The nose-to-tail food philosophy incites a funny reaction in me. On the one hand, I get squeamish at the sight of blood and innards, and chopping up a whole rabbit once had me in tears. On the other hand, if an animal is going to be killed for eating we really should use all of it, and I do find myself getting more and more excited by the unknown. I have issues with tongue as a food, because I imagine the tongue being on my tongue, and then swallowing it… Weird. But I am open to many other things, like pig’s tail ;)
So where would be a perfect restaurant for a group of 7 ladies, some of us on the hunt for pig’s tails, to celebrate our workplace admin team dinner? The Four in Hand of course! Irish Chef Colin Fassnidge has been Head Chef of Four in Hand since 2005, and was last year awarded a second Good Food Guide Chef’s Hat. The menu features dishes such as a whole suckling pig (minimum 10 people, 48 hours notice) and the famous pig’s tail – which Colin brought to a MasterChef challenge just last week.
The dining room is small but cosy and warm, and there is a private dining room upstairs. With our vague preferences given, the sommelier recommended 2 perfectly suited bottles of wine for us – the Casabianca Chianti Colli Senesi DOCG Sangiovese ($62) and the Squealing Pig Sauvignon Blanc ($45).
We were given an amuse bouche of smoked fish soup to start. Presented in gorgeous little cups, the soup with orange and lemon was pungent with an intensely smoky fish flavour, lifted by the citrus. It was too strong for some of our group, but I surprisingly, not usually being one for strong fish flavours, loved it.
Amuse Bouche, smoked fish soup with orange and lemon
The entree of duck egg with morcilla and crab accidentally came without the crab. The waitstaff were quite mortified, and quickly fixed it. The morcilla was the best I’ve tasted – soft, textured, full of flavour, and correct me if I’m wrong, but I think it had chocolate in it to give it even more richness.
Duck egg with morcilla and crab salad (before the crab), $26
One of the day’s specials were Clair de Lune oysters. They were beautifully presented on a glass plate with pebbles, with the lids left on for cover. Clair de Lune oysters are small, with a full fresh and creamy flavour. One of the oysters served wasn’t opened, and the waiters again quickly fixed this with the kitchen. We weren’t too bothered by this, instead we had a good giggle over Jenny trying to open it ;)
Clair de Lune oysters, $3.20 each (specials board)
Four of us ordered the pig’s tail entree, and it really was hard to take a flattering photo of the tail laying on the side of the plate. Served with crab and sweet corn, lobster chowder poured from a small jug at the table, and a tangy avocado puree, the deboned and braised pig’s tail was, simply put, bloody beautiful. The texture reminded me of tender, slow cooked lamb or beef. Tender meat, crunchy sweet corn, soft crab, flavoursome lobster chowder… Happiness all around!
Braised pigs tail with crab, sweet corn and lobster chowder, $26 (specials board)
Despite the 2 small hiccups with our entrees, service really was fantastic throughout the night. This was even more evident when we were presented with a mid-course to make up for the entree issues. The seared bonito with apple jelly and snow was beautiful in presentation and taste: a small piece of lightly seared bonito, with icy apple granita, apply jelly, crisp apple and radish. The bonito served to our pregnant friend was thoughtfully requested by our waiter to be cooked through without her asking.
Mid-course bonus: seared bonito with apple jelly and snow
Between 7 of us we only chose 2 mains – 5 of us choosing suckling pig, and 2 sharing the day’s special of ’12 hour lamb shoulder for 2′. It’s an exciting moment being presented with a glorious wooden board of meat and vegetables, you can’t help but say ‘wow!’. The epic piece of tender lamb shoulder was served with carrots, colcannon and a tangy yoghurt dressing. “F&*%ing good” is how the usually-ladylike Emma described it.
12 hour braised lamb shoulder, $88 for 2 (specials board)
The roast suckling pig was also presented on a wooden board with a variety of pork cuts, including crunchy crackling, juicy loin and a little kidney. This was my first taste of colcannon, an Irish mashed potato traditionally made with cabbage, and I would love to have all my future mashed potato made the Irish way please. Served in a cute rustic pot, the colcannon was creamy and fresh with herbs.
Roast suckling pig, colcannon, apple sauce, $38
Despite all we had consumed, you must know there is always room for dessert. Jenny and I each had a glass of the deliciously sticky Pedro Ximenez. Intensely dark and sweet, this dessert wine smells strongly of raisins.
Romate Pedro Ximenez ‘Cardenal Cisneros’, $9 a glass
For dessert I chose the Four in Hand’s new dessert, which I had seen Colin tweet about that day. ‘Chocolate, beetroot and ginger’ was beautiful in both presentation and taste. Airy-light chocolate mousse was dusted with cocoa powder, served with cubes of beetroot, and a sorbet strong in earthy beetroot but subtle in ginger. By itself the sorbet is too much, but mix it with the chocolate and you have a perfect balance of flavours.
Chocolate, beetroot and ginger, $16
The 4’s Chocolate Snickers would have been my dessert pick if it wasn’t for the chocolate and beetroot. Surprisingly not too rich, this dessert featured caramel peanut ice-cream, chocolate cream, nougat, and chocolate crisp. This is another dish that is best enjoyed with a bit of each component on your spoon.
The ‘4’s’ Chocolate Snickers, $16
The final dessert was another special; baked apple terrine with brown bread ice-cream and French toast. I admit I was too busy enjoying my dessert to pay much attention to the others, but the brown bread ice-cream was incredible.
Baked apple terrine with brown bread ice-cream and French toast, $16 (specials board)
By the end of our dinner there were a couple of us that wanted to catch a glimpse of Colin, so the waiter took us around to meet him. Full of excitement, we said hi, and I embarrassed myself by getting starstruck and became unable to utter a complete sentence praising the dessert (“Loved… Beetroot! Chocolate! Dessert!”). Ah well, next time perhaps!
Four in Hand
61 2 9362 1999
105 Sutherland Street, Paddington
Lunch Tuesday to Sunday 12pm – 2.30pm
Dinner Tuesday to Sunday 6.30pm – 10pm (9pm Sunday)