No gas. No electricity. Only wood-coal fire and some very punchy flavours.
What's hot in Sydney right now? That would be Firedoor, Sydney's new home of wood-smoked goodness. Behind the project is Lennox Hastie, a British-born chef with a string of Michelin stars on his belt; so as you can imagine, Firedoor is already doing a roaring trade. Book your table well in advance or try your luck for one of twenty highly coveted walk-in spots (knock on wood).
There's no question that smoking is on the rise in Sydney, and at Firedoor it's used to enhance the natural characteristics of the ingredients, not to smother them like cheap perfume. Firedoor uses ten different woods to flavour and accent their menu, including gnarly mallee root, chestnut, pearwood, wine cask and native ironbark to name a few from the woodpile.
Wood also forms the central ingredient in the restaurant's décor and the aged wood pillars and timber tables, coupled with the smell of sweet smoke to deliver a multisensory experience. The menu is short and changes daily, depending on what's in season and looks fresh at the markets. We start with a serve of woodfired bread with olive oil and smoked cultured butter ($6). The butter has absorbed rich aromas from the coals; just one light spread and it tastes like you're eating a meat sandwich. This is butter to eat like no one's watching.
From the large seafood selection, we try the Moreton Bay bug ($20) with green apple and a creamy smear of mullet roe underneath, garnished with snow pea tendrils. The bug is lightly cooked, basically just sealed by the smoke, the roe is mild and the apple is freshly sliced. Not sure where my money went in that dish.
Any disappointment is soon forgotten when the robust and earthy lamb rump arrives, which is cooked to a wobbly medium rare and served with creamy, buttery borlotti beans lightly coated in jus and cavalo nero which has crispy singed edges. We're also impressed by the grilled leaves with pecans and guanciale ($18), a fatty Italian cured meat which has been shaved into thin, transparent slivers. Radicchio and sweet cos are served lukewarm in a sharp vinaigrette, and the dish cleverly sits somewhere between a fresh salad and braised vegetables.
From the dessert menu we opt for the most daring combination — spaghetti squash, pumpkin ice cream and pepitas ($16), a little lacklustre but the spaghetti squash is unlike any pasta I've ever eaten. As for drinks, the wines have been put together by Master of Wine, Ned Goodwin and the smart, well-priced cocktails are made by Ex-Sokyo Bar Manager Phil McElroy. The Swiss pear bellini ($14) is lemony and mellow, while a clever negroni ($16) adds pistachio Cinzano to the mix.
Bold flavour, pretty plates and technique-driven dishes have been trending in Sydney for a while now and that's where Firedoor goes against the grain. Instead, you'll get a completely new food philosophy, which puts the ingredient at the very centre, accentuated by the subtleties of woodfire.
Images: Nikki To.