And I mean, I love this town, but the hell you can’t get a bite to eat at this hour? It’s like a nursing home! Back in New York we’d go out to dinner, then hit a bunch of bars and then at midnight go to Pastis for a second dinner! God, those steak-frites were awesome …
Ah, the call of the exiled New Yorker who finds himself in Sydney’s Rocks district after ten on a Friday night. Is there anything more tedious? Probably not, so sorry to Mrs Prick and the friends who had to endure that little speech as we wandered around after a cocktail party (another thing people do in New York that’s far less popular here … but that’s a rant for another day) looking for something to eat and soak up the Ruinart.
But the Prick may not be able to thusly bore his companions much longer as more dining options arise downtown, and after a few misfires (the wine bar whose kitchen closed at nine; the tourist trap advertising “kangaroo sliders”) we found ourselves at Grain, the new bar at the Four Seasons which recently opened for business as part of a broader tart-up of the venerable old hotel. Grain’s décor is woody, but not in an old panelled clubby sort of way: think more Eero Saarinen by way of IKEA.
Grain’s website boasts of its “fine art of drinking” philosophy (which sounds like something ripped off from Kingsley Amis) and the bar makes a helluva good martini, served in coupe glasses which were beautiful but a little hard for this cocktail glass traditionalist to get used to. They also, apparently, do a very good trade in whiskeys. The cocktail menu, with old favourites like the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club, is reminiscent of the list at the gone but certainly not forgotten Bayswater Brasserie.
The food’s also pretty good and just the thing for a late dinner: oysters, “lardo” on toast (which was sold out, much to everyone’s disappointment), tarted up burgers and steaks. A Coorong hangar steak was as lovely an example of that cut of meat the Prick has seen this side of Sixpenny, though it was let down by the sides: we could see where they were going with the chunks of pumpkin fried in some sort of salt-and-vinegar crust were good but slightly confused. A hunk of baby iceberg lettuce was pointless and drizzled on the cut side with what appeared to be a sort of salsa verde vinaigrette: Presumably the point was to elevate the much-maligned leaf to a higher, hipper level (a la the aforementioned slider revolution) but it just did not work. Far be it from the Prick to tell the kitchen how to do its job, but something as insipid as iceberg needs a lot more to back it up: perhaps a nice classic blue cheese dressing? Meanwhile a fish burger was, despite at first glance looking worryingly like a Filet-o-Fish, hit the brief, deep fried, crunch, and on a tasty bun.