The Top Line: If you’re looking for fine food, without the hassle of high class dining, this humble little restaurant/bar in Darlinghurst boasts comfort and cosiness. The ambiance is an eclectic mix of french romance and the alternative indie hipster. Try their take on Modern Australian cuisine with intriguing dishes and harmonious flavour explosions. It’s one of the most underrated restaurants at the City’s edge.
97 Crown Street will be easily missed if you don’t keep your eyes peeled. I actually walked past The Owl House before realising there was a fruitful bar behind the doors of a narrow terrace. We were greeted by the lovely barman and our waitress for the night. I can see this place becoming a full house on a Friday-Sunday night, most definitely.
The restaurant is upstairs and I was super surprised by the decor. It was quirky, interesting and rustic. I couldn’t help but notce a flying pig. I would say you come here for more than the food, but for the whole experience. Our waitress was very attentive throughout the whole night. 4/5 for service – the only downside was there was only one waitress and it was quite hard to get her attention when she was downstairs. I didn’t mind waiting though, I was quite happy sitting amongst it all.
They change their menu every season so I guess you could come here four times a year to try variations. We decided to go for the entree + main deal for $35pp. I’m not sure when this deal is on, but we went on a Thursday night.
Entree – Ricotta and silver beet ravioli with a quail egg. Served with deep fried boccocini & fermented heirloom tomatoes on yellow beans
This was a very impressive and colourful dish to pop on to the table. Let’s go through the flavours. The quail egg yolk burst upon cutting in to the ravioli. I liked it because it was mild in flavour and the pasta was thin and cooked nicely, although a bit flimsy. The fried boccocini was balanced out with the heirloom tomato (fermented in who knows what but it was a burst of acidity, a burst of freshness!) and the sqaush was just very mellow. I loved loved the bed of spinach cooked in butter that lay underneath the ravioli. It was so addictive and was a solid foundation for the whole dish, tying everything together. The only negative would be … more ravioli please.
Entree – Kadaifi prawn and a chickpea tuile with matbucha dip, heirloom tomatoes, caperberries and tomato vinaigrette
Did I say the last entree looked impressive? The height on this dish was incredible, not to mention the finesse of the fried layer outside the prawn (it was a huge prawn, might I add). I’m not sure on the texture of this prawn because I’ve never had this type before but it had less of a texture, but i’m pretty sure it was a compromise for the size. The highlight of the dish for me was the chickpea tuile. When I had my mouthful together with the tomato, caper and dip, it was genius in my mouth. I loved the crunch, the cream balanced by the fresh ingredients. Definitely a really good entree to get you pumped for mains.
Main – Spatchcock breast and a harissa and cumin chicken sausage on a bed of spiced fried spaetzle, fennel and preserved lemon.
Ok there were so many things going on in this dish, even though everything comes together so simply, it seems it was too easy. The sausage had a really good meaty texture inside but was rather salty. I guess it goes well with the Spaetzle which was on the bland side. I’ve only had German spaetzle cooked in a pasta & sauce style so this fried verison was interesting and quirky. The main stars, the spatchcock, were seasoned so well they were enticing with each bite, not to mention how tender the meat was. The most understated part of this dish is probably the foam (which isn’t even mentioned on the menu!) It was creamy and cheesy but because it came in a foam texture, this was reduced to a light cloud of heaven. Downside, spatchcock pieces were really small!! (Ok sptachcock is a small bird, I give you that).
Main – Oven baked gold band snapper sprinkled with olive dust. Served with a stuffed zucchini flower, fermented golden squash, spiced tomato jam and pickled onion petals.
Snap snap. I love my fish, although this fillet could’ve been more juicy (but that’s probably because it was baked and pan fried). Doesn’t matter, I appreciated this light main. Looking at it makes me feel healthy. I was very excited to try the stuffed Zucchini flower because that’s always I had seen on TV and never tried in real life. I know there’s a fried version but this steamed/whatever version satisfied me also. It seemed like it was stuffed with a mixture of buffalo cheese and snapper .. weird, but tasty nonetheless. The olive dust acted as the salt on the fish, while the lemon marinade really came through. We both adored the picked onion petal, which we decided was infused in beetroot. You could really tell the sweet earthy beetroot flavour and the colour was undeniable, adding to delicacy of the sweet onion petal. I think the pickled squash was there for acidity balance but the spicy tomato jam, I found, added an extra dimension when put together with the snapper.
I really wouldn’t be able to pick my favourite dish, simply because each dish had so many elements on it, that each individual element pulled me in a lot of directions. The Owl House is certainly a a treasure near the edge of the CBD and I think part of the intrigue it for it to remain that way.
Credits to CJK