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The Paddo pub that made the pig's ear a compliment rather than a derogatory statement in pub food.

It’s a testament to Sydney’s dining scene that a Paddington pub can churn out two of the city’s best-known chefs. Marque’s Mark Best ran the kitchen before fellow Masterchef judge Colin Fassnidge took over in 2005.

Irish-born executive chef Fassnidge’s interests have expanded to include a reality TV show in which he’s pitched as Australia’s ill-tempered equivalent of Gordon Ramsey, the Paddington Arms, and 4Fourteen in Surry Hills. His rich, meat-heavy menu has charmed diners for years and the vibe is very similar to a civilised pub you’d find in the swankier areas of London.

His ‘nose to tail’ philosophy has made the pig’s ear a compliment rather than a derogatory statement in pub food, so sitting among the white tablecloths and small surroundings of the back room, one can expect a carnivore’s dream on a plate. The massive paintings of a squid floating along one wall is misleading; there’s more likelihood of a cheek or foot than a fin being served up, with more pig, beef, lamb, and foul on the menu than seafood. This is not necessarily a veggie-friendly option, but then a rambutious pub isn’t for teetotallers either.

The entree selection veers from a tuna sashimi with smoked eel, lemon curd, and sea herbs to a Celtic black pudding with a frozen gazpacho and tender prosciutto and apple sauce (all entrees $28). The big boys come out with the mains: a beautiful roast suckling pig, complete with the gentle curl of a tail and sweet nectarines, is an opulent treat. But with 48 hours’ notice, the kitchen can prepare an entire pig for a minimum of 10 people, from head to toe.

The braised beef with barley and smoked carrot is fancy Irish cooking, complete with potatoes and local sea greens, while the poached chicken is served with rather lovely dumplings (all mains $39). The bar menu is less ostentatious, with cheaper options like the pig’s ear schnitzel ($18) and a beef cheek stew ($28), but it’s head and shoulders above most bar grub.

Four in Hand can get boisterous in the front bar and the small confines of the back dining room can also be a deafening experience. But the food speaks volumes about the consistent quality Fassnidge has shown over the years.

Published on February 19 , 2013 by David Lappin

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