Barrel Bar & Dining has landed just a few doors down from Cremorne’s historic Hayden Orpheum cinema. Looks like date night is sorted.
From the glass facade looking in, you’ll find a sexy European wine bar with barrel-inspired tables and a marble-clad bar. While it might be tempting to pull up a stool and take advantage of their $5 Peroni happy hour, head to the courtyard instead, where rows of ivy and fairy lights hang romantically over candlelit tables.
Barrel Bar & Dining is owned by sommeliers Stephen Thompson and Tony Binning, who worked together at Public Dining Room in Balmoral and Aqua Dining in Milsons Point. While the drinks list reveals an extensive selection of boutique wines, they also offer BYO, and what’s more they’ll even match your bottle to dishes on the menu. We decide to throw Barrel Bar & Dining a curve ball (smirk) and bring along an obscure bottle of Malbec we picked up in Argentina a few years back. Stephen quickly surveys the bottle (the label is in Spanish mind you) and confidently recommends the beef cheeks, the mushroom duxelle and the lamb tenderloin. So much for that little experiment.
The menu reveals classic Australian dishes with a contemporary twist. There’s a broad selection of sharing plates while particular attention has been paid to presentation, colour and texture, with originality in the pairing of flavours.
Our first dish sets the standard. We’re presented with a vibrant ensemble of house-made ricotta, quenelles of field mushroom duxelles, marinated artichoke hearts, edamame and delicately positioned shards of crostini ($14). Duxelles is the flavour powerhouse of the dish; it’s made from sauteed mushrooms, onion, herbs and shallots, which are reduced to a paste, much like pate in flavour and texture.
A dish of 24-hour slow-cooked carrot ($14) causes some confusion, and we initially assume there’s a typo on the menu. There’s not, and the dish arrives with sides of smoked carrot puree, crisp carrot tops and pickled heirloom carrot. The only non-carrot ingredient on the plate is salted honeycomb, which adds crunch and sweet caramel flavour, turning a novelty dish into a surprising delight. We finish with a generous serve of the Southern Highlands lamb tenderloin ($32) which comes with confit lamb belly, potato dauphinoise, cassava crisps and pepita crumble — and yes, it was a perfect match to our wine.
After such a successful run of dishes, there’s no question about dessert. We try a superb broken lemon tart ($13) made with thick, custardy clots of tart lemon curd, poised pieces of dried meringue, crumble and vanilla ice cream, as well as a millefeuille of white chocolate and ginger mouse ($13); the flaky, buttery pastry stealing the show.
Once the table has been cleared and the bill has been settled, there’s nothing left to do but catch the next session at Sydney’s finest picture palace.