The Bridge Room. A restaurant many have heard of, but not nearly as many have been.
That’s something that ought to change.
Under the managerial guidance of the illustrious Fink Group (which owns the famous, famous three-hatted restaurant Quay, as well as one-hatted restaurant Otto Ristorante), the Bridge Room, led by head chef Ross Lusted (who used to work at Rockpool) has risen to prominent heights ever since it first opened.
It’s corporate dining, that’s for sure. You’re out of place if you’re not suited up. Pretty sure every CEO and high level executive have eaten here before. Having said that, I came on a Saturday night (and I wore casual – jeans & sneakers), so that vibe was lessened, but you could still feel this place was designed to hold class by the fistful.
Name: The Bridge Room
Date Visited: 6/10/2012
Address: 44 Bridge Street, Sydney 2000
Good for: exceptional, classy dining
Not good for: alfresco, lively dining – there’s no music, so restaurant sounds get a bit awkward
Go-to dish: Aerated duck egg w/spelt rye, morello mushrooms and guanciale
First, something about the decor. Light European Oak make the tables and chairs, with soft leather which is sure to be a world apart from whatever ergonomic nightmare you’ve been sitting on all day at work. Funky mini cacti-style plants are placed on every table, whose green colour bring a very natural palette to the place (think of a tree with green leaves).
Adorning the walls of the restaurant are these pink decorations (not good with decoration names I’m afraid) which bring interest and vibrancy to an otherwise bare wall. Another shot shown below.
So yeah, the restaurant is dressed to impress.
Another feature is the semi open-view kitchen where you can see the chefs do their work. Lusted is the one on the right.
And another shot, because why not.
“You can watch, just don’t read their lips” – is what our waiter told us. Fair enough I suppose!
I dined at TBR under the Crave Sydney International Food Festival, specifically this event, so yeah it was pretty special and should highlight the best of TBR. What is “the best” of TBR anyway? Well, in Lusted’s travels around the world (lasting ten years!) he’s picked up quite a few bits of food know-how. The result is a masterpiece of fusion cuisine. Let’s dive in…
This first dish of fresh Atlantic oysters comes to us fully shucked and lightly dressed in a vinegar reduction. The combined taste is a very light sweetness that permeates the soft, tender flesh. It even lacks that gag-inducing ocean-taste, which is one heck of a boon. I know I have a good oyster when I don’t feel the urge to just slurp and swallow instead of chewing it through. Up there amongst the best, I don’t have anything bad to say about the oysters here!
I found it somewhat amusing that while the menu specied a 6 course degustation, 10 courses were in the end laid out before us. Did every table get these gifts? Was it because I was food blogging with a DSLR? Who knows. But I can’t complain!
This is a fantastic starter. If you don’t like artichokes, chances are you’ll still liked it when it’s been turned into a sauce of sorts. It’s absolutely delicious with a rich, milky creaminess that accentuates the firm and sweet flavour of the spanner crab.
What’s possibly even better are the artichoke chips. Fried to a crisp, they give the creamy dish a crispy complexion that is just awesome. ‘Nuff said.
In this particular morsel, flavour is imparted by the bottarga (cured fish roe, usually of the grey mullet type), while the lemon add a tangy element to it which matches the scampi. As for the scampi itself, it’s an average enough specimen, but since it was paired with the right garnishes, becomes most passable.
Surprisingly enough, I really liked how fresh and crunchy the broad beans and leaves were – vegetables are usually hardly exciting, but I like them almost as much as I did the scampi. Say what?!
My palate is not attuned to be able to really appreciate raw red meats, and this wagyu shoulder was no exception. There’s just something different about eating it raw, as opposed to eating say, sashimi. Perhaps it’s just not something I’m used to. I wonder if I could ever get used to it actually…
The texture is definitely a pleasing one though – the meat is so soft it’s almost like a strained cream. It definitely has that melt-in-your-mouth feel. It’s /very/ well marbled. It’s still got that raw, chewy and cold taste to it though. I find it hard to get over that.
Attempting to save it are the accompaniments of namenko mushrooms and horseradish – pickled of course. Eating the shrooms with the beef and horseradish at once does much to alleviate the psychological concerns of eating raw beef. The shrooms were extremely slick, as if they were half made of slime. That took some getting used to, but the illusion is thankfully dispelled when had with the horseradish. This is definitely a dish that requires you to eat everything at once.
Except the quail egg – you could definitely have that on its own. Grilled nicely, you’ll love it if you already like quail egg. Otherwise, this won’t really change your opinion.
Another “on the house” off menu dish, and possibly the best dish of the night, we have an exceptional fusion creation. That yellow sauce you see there? That’s an aerated duck egg. Like, wow who’d have known huh? I generally have a strong aversion to eating duck eggs due to the possibility of fetal development but there was no sign of that here.
So what does an aerated duck egg taste like? The answer is amazing. I can’t really describe the flavour, it’s like a egg-white cream that’s been flavoured with the slightest spicy hints and absolutely spot on consistency. It’s very aromatic and sensual on the tongue, and you could eat a ton of it.
Coupled with this awesome solution is spelt rye which is a rarer cousin of common wheat. It has been cut thin and toasted to give a super crispy crunch when bitten into, serving as the crunchy component of the dish. It pairs very naturally with the duck egg, but this isn’t complete without the guanciale, which is similar to pancetta but is cut even thinner and is more delicate in texture. Have it all I say, have it all.
But I did forget to mention a rare and very special ingredient – morel mushrooms. Specifically, it’s a sub-type that only grows in Victoria, and while commonly found dry (dehydrated), full plump ones are much harder to come by and only come seasonally. I enjoyed these mushrooms, despite their odd look (it’s like a half-brain). They have an earthy flavour and a rubbery texture that worked well (again, surprisingly) and I couldn’t really find fault with them. They’re good mushrooms! And as a rule I don’t even like mushrooms!
One of the pieces adorning TBR’s kitchen is the Robata Grill, which is a Japanese-style open-flame charcoal grill. Its primary purpose (apart from obviously cooking the food) is to impart a delicious, smokey flavour and a nice charred texture that’s consistent, as opposed to the grill lines you’ll get on a more conventional grill.
The whiting served next was cooked in such a manner, served with a tarator (a Turkish cold soup/cream that is yoghurt-based). The whiting itself is tender and falls apart easily under the knife and fork and is a real pleasure to eat. The grilling was a little overdone I think, and I tasted more burn and char I would have liked. The skin absorbs temperature faster than the fish meat, so that’s something to keep in mind.
In taste, the fish has to be eaten with the sauce, otherwise it will barely have any flavour. I think there should have been a little bit of natural seasoning added to it, but I suppose the two are meant to be eaten together.
This dish definitely carried the best aroma of any dish on the night. Adequately cooked on top of cedar bar to give it a woody smoke flavour and generously garnished with an in-house sweet and salty sauce.
The pigeon itself was kind of a letdown – the meat is flavoursome, especially as its paired with such a great sauce, but the texture was a bit problematic. The meat was quite tough, and required lots of chewing to get through. It also didn’t lend itself well to the knife and fork, requiring repeated sawings to get through. Pigeon is by nature quite tough compared to other birds like chicken, but this was something that’s a bit beyond what should be acceptable. The cooking time could have been increased, methinks.
Still, that’s a wonderful sauce…mmm
I must admit I’ve actually completely forgotten what this was. I know it’s a pear salad of sorts, but what other ingredients were there? There’s walnut, for one! Oh I’m hopeless.
In any case – it tasted quite nice. The pear is fresh and sweet, the sauce (whatever it was) was both sweet and salty (with a bias towards the sweet side), and the walnuts gave crunch.
Well, this is what you get when you don’t note down what the dish was since this was once again another off-menu item.
And now, to the dessert. Valhrona describes a chocolate maker based in Hermitage, Lyon, France. Does that imply this dessert comes straight from there? I doubt it, but maybe there’s some heritage here as Lusted has presumably traveled there too to pick up a skill or two.
The chocolate cake is faultess. Soft, fluffy and rich, it goes perfectly with the créme fraîche which itself is not too dense so as to overpower the cake. Nice!
As for the grilled blueberries – grilled? Well don’t worry they’re not toasted to death or anything. Rather, it seems like a light grill where the sweetness and the fleshiness of the insides are preserved, while browning the skin to something that’s almost crunchy. I love blueberries, and I’ve no issue with these ones.
And at last, we have what they call crispy crêpes. It really is pieces of wheat that have been deep fried, but oh boy are they absolutely delicious. Crunchy, sugary guilt trips with each bite. I’m not sure what the cheese that accompanies it is, but it’s quite sweet for cheese – and I almost thought it was some sort of cream candy. It’s got a rich milky flavour to it, and tastes really great by itself, or paired with the crunch crunch of the crêpes.
Lusted really has developed something special here with TBR. While I didn’t agree with every dish, it’s clear where the appeal lies:
The Good: great fusion with contemporary flavours, chic decor, and great service to boot.
The Bad: some dishes just won’t agree due to their exoticism
I give The Bridge Room a grand total of eight and a half Caesars out of ten – 8.5/10