Monday, May 27, 2013

Mad Men Meets Heston - 2013 Annual Birthday Dinner

The buzzy ambience of a new restaurant in Sydney may not be quite there as yet (the tail end of the GFC and the nippy Thursday night weather seems to be scaring diners away from this normally busy end of town) as the restaurants on the "high" side of the Wharf suffer from their relative isolation from the water side, but the owner of The Hudson has certainly delivered on the decor.  Right from the entrance, you can only describe The Hudson as sumptuous. Entering the restaurant feels like walking into a 1950s Madison Avenue bar, we half expect to see Don Draper from the Mad Men (HBO) series sipping on a bourbon surrounded by a bevy of admiring agency colleagues perched on the glossy brown leather seating. A glorious rectangular glass chandelier separates the bar from the dining area.

 Starting the meal with a cocktail (courtesy of Karen from The PR Partnership, at whose invitation we have chosen to dine at The Hudson) we found the choice vast and varied, so vast it's actually longer than the food menu! Based on an admirable selection of spirits, a lot of care has been taken, by Mixologist Gareth Rattley, over the presentation and mixture of flavours, some classics and some really out there like the signature Breakfast Martini which is based on a bacon-infused vodka! There is good restraint in the use of sugar syrup as most of the cocktails we tasted were not overly sweet.

And so to the food!

First up, an amuse bouche of finely sliced king fish sashimi with roe, salmon floss and mustard powder is a great start to the meal and an indicator of the delights to come.
M. S. Glutamate felt it was: "A nice start to the meal. However, curing, which has the effect of firming up the flesh, meant the slices were, I felt, a bit too thick."

The food menu is modern Spanish-themed with flavours highlighted by the judicious use of foams, gels and  ices created by liquid nitrogen. Divided into Starters, Entrees, Mains and Side Dishes, the menu is a great way to please diners who want to sample as much of the menu as possible without finishing the meal groaning in discomfort. (Some of us had four courses and were sufficiently rewarded!)

Starter Menu: Oysters shucked to order, tinto de verano ice, 24ct gold leaf $4.50 each. If you look carefully, the gold leaf is painted on the micro herb perched on the iced tinto de verano which is like a sangria granita and nicely balances the saltiness of the otherwise unadulterated oysters.

Starter Menu: Chef's selection of shared starters -spanish cured meats, cheese, olives, bread $15 per person - presumably changing with the seasons, we had a delicious selection of jamon, salamis, cheese, olives, chorizo and black pudding, almost a meal in itself. The toast was a little light on if you like carbs with your protein but otherwise amazing value for money.

Entree Menu: Scampi, jamon crumble, compressed apple, sangria gel, orange sherbet $22 Not everyone chose to have an entree but 4 of us chose the scampi which were sweet and tender and the little touches of sweetness from the gel and the compressed apple worked beautifully although it took a little while to find the sherbet which turned out to be the little dust of powder on the plate.

Entree Menu: Croquetas filled with manchego custard, volcanic soft crusted leg of lamb, gem cos $18 - reviewed by Lobo: Melt in your mouth rolled leg of lamb, on the verge of being too salty but was nicely counterbalanced with the acidity of warm tomato salsa and crisp croqueta oozing cheese and mashed potato goodness. Reinforcing my cooking mantra if it’s too salty, add cheese!

Entree Menu: Calamari with lime aioli, quinoa & squid (ink) foam $18 - Those who tried this said that the calamari was incredibly tender and sweet, the lime aioli adding an acidic bite.

Mains Menu; Signature Dish: Kelp fed beef fillet with pedro ximinez braised beef short rib, valdeon, shallot, pickled turnips, acid walnuts $20 - Lobo again said: A dish that truly celebrates the sous vide technique, quality beef fillet supremely tender and sitting in a sticky almost barbeque sauce (plenty of it, Manu would be happy). But the winner on this dish was the beef short rib, also sous vide so knives not necessary (spork lovers rejoice!) and intensely flavourful through and through. I forget I’m in a social environment for a moment, no conversation or even eye contact as neural activity shuts down sight, sound and speech to focus solely on what’s going on with my tastebuds. Only thing going through my brain was The Commitments. “You gotta squeeze her, please her, never leave her, you gotta, gotta, gotta, gotta try a little tenderness!”
M. S. Glutamate who also had this said: "Strong flavoured short rib contrasted well with the super tender beef fillet"

Mains Menu: Pork belly, pear and oat crumble, celeriac, winter mushrooms $20 - Shanks who ate this said, "Who could go past ordering the pork belly on the menu? A succulent piece of pork matched with dollops of creamy celeriac, caramelized pear and hearty mushrooms brought together by a light jus. What was a welcomed surprise was the crumble which brought a crunchy texture and smokey tones that really heightened the dish. The all important crackle was not forgotten. It seemed airier than your usual crackle but still retained a crunch factor."

M.S. Glutamate also had this and said: "Delicious. Chewy oatmeal crumble provided another textural element that you wouldn't quite expect with pork. Although there was no crispy crackling on the meat (a strip of it was served on the side but this was more like a pork scratching), I didn't miss it because the crumble provided the crunch and chew. The apple was a familiar companion and brought the tartness to restrain the richness. A nice and satisfying brick of porky goodness."

Mains Menu: Sugar cured duck, chorizo, heirloom carrots, smoked chickpeas, adobo $20 - As with most of the other proteins on this menu, the duck was cooked sous vide resulting in a very tender and very tasty meat

Mains Menu: Poached snapper fillet, spanish beer caramelised chicory, xato sauce $20 - Of all the dishes, this one perhaps suffered from the technique du jour (sous vide) most. The texture of the fish was altered so much that at first I thought I was eating a fish sausage. It was definitely tender but to the point that it had lost the natural flakyness. The swathe of xato sauce (a non-egg based emulsion), while creating a beautiful colour contrast and the most generous sauce of all the dishes, was a bit too spicy for my palate (although others who tasted it loved the heat) and I was pleased that the fish hadn't been smothered in it. The highlight of the dish for me was the caramelised chicory. Neither too sweet nor too charred, I would have happily eaten a dish of this alone.

Sides Menu: Hand cut chips, house tomato sauce $12 - although on delivery the bowl looked scant, enjoyed as a side dish, there was just enough to go around our table of 7 and they were as chunky and crunchy as a great hot chip can be, the accompanying sauce being pleasingly spicy.

Sides Menu: Steamed greens, lemon curd $12 - While still edible, the greens were slightly on the less done side of crunchy and another 30 seconds would have made the greens a little more appetising to our palates.

Apple natillas, rhubarb sorbet, celery ice $17 - Another Shanks review: "A refreshing dessert with traditional flavours and playful textures. The dish required some Googling and good old Wikipedia describes natillas as a Spanish custard dish made from milk and eggs. I'm generally not a fan of celery as its distinct flavour tends to overpower in my palate. But the celery ice in this dish enhanced the apple tones and icy texture helped balance the creamy tartness of the rhubarb sorbet."

Honey pumpkin crumble, olive oil ice cream, goat cheese mousse, pumpkin ash $17
Gorgeous to look at, some felt the goat's cheese was overly dominant and ruled the dish while others felt it was just right.
M. S. Glutamate added:  "... the goat's cheese mousse provided that initial savoury hit before the creaminess led you into the sweet realms of honey and pumpkin.Shards of honey toffee added a little crunch to an otherwise soft and creamy dessert.

Chefs selection of cheese $24 Pyengana Cheddar, Buche D'Affinois and one other we can't remember.
A creamy, soft and hard selection served with ash and plain crackers and slivers of freshly julienned and finely sliced crisp apple and spiced pear paste. Beautifully presented and reasonably substantial but a little on the mild side for our palate.

Chocolate in textures, roasted coconut sorbet (and coconut crisps), brown butter powder $17 - Reviewed by M. S. Glutamate who said it was: "A combination of chocolate flavoured elements. Dark chocolate ganache was smooth with a hint of bitterness but sweeter than expected. The milk chocolate was a little bland, but combined well with the chunks of chocolate biscuits (which I suspect was freeze dried to crumbly chunks)."

Petit Four $6 - easily the highlight of the evening if only for the unexpected factor. Caramelised popcorn snap frozen with liquid nitrogen creating a dish presented with a swirling cloud of Adam's Family style mist. A delight to eat, the popcorn shatters in your mouth with a chill that's less than icecream and without the stickyness associated with normal candy corn and you breathe out a significant puff of smoke as you close your mouth to chew, you simply cannot feel the calories! What's not to like?!

It must be mentioned that although some establishments hide the chaos of the kitchen and others parade the process in front of the diners, The Hudson's kitchen is open to the dining room via a window yet not once was there a raised voice nor general pandemonium. It was as though our food appeared magically and was served with no human intervention. With a distinguished pedigree from reputable establishments such as Pilu at Freshwater, Buon Ricardo, the Sky Lounge at Sydney Tower and Ivy, Head Chef Richard Keeley (pictured) has been given a free reign to hone his passion for molecular gastronomy. He is currently working on a new menu as the climate and ingredients change with the seasons. His take on the Rueben sandwich should be something to watch out for. As for molecular gastronomy, those of us who have watched Heston Blumenthal's series and who were kind of glad that they weren't the guests being surprised by Heston's experiments in food technology will breathe a sigh of relief. The techniques used by Chef  Keeley and his crew don't get in the way of the food. The chemistry is used to create layers of textures and flavours and a consistency of service rather than the wow factor (except for the Petit Four of course!) and for that, I think most diners will be grateful.

Overall wrap up - given the complexity of some of the dishes, we found the meal great value for money, specially with the $20 mains offer which lasts only until the end of June 2013 so if you're keen to sample molecular gastronomy without the fright, this is a great place to start.

The Hudson on Urbanspoon


  1. What a great new restaurant. I will have to try it out next time I am in Sydney. Love the fact that the cocktail list is longer than the food... ;) although the food looked rather good.

  2. Will need to try and visit before the end of June :)

  3. The food looks great! I'm so silly I thought that it was a Mad Men themed dinner from the title! :P

    1. Sorry to be misleading Lorraine, perhaps you'll take up the mantle and hold a Mad Men dinner party? I'd love to see what you come up with! :D