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.
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!
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."
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.
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.