The Outram Park area has been a popular dining destination for some time now, with a heap of restaurants overtaking the area between Kreta Ayer, Neil Road and Cantonment Road. We decided it was high time to revisit the hood for all kinds of grub – from Australian, Italian and Spanish to seafood, burgers and French-Asian fusion. Read on to find out what to order where!
Luxe Sydney serves up modern, hearty, flavourful Australian fare at down-to-earth prices. It’s all clean lines and chic white against wood, with gentle, warm lights giving a romantic touch. Attracting a youngish after-work crowd, it’s a fairly casual place with lots of chatter. Walking in, we were immediately hit by the mouth-watering aromas of spiced meat. We started with cocktails; I picked the Early Tipple ($18) made with Earl Grey-infused gin, elderflower liqueur, lemon and honey. This may just be my new favourite drink; it’s divine – aromatic, with strong tea and herb flavours, a subtle sweetness and a tangy-bitter aftertaste. We shared the parmesan doughnuts appetiser ($10), which gave us four warm, cheesy, doughy sticks that, at first glance, resembled chicken franks on a plate with a creamy parmesan dip – absolute comfort food! As a main, I had the Luxe burger ($27), a thick and perfectly cooked grass-fed beef patty with gruyere, thin pickle slices, tomatoes, lettuce and a very generous helping of fries. The savoury sauce on the patty added a real kick, while the lightly toasted charcoal bun was tasty even on its own. An extra $1.50 allowed us to swap regular fries for truffle ones (yay!). My partner, meanwhile, ordered the roast chicken with honey tumeric and greens ($28), and described it as a shock of succulent flavour from the first bite. Dessert was pandan madeleines with house-made kaya ($6) – great with a cappuccino – and citrus panna cotta ($12) dressed with crumble and edible white flowers (a tad sour, but still enjoyable). My verdict? I’d definitely go back!
– Christel Gomes
If you’re looking for a cosy atmosphere for good conversation over great food, then Humpback is the place. Vegetarians and seafood lovers alike will be satisfied with sharing plates that are light and full of flavour. Oysters ($2 to $3 each) are the pearl of this place – even the artwork on the walls pays pretty homage to them. The staff are really knowledgeable about where the oysters are sourced, how they are grown, and the impact this has on their flavour and texture; we learned a lot about oyster farming, which made for interesting dinner conversation!
Favourite plates on our visit included kale with buttermilk and pear ($14) (especially the little crispy portions that reminded me of seaweed) and cabbage with chilli oil and quinoa ($10), which was a delicious surprise. The Ibérico Esquina pork ($28) was perfectly cooked and melt-in-the-mouth tender. We polished all this off with an elderflower spritz cocktail ($14 during happy hour) that was super-light and refreshing, and went well with the food.
The cabbage – it’s delicious!
Sneak in early for happy hour prices between 5 and 8pm.
– Amanda Broad
Late last year, the casual tapas bar Esquina notched up five years in a small corner shophouse, making it a veritable veteran in the trendy Jiak Chuan Road precinct. At the helm of the tiny open kitchen is Barcelonan, Carlos Montobbio. There’s no room for mistakes here, as hungry customers watch from their bar stools (there is outdoor seating, too) – and it’s this culinary theatre, and the results, that make for a great night out.
The modern Spanish menu offers some eclectic choices; simply choose six or seven plates to share between two people. At Carlos’s suggestion, we kicked off with a plump Tsarskaya oyster (flown from Brittany, France) and served with jalapeño, ponzu, salmon roe and pickled ginger flower ($7 each). Also on the snacks menu is chorizo Ibérico croqueta ($8), which proves that the simple things in life are often the best, especially when prepared with fresh, quality ingredients. Another must is the delicately sweet Patagonian toothfish ceviche ($26). And what’s a Spanish meal without paella? Esquina’s version includes saffron, chorizo and snow peas ($24), with the bowl painted in a deliciously spicy capsicum-flavoured sauce. Wash it down with cava ($22), sangria ($16) or a glass of wine (from $16), and finish off with a dessert of strawberries, basil sorbet, olives, handmade marshmallows and vanilla chantilly ($14). Food this good deserves another visit, pronto!
Not only for vegetarians or weight-watchers, the grilled baby romaine lettuce with herb yoghurt and macadamia nuts ($12) is delicious!
– Katie Roberts
Grignoter by Chef Justin Quek
Taking its name from the French word for “nibble”, this restaurant is the brainchild of local celeb Chef Justin Quek (of Sky on 57 at Marina Bay Sands). His aim of producing exceptional quality at wallet-friendly prices shows in the FrancoAsian menu of small plates designed to accompany an array of emerging labels and fine wines from Bordeaux, averaging $70 a bottle.
Ranging from $5 to $18, the nibbles on offer seem simple but, as we discovered, there’s much more to Chef Quek’s food than meets the eye. From the Chef’s Creations menu, we tried the heirloom and confit tomatoes, parmesan chips and parmesan ice cream ($16), a surprising and flavoursome twist on cheese and tomatoes, perfectly matched with a Chateau Tour de Mirambeau 2014 ($13 a glass). The succulent, rich and moreish Ibérico pork belly with mantou bun ($8) went well with the Chateau Loumelat Bordeaux 2012 ($13 per glass). From the regular menu, we tried the perfectly spiced prawn curry with okra, eggplant and cherry tomatoes ($13) and JQ’s My Fish & Chips ($15) – amazing, crunchy secret-recipe batter, succulent fish and perfect kipfler potatoes accompanied by a tasty chilli, coriander and sesame sauce. These we paired with the chef’s own wine label, Poupille 2004 ($115 a bottle). If you have room, the deceptively simple almond tuile ($3) is melt-in-the-mouth, salty and sweet, and hard to share – you’ll want more!
Everything from the subtle lighting and the seemingly effortless service to the unobtrusive music gives Grignoter a sophisticated yet casual ambience, the perfect setting for a relaxed evening with friends.
The charcoal-grilled leeks with hazelnut oil and roasted hazelnuts, topped with a poached egg ($13) is cut for you at the table, so the yolk runs deliciously down the leeks.
Tucked behind the corner shophouse of its big sister Oso, this place is cosy – like dining in a mountain chalet with interestingly eclectic décor that just works! It’s a good double-date-night spot, as the menu caters to meat-eaters, seafood lovers and vegetarians alike.
To start, we polished off the foie gras terrine with chutney and brioche ($18) and sautéed king prawn with chorizo and frisée salad ($12). This was after we’d tucked into the warm and moreish signature focaccia (first piece complimentary, $12 per piece thereafter), served on a hot rock, with pork rillettes ($13).
Grilled Australian black cod with grilled asparagus and tomato ($38 for 200g) formed our “light” second innings after what had been quite rich and hearty starters. They’re proud of their well-sourced meats here, so we had to try the oakwood-grilled Margaret River wagyu sirloin (Grade 9; $72 for 350g). We ended with the delicious marshmallow amaretto soufflé ($12); the amaretto is heated and poured over the fluffy, glistening marshmallows, making for one polished and potent pudding!
It has to be the marshmallow amaretto soufflé. Next time, I would brave the 2kg wagyu striploin to share ($386). Oh, and I highly recommend washing it all down with the Cherry Tart (don’t be put off by the name!) Californian Pinot Noir ($88 a bottle; $19 per glass).
Potato Head Folk
This four-storey American restaurant-bar is housed in a restored Art Deco-style building on the ever-happening Keong Saik Street. My partner and I spent the evening on the second level’s Three Buns burger restaurant. Interesting décor including murals and distinctive statues makes for a fun and lively atmosphere, while R&B music adds to the ultra-cool vibe.
While the burgers are the stars of the show, if I could pick just one thing from the menu it would be the Naughty Fries ($12). This sinful dish of thick-cut potato fries comes with a generous serving of Béarnaise sauce and hot beef chilli – it was the highlight of my meal. On the burger front, be sure to try the Fun Boy Three ($25), which includes a 120g Hereford Angus beef patty, Applewood cheddar, a juicy roasted portobello mushroom and truffle aioli; for a truffle and beef lover like me, it hit all the right spots. Or, if you’re out to indulge, treat yourself to the Truff Ryder ($36), which features a wagyu patty, black truffle cheese and a generous portion of seared foie gras sandwiched in a brioche bun.
Burgers and milkshakes go hand-in-hand, of course; we enjoyed the hazelnut milkshake ($10), which was neither too sweet nor too rich.
For more reviews and roundups, head over to our Wine & Dine section.