AU ABROAD

Eating with the AU: Chiswick Woollahra & Chiswick at the Gallery - Sydney

Winter menus are popping up all over the city now that the cold air has arrived and Sydneysiders are looking for warmth both in atmosphere and on the plate. It's hard to look any further than Matt Moran and Peter Sullivan with their two Chiswick restaurants - the original in Woollahra and the relatively new restaurant at the Art Gallery of NSW - both constant sources of inspiration for those who like working with fresh and sustainable produce.

Recently, I was taken on a progressive lunch to showcase both restaurants, first starting in Woolahra where the garden attached to the restaurant was highlighted. Through the big white glass doors at the far end of the restaurant anyone can look out over the very well-kept and beautiful garden which grows everything from kale to cucamelons, all of which can be used straight away in the kitchen's dishes or the bar's cocktails. There's little wonder as to why Chiswick is so renowned for it's clean and fresh food.

The garden is maintained by experienced horticulturalist Peter Hatfield, a man who seems completely dedicated - and proud of - what he has achieved here. Talking about his garden, he told us that only organic sprays and fertilisers are used in the Chiswick Garden, alongside the garden's own worm farm and irrigation system.

The atmosphere is that of a lush cottage far from the concrete jungle that is the city, immediately relaxing with arresting views of the greenery which surrounds the venue. Standing at the back of a park of a suburban street does have it's advantages.

Our group settled down at one of the venue's long tables and previewed various smaller dishes that are part of the new winter menu.

First up, a nice and warm Wood-Fired Garlic Bread ($6), seasoned with fresh thyme with a nice chewy texture to start any meal off right. This dish is a nice accompaniment to beautiful, crispy Pumpkin Arancinis ($10) with zesty gemolata. The inside of these generously sized arancinis is soft and creamy.

Textural variation comes with the smooth crunch of Pickled Baby Vegetables with Macadamia ($8), a salad that showcases the consistently clean approach Chiswick have to food.

Vodka-Cured Petuna Ocean Trout ($22) is an essential order, delicately sliced and full of flavour with some crunch coming from the radish and gherkins. It pairs up well with a dish of Beetroot with Burnt Orange ($18), a variety of flavours driven by a generous amount of fluffy goat's curd.

Finishing off our preview of the smaller dishes on offer at Chiswick, we save the most addictive for last: Crispy Chicken Wings ($22). The chilli and lime dipping sauce that comes with it is heavenly, working well with the very light, full-flavoured wings.

We hopped in a group of Ubers and headed to the tranquil Art Gallery of NSW next to check out Chiswick at the Gallery and it was here where we enjoyed the larger, more significant dishes, including that famous Moran family lamb.

Chiswick at the Gallery shares many of the same philosophies as it's sister venue, though the design is world's apart to keep it consistent with the gallery aesthetic and the garden isn't directly attached to the venue; rather, the garden is seen below, basking in the sunlight.

The private dining room tucked away in the restaurant's front corner is gorgeous, bringing in a lot of natural light and boasting a very long, tall table that feels much more casual than the sophisticated setting in Woollahra.

Our first dish here was the Pumpkin Risotto ($28), flavoured with nettle and tarragon. The taste is sharp, and lingers for quite a while on the tongue after it melts in your mouth. The dish is contrasted with the more robust, Grilled Whole Rainbow Trout ($58), stuffed with caramelised leeks, herbs, and vegetables. The fish is quite large and could easily be shared between four or five people, with each mouthful of crispy skin and soft flesh bringing with it a complex, powerful flavour.

What will always be my reference dish for the quality of Chiswick though, is the signature Slow-Roast Moran Family Lamb ($66), an easy entry on any 'top Sydney dishes you need to try' list. This popular dish is occasionally switched up, and this version has a vibrant salad of couscous and charred capsicum. Sliding this meat straight off the bone and into your mouth is a smooth process, the meat is unbelievably tender and has the tendency to melt as soon as you take a mouthful. I know I could easily - and greedily - keep this one all to myself, but there's enough here to share with a large group.

The Chiswick Chocolate Mousse Cake ($16) is a worthwhile dessert, going for a more delicate balance of flavours rather than overload you with richness. It's light, with hazelnut and passionfruit by the side to pair up well and make this a go-to dessert for many.

A bit more left-field is the Strawberry and Rhubarb ($16). There's some armoatinc ouzo coming from under that delicate, chewy strawberry sheet, which when lifted reveals a beautiful and refreshing mix of strawberries and rhubarb.

A trip to either Chiswick venue is always going to impress, the dedication the kitchen and gardeners - have to both natural flavours and innovative dishes is admirable and it's shown on each and every plate. Being able to dine across both venues in one day was a great experience, and reiterated the consistency between the two.

Chiswick Woollahra

Address: 65 Ocean St, Woollahra NSW 2025
Contact: (02) 8388 8688
Website: http://www.chiswickrestaurant.com.au

Chiswick at the Gallery:

Address: Art Gallery of NSW, Art Gallery Road, The Domain NSW 2000
Contact: 02 9225 1819
Website: http://www.chiswickrestaurant.com.au/gallery