Friday, 3 October 2014

Iceworks - the changing face of Paddington dining

I love being surprised.  It's a pretty awesome feeling when you take a punt on a restaurant and it pays off handsomely.  Very early on in my blogging adventure, I started to look outside my normal comfort zone for dining spots, which led me to check out Iceworks in Paddington.  It wasn't just any old night either, we'd decided to take a punt on Iceworks on New Years Eve (see post here).  It was a bit of a departure from our usual NYE dinner celebrations, which are normally at more established restaurants.  Like I said, taking a punt can have a big payoff and in this case, it was a meal that was quite unexpected and one to remember.

As is often the case, things change and we were invited along to check out the changes at Iceworks, which included a new team looking after the restaurant, a new chef and a brand new menu.  Nowadays, it pretty common for restaurants to invite along bloggers and regular diners to check out new menus and provide feedback.  Its a great way to engage and reward regular diners and an excellent way to promote the business, but getting bloggers in can be a double edged sword!  There is a bit of pressure on to get it right and if it goes wrong, there is a potential for it to be very public!

We are quite familiar with Iceworks, we've not only dined there before, but we used to live just up the road and had walked past the location many times before.  For residents and those with great memories, you might even remember when the location actually housed real Ice Works, I'm pretty sure it was called the Ithica Iceworks and did a great job of supplying ice to Brisbane residents. We'd arranged to arrive around 6:30pm, so didn't really have time to walk, which with the warmer wether would have been lovely - but not to be.  Forgetting that there was plenty of parking underneath the restaurant, we parked around the corner and ended up walking a bit anyway!

It was to be a large menu tasting event and as usual, we were the first to arrive.  We had the option of going into the bar, which takes up a large part of the Iceworks complex, but decided that going straight to the table, which was more our scene.  Interestingly, we were to be paired up with a couple for our dinner with some restaurant regulars, so I figured I'd get some inside goss throughout the meal. Before things kicked off, we had the opportunity to chat to Josh Bibby, who was responsible for making the Iceworks restaurant a success.  I learned a couple of things; Josh used to look after Lure at the Corro (see post here) and that the Corro had closed down...  We also got a lowdown on the new menu and new chef.

It turned out that Executive Chef Kenneth Burton originally hailed from Scotland but began his culinary journey in France, where he completed his apprenticeship on the island of Jersey at the 5 star Hotel de France, St Helier.  Upon his return to the UK, the then fully qualified chef plied his trade at the highly acclaimed 5 star restaurant at the Glasgow Hilton, Scotland where he was awarded with 5 red forks and spoons in the Michelin guide in 2000.  Preferring to be called 'Chef Kenny', Kenny's menu reflected his unpretentious persona, but still showed off his classical training and knowledge from jaunts around the world.

As is often the case, there were a large number of delicious looking options for us to ponder over and while we contemplated our broader dinner, we kicked off with some of the oysters.  There were three different choices, so we decided to go all  'Noah's Ark' and get two of each.  The Sydney Rock oysters came natural, lime air and creme fraiche with caviar (was actually salmon roe) and were plump and creamy, which signified how fresh they were.  I always love my oysters natural, but the lime air was really interesting with a light foam that had a subtle acidity that worked well with the sweet oysters.  SC's favourite was the creme fraiche, which was quite indulgent.

Once our oysters were done, we were joined by our table companions for the night and after being introduced, provided wonderful dining companions throughout the meal.  We'd also sorted out what we wanted to eat and our starters started to arrive, the first of which was a beautiful looking beetroot, Persian feta and pistachio tart with citrus salad and balsamic pearls.  The deep red of the roasted beetroot pieces contrasted nicely with the pale pastry, which was light and expertly cooked.  The Persian feta was piled on top, to give the tart height and a citrus salad encircled the pastry to give the plate a nice symmetry.  While looking good is a nice start, the tart followed through with an earthiness that was balanced out by the acidity from the citrus salad.

Our other starter was frustratingly put together.  Each of components of my scallop raspberry ceviche with avocado custard, pig’s ear crackling and cauliflower puree was nice, but the balance of the dish was really thrown out by too much avocado salad.  The subtle raspberry flavour that had infused into the scallops was lost by virtue of the very large serving of the custard.  I think if it had been reduced by about two thirds, there would have been harmony.  I did like the saltiness of the pig's ear crackling, but again, it was overpowered by the volume of the avocado.

There seems to be a heap of red claw yabbie around at the moment and SC took advantage by ordering the red claw with spaghetti, green onion butter and reggiano.  The crustaceans were cut in half and artfully placed atop a mound of al dente pasta.  It was interesting, the pasta seemed to have a light bisque sauce that was there, yet not there at the same time.  The yabbies were very well cooked with the sweet flesh easily separating from their shell and very quickly devoured.  

I think the dish of the night was my seared tuna with a quails egg, green olive tapenade avocado puree, sweet garlic fondant, asparagus, prosciutto and vine tomato.  When cooked well, there is possibly no better fish than seared tuna and Chef Kenny did a fantastic job.  It was not just cooked well, it was seasoned perfectly and while I probably missed out on some extra saltiness by substituting the tapenade, I really didn't think it was necessary.  I particularly liked the prosciutto wrapped asparagus and the quail egg but thought each of the ingredients were a little disconnected.  It's a minor issue as the dish looked beautiful and still ate well.

My dessert turned out to be something special.  It wasn't hard to convince me to order the sour cherry bombe with black cherry vinaigrette and raspberry pearls, but I still had memories of the wonderful, but ultimately too sweet bombe from the Stokehouse.  The individual bombe was just the right size and quite striking on the plate.  The spiky crown of soft caramelise meringue sat atop a sour cherry cake and was surrounded by a moat of the vinaigrette and pearls.  Each mouthful was a pleasure, with the very sweet meringue brought back to earth by the sour cherry flavours of the rest of the dish.  I loved this dessert and our dining companions, who each ordered the bombe, were equally enthralled.

I'm pretty sure SC had a little bit of food envy when she compared my bombe to her creme brûlée with drambruie dates, double cream, chocolate biscotti and fig.  The creme brûlée was actually dressed up well and looked much nicer than just the normal ramekin sitting lonely on a plate.  The caramelisation was great and the custard underneath smooth and sweet.  Under normal circumstances, I would have been a little envious myself, but I had my bombe to play with and I was super happy.

We'd again been surprised by the interesting and well cooked food on show from the Iceworks new menu.  Executive Chef Kenny certainly had some wonderful ideas and was able to execute them extremely well and the menu was creative and had plenty of options.

It had been quite busy with a lot of guests enjoying the hospitality of the Iceworks and the staff were kept on their toes.  Our experience with the wait staff was first rate, but in the context of the event, you would certainly expect that.  However, comparing it to our last visit on a very busy New Years Eve, where the service had been excellent, I'd have to say the team were well drilled.  We'd spent some time chatting to the Iceworks marketing team, and they were pretty excited about the new direction that the restaurant was taking.

Iceworks is in a bit of a 'blind spot' in Paddington, right at the beginning of Given Terrace, it's out of the Caxton Street zone and not really in the peak Paddo zone.  It means it not necessarily front of mind when thinking about a dining option.  With an ultra competitive Brisbane food scene, I think they are on the right track with their new Executive Chef and I'm hoping that the new menu does really well for the team.

** We were guests of Iceworks for this meal

We started with some fresh bread and some house cultured butter sprinkled in sea salt
The oysters were a real treat 
The beetroot tart was another favourite at our table
Red Claw yabbies are certainly in vogue at the moment
The tuna was ridiculously good but the plate was just a little disconnected 
Iceworks has taken a slightly more casual approach - no more white linen at the tables
I thought this photo was pretty - so here it is
Our dining companions were Lauren and Caleb (former All Black!)
Iceworks has a huge space dedicated as a bar!

Iceworks Restaurant Bar & Lounge on UrbanspoonIceworks Restaurant Bar & Lounge

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