The Art Gallery of NSW latest acquisition equally satisfies both eyes and stomach.
Treacle Tart. I don’t care if you’re in the office — say it out loud. Very slowly. Trea...cle...Tart. Hear the sticky, sweet sunlight in between the syllables. Hear a tart filling that’s on the delicious, naughty side of wet. Hear the pointed note of molasses that closed an excellent lunch in a lovely dining room. Can you hear the burnt butter ice cream that draped itself all over the tart? Well, you'd better.
For the record, there was also a chocolate mousse cake ($16) that was perfectly lovely in a polite, velvet-textured way. But it wasn't right. Chiswick at the Gallery is about the simple and the garden-y with an edible-flower sprinkle of 'familiar' — a style that makes something like a treacle tart utterly right and something like chocolate mousse cake merely lovely. There is a certain irony in selling treacle tart, traditionally a thrifty dessert, at $16 a slice to the blonde, blow dried, Birkin-toting, over-40s crowd that 'does' the the Art Gallery of NSW for lunch. No matter, there’s no doubt they're as happy here as they were at Chiswick's original Woollahra location because even without the garden setting, the glassed-in interior of the gallery takes the typically Chiswick blonde-wood, warmed-up Scandinavian styling of the space very nicely indeed.
If you haven't done Chiswick before, no doubt 'the lamb' will be on your radar. Don't bother. It's ok, but they do much, much better. The fun here is to be had in the 'small plates' section of the menu. It's where translucent ravioli pasta ($19) clings around a pumpkin filling that's as plump as a (young) Mick Jagger’s bottom lip, sliding around with broccolini in a brown butter sauce that has the faintest kiss of lemon. It's where a plate of pickled kohlrabi ($19) flutters around globe artichoke, pieces of orange, clouds of feta and oregano in a delicate balancing act. It's also where a pleasingly subtle rendition of steak tartare ($22) gets its salty kick from a side of potato crisps. Sure, we're talking standards here, but the execution is deft as any of the artists' in the gallery — and while we're at it, also as pretty as a picture.
If I've managed to steer you away from the lamb, I won't deprive you of the most welcome of the Woollahra migrants — the chips ($9). Weighty prisms that come stacked like Jenga, their crunchy shell (I suspect that a double cooking process has been involved) makes way for a moorish, mealy inner. They're perfect as is, but even more perfect when sporting a heavy scoop of the accompanying aioli. After these, a main of roasted trevalla with zucchini and dill ($34) reads a bit like a Weight Watchers special. However, giant, firm flakes of the fish fork apart and combine with a kombu puree to the effect of a crisp, Japan-esque cleanliness whose virtue could easily become vice. The prettiness of the zucchini, seemingly naked but for their wisps of dill remind you of where you are — in a gallery. If art is said to imitate life, then in doing as little as possible to the life that is food, Chiswick turns lunch into an incredibly satisfying art.
Published on November 13, 2014 by Christina Gee