Going out for dinner is always a hedonistic affair for me. I’ve always held the belief that if I was going to take the time, effort and money to haul my lazy couch potato ass out somewhere, I’d better be getting an experience that I can’t easily replicate at home. And most of the time this also means that the food is also hedonistic in nature. That is, “healthy” is not exactly a word that is used in association.
So imagine my surprise and mild confusion when I got an amazing dinner at Lox, Stock and Barrel in Bondi, but still walked away feeling light, and “healthy”.
Croquettes are the perfect blend of classy dining and unadulterated comfort junk food to me. It basically involves a creamy mix of meat/fish/cream/potato etc shaped into a cylinder, coated in breadcrumbs and deep fried into a crispy-on-the-outside-oozing-on-the-inside logs of golden brown perfection. Now say that three times fast.
At Lox, Stock and Barrel, we start the night off with Ocean Trout Croquettes, which contain little pink flecks of ocean trout, and all of the above-mentioned decadence. This was a fantastic way to whet the appetite, each log just large enough to tempt us with its oozing innards, and small enough to keep us wanting more. The Fresh Cucumber Pickle on the side was a nice touch, doing away with the need for the typical tartare sauce and the tangy notes that it provides.
Then comes the Green Asparagus, Labne, Jerusalem Artichoke, Smoked Salt and Oregano. because EAT YOUR VEGGIES. And what delicious veggies they are. If this was the way my mother wanted me to eat my five servings of vegetables a day, I’m sure I wouldn’t have spent so much of my teenage years hiding in a closet with a mini wheel of camembert. The asparagus held a light amount of char on it, tempering the bitterness with a light nuttiness. The fried jerusalem artichoke provided an exotic crunch, and the labne – a sort of yoghurt cheese made by straining yoghurt to create a thicker consistency – tied it all together.
I have a love/hate relationship with cooked cabbage. When overcooked, cabbage can stink out your house, much like over cooking Brussel sprouts can do. Thankfully, this plate of Duck and Pistachio Cabbage Rolls retain that al dente crunch in the cabbage, adding texture to the duck. The mushroom consommé here is more sauce than soup, leaning toward the salty side of things, but delicious in its umami mushroom flavour nonetheless. It seems that they are building up the heaviness of the dishes with each course that passes, though I must say that I would have been very happy to just have this as a main by itself.
Now we’re moving into the heavyweight arena, with a stew of Slow Roasted Eggplant, Tomato, Haloumi, Quinoa and Spiced Nuts. Now this is what vegetarian cooking should be like. All too often, vegetarian dishes are left to be afterthoughts, scrapping together meat substitutes, chasing a flavour that can’t really be faked. This, however, is unabashedly intended to show off the gorgeous veggies, meat be damned. The small cubes of haloumi add pops of salt, and the quinoa and nuts add heft and texture. The Boy and I agree that this would be fantastic winter comfort fare, and a guilt-free one, at that.
And finally, a finale of Grilled Rangers Rump Cap, Caramelised onion puree, watercress and field mushrooms. I have a soft spot for soubise – a puree of onion sautéed in butter and cooked in cream – so I’m already all over this. The rump cap was a nice medium rare, and the mushrooms plump and juicy without being soggy. The watercress seemed somewhat superfluous, but I guess you need something green to balance the rest of it. At this point, we were pretty stuffed, so a delicious dish was good, but not quite as out of the park as the others.
Before this, I always associated Lox, Stock and Barrel with lunch sandwiches and bagels. And witty names, yes, but not this creative, delicious, food that walks that fine line of the dining out experience and the showcasing of beautiful ingredients and produce. I’m glad to say that I was very wrong in my assumption.
This glorious menu of Lox, Stock and Barrel’s best dishes is available till the end of the NSW Food and Wine Festival, and costs $96 for two people.