Ex-Rockpool, ex-Marque chef Harry Stockdale-Powell and his business partner Emma Darrouzet have recently added a charming restaurant and bar, Bouche on Bridge to Sydney’s busy Bridge Street, a destination strip that’s no stranger to both high end and casual dining with some of the CBD’s best restaurants either lining the road or standing nearby. It’d be a tough act to stand out among all these establishments, but within weeks Bouche has emerged as a vital resident, taking up in a 130 year old building. Bouche is split between two separate venues with the upstairs being a beautiful, dramatic sandstone dining hall and downstairs being a seductively sleek, contemporary cocktail and wine bar where the ever-reliable Matt Linklater (ex-Bulletin Place) takes a produce-driven, seasonal approach to mixology.
The bright dining room is an endearing sight, with a variety of seating options cleverly spread across the space. There’s a mezzanine with a chef’s table should diners want to close to the action, bar seating facing an impressive selection of spirits, and even some a high marbled counter overlooking the street – facing Neil Perry’s Eleven Bridge – and of course individual tables; it screams fine dining even though the menu functions much differently. It’s clear Harry and Emma have put a lot of thought into Bouche’s layout, helped along by design team Rad Studio who approached the building’s history with reverence, restoring much of the original timber and brickwork that adds greatly to the sophisticated scene.
The food menu is split in three main sections – sea, land, and farm – each honouring the source of the ingredients, with an additional ‘savour’ section for starters, sides, and snacks, and of course ‘sweets’ to finish.
It’s not hard to decide on a starting point, with choices like typical top picks like cured meats ($24) or even better shucked-to-order oysters ($4) each with are bright and snappy with blood orange and pickled wakame on top. The choice that follows is rather difficult for diners who don’t tend to stick to just one section – everything on the menu sounds so good, Harry and the kitchen focusing on using only a few ingredients but using them very well.
Choices must be made though, so on my visit my guest and I followed the stunning oysters with a swiftly delivered serving of bone marrow ($20) sitting in a thin beef jus with a scattering of crunchy charred onions. You’d be wise to ask for a side of house-made sourdough loaf ($8) with this one, it’s served with house-made cultured butter and is perfect for sponging up that jus after the rich marrow is all gone. Don’t forget the onions either – they take on all that rich flavour from the jus just as well as the bread.
Those who need some greens on the side should do well with the massive leaves of cos lettuce ($12) which are dressed with basil, macademia, and a generous sprinkling of goats cheese.
The beef cheek hot pot ($22) is one of the standout dishes, a rustic pot with a surface of crispy, incredibly thinly sliced potato hiding chunks of tender cubes of beef cheek that soak in an intensely flavoured jus and exceedingly fluffy, buttery baked mash. It’s enough to make me want to order several sides of baked mash ($12), alas not being a bottomless pit for creamy carbs is a sad reality.
You can opt to get the spring lamb as either sausages ($28) or shoulder ($36), both coming on a bed of smoked buckwheat and some namekos mushrooms. The kitchen mostly let the meat speak for itself here, the big fat juicy sausages bursting with flavour while the beautifully textured buckwheat gives you something to heap should you want a slightly sweet flavour with that mouthful.
I get the feeling their dishes will go through slight tweaks and turns each week, so on your visit the Wessex saddleback loin ($36) may not be gloriously wrapped in pancetta, but count yourself lucky if it is. Nevertheless, it will be served with a creamy buttermilk emulsion and some dill, giving you a superb main to down before you take the necessary venture into dessert territory.
A playful spin-off of the ferrero rocher brings you the hazelnut, chocolate, and malt ($16) dessert, a giant sphere that’s filled with a flow of caramel and chocolate mousse. It’s definitely the smart choice for those who like to indulge in chocolate desserts, but it’d also be a mistake to overlook the gorgeous beetroot, goats milk, and liquorice ($18). The curious liquorice sponge will be the divisive element, but there’s more than enough to love here with a wafer-like tuile tube of beetroot and goat’s milk curd with raspberry powder and raspberry sorbet.
If before or after dinner doesn’t take you downstairs to visit Linklater and see what he’s mixing up in the bar, there’s still a great cocktail list available in the dining room. My top pick: the Old Fashioned like Chyeah Right ($20) which is mix of Russells 10yr, cynar, dubonnet, and sweet local honey, a concoction that’s impossible not to like, beautifully balanced with the front palate dominated by honey while the other layers storm through on the back and leave a lasting impression with each sip.
Bouche on Bridge
Address: 6 Bridge St, Sydney
Contact: (02) 8278 9400
Restaurant Hours: Mon-Fri 12pm-late; Sat 5pm-late
Bar Hours: Mon-Sat 4pm-late