Few chefs in Australia command the type of ohhs and ahhs that regularly surround Guillaume Brahimi and everything he does. The man has not only become synonymous with the type of culinary mastery one would find at his eponymous fine-dining restaurant in Paddington, but proven his versatility over recent years with his more accessible Bistro Guillaume – one of which has now opened in Sydney CBD – as well as his newfound occupancy at storied backstreet Paddington pub Four In Hand.
Throughout the more-than-a-decade time spent in the very capable hands of celebrity chef Colin Fassnidge, Four In Hand’s Dining Room became the gastropub experience in Sydney, an influential evolution of the city’s legendary pub grub scene that, earlier this year, saw a shift as Fassnidge sold up and made room for Brahimi and his team to take the kitchen.
Gone are the unexpected off-cuts and nose-to-tail approach that defined Fassnidge’s menu, with Brahimi opting for a more traditional approach, fancying refined pub classics with a focus on balance and sophisticated represented by affordable meals. For the acclaimed French chef it seems like a way to further bring himself closer to something a bit more casual, giving Brahimi a kitchen in which to oversee experiments outside of the very close by (two streets away in fact) Guillaume, a restaurant many reserve for very special occasions. However, on any given night you won’t find the French chef handling the food here, that’s something left to his close-knit team, which include some very attentive, very diligent floor staff giving the kind of impeccable service one would expect at a fine-dining restaurant.
Not much has changed in the intimate, visually appealing dining room, it’s still buzzed and full of life – though not as rowdy as the hotel’s energetic pub area – illuminated by that gorgeous giant-squid artwork that sits above diners reflecting the golden glow that beams from smart, elegant hanging lights. Upstairs you’ll find a bit of a change, with a slick, bright private dining room that has its own cosy little corner bar, but largely Four In Hand’s Dining Room looks just as it did under Fassnidge’s control, the differences saved for the menu.
Iggy’s bread and smoked butter preface any lunch or dinner here, and you could definitely do worse than lather some of that intensely rich spread onto some of the finest sourdough in Sydney. It’s easy to fill up just bread, so practice restraint if you want to explore several entrées, like the Yellow Fin Tuna ($20), the flavour tweaked by avocado and jalapeno. A large crunchy house-made prawn cracker juts out from the side of plate, giving you a tool with which the disrupt this melody of diced tuna and scoop up the fresh fish.
Those wanting to dive further into the seafood side of things can do so with the fantastic Fremantle Grilled Octopus ($23) which is jazzed up with fioretto, yuzu, and nori crumb, but the must-order dish of the starters is a beautiful South Australian Kangaroo Tartare ($18) with capsicum, tomato, Jerusalem artichoke, and cured egg (pictured above). There’s a lot of crunch here as you work your way down to the soft, tender loin, which compared to other cuts of kangaroo sacrifices that strong flavour the meat is known for and presents with something a bit more balanced, allowing the kitchen a creamier texture to work with, which is balanced perfectly with the dish’s other parts.
After ordering up sides like the bowl of Brussel Sprouts ($10) with bacon and maple butter, move onto mains like the busy Roasted Mulloway ($34) with cauliflower, king brown mushrooms, wakame, and salsa verde. It’s a lighter option than something like the Rangers Valley Flat Iron Steak ($38), which comes with bone marrow and black barley, but a fine choice for those leaning towards seafood. The large, fleshy fish is mild and moist underneath that gorgeous, thin and crispy layer of skin, thankfully the supporting pieces work well together from the juicy mushrooms to the light, fresh salsa that soaks into the tender meat.
If you’re after something meatier try the Dry Aged Lamb Rump ($35), generous pieces of which hide beneath a sea of soft, creamy borlotti beans, eggplant and stinging nettle. It’s a surprisingly sweet dish, balanced with the rich pieces of lamb.
You might want to take advantage of the pub’s connection with Iggy’s bakery by finishing with the Selection of Cheeses ($26) which comes with lavosh, grapes, and some of the artisan bread. Though it’s going to be hard to look past some of the dessert options like a lovely Banana Parfait ($16) with brûléed banana, peanut brittle ice cream, and caramel, delicate and full of flavour. However, lovers of richer finishes should definitely go for the Brownie ($16) with chocolate mousse and a palate-refreshing mint sorbet (headline image).
Four In Hand is still very much one of the essential spots for casual eats in Paddington’s opulent dining scene, the perfect example of Sydney’s high standard when it comes to the classic gastropub. With such an accomplished chef at the helm, and his kitchen team doing a fine job of bringing the vision to life, the time has never been better to experience Guillaume’s work without the need for a sizable budget, nor a far-in-advance booking.
Even if the Dining Room is full on your visit, you can get the same menu at the bar, or you can go for the bar menu, also designed by Guillaume. You’ll find the likes of Buttermilk Fried Chicken ($17) with sriracha and coleslaw, Chicken Schnitzel ($20), as well as all the same desserts as the Dining Room menu.
Four in Hand by Guillaume
Address: 105 Sutherland St, Paddington
Contact: (02) 9326 2254
Dining Room Hours: Lunch Thurs-Sun 12pm-3pm; Dinner Mon-Sun 530pm-9:30pm
Bar Hours: Mon-Fri 12pm-11pm; Sat 11pm-11pm; Sun 11pm-10am