Ah, technology… I love it. I, like many, use it most waking hours, from my job to my personal life. I also, like many, am never without my iPhone. This glorious invention has a solution for everything I could need: weather updates, GPS directions, iPod, camera, and numerous apps for anything you can think of.
However, there is one aspect of daily life where I am old school…
I keep a real paper diary (this is 2011’s if you’re interested, because it’s so cute). I just can’t make the transition to the phone calendar, it feels wrong. I’m also a serial list-writer and list-making iPhone apps just don’t cut it! You see my precious paper diary not only holds important information like birthdays and events, but also my ever-growing list of restaurants and cafes I want to visit.
Very rarely a restaurant will catch my interest so intensely that it doesn’t even make it on the list – it must be visited ASAP. That is what happened when I started reading about The Carrington.
I was looking for a place to take Paul for his birthday dinner, and thanks to Head Chef Jamie Thomas’s tweets, and subsequently the online menu, I immediately knew that The Carrington would be perfect. I showed the menu to Paul, which features some of his favourite food words such as morcilla and chorizo, and his response was an instant ‘yes’.
Another Surry Hills gem, The Carrington reopened its restaurant 3 months ago as Beba Y Cene (which I believe roughly translates to drink and dinner/eat). The nicely priced, share-friendly bar and restaurant menus focus on Iberian cuisine, with a range of pintxos and tapas, perfect for grazing with a drink in the front bar, and larger meals, or, platos grande.
Hot olives, $6 (given complimentary)
I arrived at 6.30pm on a Friday night and both the bar and restaurant areas were already loud and buzzing, full of happy people celebrating the end of another week in that wonderfully festive, social way of good food and drink.
Taking a seat in the restaurant section and poised for people-watching, I admired its warmth and quirky details, such as beer cartons on a drop shelf from the ceiling, a whale cut-out, and hanging plastic vines. I was given a plate of warm mixed olives while I waited for Paul to arrive, and it was rather difficult to refrain from eating them all myself.
With the birthday guest now seated it was time to get festive. Paul started with an Estrella beer and I chose the ‘Single Mother’ cocktail ($10). A mixture of red wine, Southern Comfort, sugar, fresh nutmeg, and ginger beer, the ‘Single Mother’ is probably one of the most delicious cocktails I have ever had. I loved it so much I went back for seconds. Maybe thirds too, but I can’t remember…
In my usual style I had been studying the menu for a couple of weeks prior to dining, yet it was still difficult to decide on what to order. We thought we would order modestly to start, and chose 2 pintxos, 2 tapas, and 1 platos grande. This order turned out to be not so modest though, as the serving sizes here are generous and they are deliciously rich.
left to right: Chorizo, apple & cider, $12 | Kingfish pastrami, kohlrabi
& fried bread, $4 each
Being one of Paul’s favourites we had to order the chorizo with apple and cider. I must confess that my capacity for chorizo consumption is limited due to its richness and intensity, and I’m usually done after a couple of pieces. However Paul loved this dish, and the apple pieces and cider made me happy too.
The pintxos of soft pieces of the cured kingfish pastrami sat atop a mound of creamy kohlrabi on fried bread. Topped with crunchy gherkins, I loved the different textures and flavours of this dish.
centre: Chicken parfait, pear & saffron chutney, $3.50 each
Now. About the chicken parfait… With the first bite my eyes widened in pure wonderment and joy at this creamy, smooth, rich, flavoursome spread. Accompanied by a sweet pear and saffron chutney, this was our favourite dish of the night. It probably took up half our stomach spaces, effectively ruining my dessert capacity, but it was so worth it.
Bull’s tail empanadas, $12
The bull’s tail empanadas had a nicely crisp pastry outer, and were filled with a rich ragu. There was a strong spice flavour throughout, which I think was cumin, and I enjoyed the boldness immensely.
Chef Jamie generously sent us a complimentary platter of their cured meats. Meltingly soft and thin slices of meats, including Jamon Serrano I believe, were presented delicately with caper berries and poached pears. I could easily eat a platter like this for dinner any day.
Fabada: pork belly, ham hock, chorizo & beans, $19
We were both full by this stage but still had the platos grande of fabada to go. Arriving in a cute terracotta pot, the fabada is a comforting, warming, rich dish of pork belly, ham hock, chorizo and beans, topped with a crumb. Paul found the flavour of the ham hock too strong, and he doesn’t love beans, though I enjoyed this dish.
Sadly, we had barely made a dent in this before we waved the white flag of defeat. But happily, I shamelessly requested to take home the leftovers as it would have been a terrible waste, and I finished it for lunch.
Dionysus Martini, $17 | Agua de Valencia, $10
The enticing sound of the desserts on offer could not help me through my stage of fullness, and I feel a bit sad not having tasted the churros con chocolate, creme catalan, or Pedro’s sherry trifle.
There was enough room for one last cocktail though. Paul chose the Dionysus Martini, a brilliant cocktail perfect for dessert, or any time really, of homemade fig-infused vodka and Medos honey vodka, served martini style with a slice of blue cheese. I needed cooling refreshment so chose the Agua de Valencia, a Spanish mimosa, with fresh Valencia juice topped with Cava (Spanish sparkling wine). A perfect end to a wonderful dinner.
How much do you rely on technology? Do you still keep a paper diary?
Head Chef Jamie Thomas
The Carrington: Beba Y Cene
61 2 9360 4714
565 Bourke Street, Surry Hills
Monday to Sunday, 12pm – 10pm (kitchen hours)