Every group of fictional friends have a cosy local haunt for daily debriefs. There’s Central Perk, Tom’s Restaurant, McLaren’s, Paddy’s Pub. You’ve probably always wanted your own IRL version of a sweet local where you can meet your closest pals after work. Well, if you live in the inner west, The General in Dulwich Hill could very well be your new place (substituting the Big Salad for a menu showcasing locally sourced produce).
Chef co-owners Josh McPhee and Dave Moran met when they worked together at Jonah’s at Whale Beach, and decided to roll the hospitality dice and open up their own place. The laidback pair built The General with their own hands, cleaning bricks, sourcing tables and $1 vintage school chairs, crafting concrete pendant lights, and generally renovating the former butchery into a relaxed casual eatery.
The ever-changing menu has pride of place on an exposed brick wall, where it's scrawled with a permanent marker on a giant roll of brown paper. The brisket and fried chicken with dill pickles are crowd favourites and have managed to find semi-permanent spots on the menu, but the remaining items are switched out on the reg. It’s so nice to see the chefs having fun experimenting with different produce, and it looks like they have several hundred metres left of paper to embark on a world of new food combos.
The dishes are designed for communal dining, but are refreshingly generous in size, accompanied by a thoughtfully curated wine list showcasing both local and international numbers. A raw zucchini ribbon salad ($8) comes lightly coated in olive oil and tossed with Persian feta and crunchy sunflower seeds. It's one of those dishes that prompts people to say things like, “if all raw food was this good, I could eat it all the time”; a sentiment I too felt momentarily, until a glorious plate of burnt heirloom carrots with lemony yoghurt and warm peas ($14) arrived at our table. It was so nice to see carrots — those vegetables that are so often served boiled until they’re within an inch of their orangeness — receive pride of place on a dinner plate. Moran said he wanted to recreate the burnt carrots his mum made when he was a kid and, in doing so, has elevated that chump vegetable reserved for the RSL Sunday roasts to a whole new level.
As for the mains, the mountain of fried chicken served with a side of ranch and dill pickles ($32), provided the much-needed punctuation to what had thus far been a night of pretty #cleaneating. Consuming a whole chunk of deep-fried chicken as big as your fist proved something that couldn’t be done neatly with a knife and fork, so be prepared to get elbow deep in a pile of crispy bird or GTFO.
I also thoroughly recommend the chargrilled hanger steak with chimichurri ($35). Perfectly cooked medallions of blush pink, pepper-crusted steak brightened with charred lime and a punchy chimichurri, it's something not to be missed.
Regardless of whether you've saved some room in your dessert stomach, you definitely need to try the salted caramel tart with coffee meringue ($12) — utterly indulgent thick caramel topped with soft espresso meringue peaks and served with a side of Nutella and cream. On the menu, this dish reads like a veritable Frankenstein’s sweet monster, but it totally works.
Images: Bodhi Liggett.