One Penny Red
The location is great, the atmosphere is just what you want and the food? More than worth the journey.
July 02, 2014
If you've never been to the family-friendly inner-west suburb of Summer Hill, a smooth 15 minutes by train from Central, all you need to do is simply wander its streets to know it's home to a number of entirely visitable cafes and restaurants. One Penny Red, the aptly named reincarnation of the local post office, is certainly visitable and should definitely be a direction you wander in.
At the helm of this restaurant and bar, spread over two storeys, is girlfriend-boyfriend duo Nina Alidenes (owner of nearby Envy Cafe) and David Murphy (ex-Rockpool sommelier and Merivale honcho), as well as head chef RJ Lines (Neutral Bay Diner, Longrain) alongside the lovebirds. Brought to life by Emerath Builders, the ground floor provides a spacious and relaxed dining room, while the first floor offers low tables and lounges for a feed with a side of cocktail lounge.
As we sipped on the house special — a sparkling take on a classic aka Champagne Negroni (and probably one of the best whiskey sours we've had in a long time), Murphy ran us through the menu. Modern Australian in style with hints of Italy and Asia, it's designed with small and large plates to share, as well as the option to sit back with the day's selection of signature dishes and Trust the Chef ($55 per head). Naturally, that was one request we couldn't look past.
To begin, we enjoyed a selection of three small plates matched with a glass of Eden Valley Riesling (wine matching is not included with Trust the Chef, but the staff know their stuff if you're in need of some vino guidance). The pate was rich and smooth and the accompanying apricot jelly added just the right amount of sweetness, while roasted king prawns, splayed open and smothered in bisque butter, were too good not to rip apart by hand (note: ask for a finger bowl). The standout, by far, was the kingfish carpaccio with what seemed to be a wasabi kick to it, highlighting the freshness of the fish wonderfully.
We then moved on to two large plates accompanied by a glass of Tasmanian Chardonnay served in some pretty fabulous Burgundy glasses. The Holmbrae roast chicken was succulent on the bone (a touch dry on the breast), accompanied by braised eschallots and full of flavour, while the cuttlefish and pork belly salad was, according to my dinner guest, "a thousand times better". A fan of the chicken, personally I wouldn't go that far, but it certainly was a little bit wow. Notoriously easy to turn to rubber, the cuttlefish was cooked perfectly, and the partnering meaty goodness of the pork, combined with the light and bright tastes of fennel and cucumber places this dish as one of the best.
Almost full to bursting, we still managed to bite down some banana beignets dunked in melted chocolate sauce, with a coffee (sourced from nearby Annandale institution, Little Marionette). An ideal end to a large meal, these little balls of deep fried choux paste were the sweet end to a very sweet evening indeed.
In my mind there is no doubt One Penny Red, already packed full on a Friday evening, will become a local haunt in next to no time. The location is great, the atmosphere is just what you want, and the food? More than worth the journey.