and sufficient after the preceding courses.
W and E chose the My Chocolate Delight - a chocolate mousse and caramel cream covered in dark chocolate ($16)
J declined dessert but partook of the sweet wines on offer.
With a deft hand combining fresh produce and gorgeous seasonings with artistic flair beyond what you'd expect in a restaurant located inside a pub, and complete lack of pretentiousness, I'd be happy if this was my local.
The 3 Weeds is located at 193 Evans Street, Rozelle and is open for dinner Tuesdays to Saturday and lunch on Sundays.