3 Jersey Road
Woollahra NSW 2025
+61 2 9328 1600
It’s been a while since I’ve had a dining experience that made me go ‘wow’ – and I don’t mean the ‘wow’ that’s usually uttered when you see the astronomical bill at the end of the night. I’m talking about the wow that’s normally reserved for those restaurants that offer something different, restaurants that don’t try too hard, restaurants that serve beautiful and refreshing food and finally, restaurants that just KNOW how to get everything right. Pinbone was a culmination of all those factors – and a lot more.
It all started one Saturday morning in Sydney. MVB and I were nibbling on dumplings at the markets, trying to figure out where to go for dinner that night. We didn’t have the foresight to book ahead at any of the hot and happenin’ places nor did we feel like queuing up for burgers at Mary’s. Someone on one of our Instagram feeds mentioned Pinbone, a Woollahra icon that had been around for as long as MVB could remember but he, himself, had never got around to going. We didn’t like our chances of getting a table but we thought we’d give them a ring anyway.
Predictably, the restaurant was closed when I rang them to see if I can squeeze in a table for two so I left a message on the answering machine with my mobile phone. Not even an hour later, a text from an unknown number came through:
‘Hi Libby, it’s Berri from Pinbone. I just wanted to check how many people your booking was for?’
And just like that, after a few rapid text exchanges, a table was booked for 6pm that very night. As someone who dislikes phone conversations, I was happy – an entire booking conducted by text message!
We rocked up to the split-level restaurant at 6 on the dot before being ushered upstairs to a beautiful room, surrounded by white walls. Our soundtrack for the night began with the likes of The Cure before heading into Joy Division and New Order territory; that’s when I knew I had already fallen in love with this place – and we hadn’t even tasted any food yet!
After a boozy night the previous night, we hadn’t planned on ordering drinks but decided to look at the wine list anyway. There was a very respectable list of whites and reds in addition to a succinct ‘fizzy shit’ list covering champagne and sparkling wine. No, that’s what it actually said on the menu: fizzy shit!
It worked though. Before we knew it, we were clinking our glasses of fizzy shit and sipping it while we waited for our little snacks to arrive.
Pinbone’s list individual snack also had some eye brow-raising items. There was ‘fairy bread’ listed as the first item as well as something called ‘smoky cheesy potato thing.’ Well blimey, both those items were ordered in addition to a few sundries that caught MVB’s attention. Yup, I’m a sucker for oddly worded things.
Our spread of individual snacks.
MVB ordered the chicken popper which, to me, looked like a piece of chicken karaage on a butter lettuce cup with a bit of mayo hidden in there somewhere (‘lol lol lol san choy bao,’ I sniggered. ‘lol lol lol’). MVB said the chicken was crispy and succulent, but didn’t exactly blow him away.
My so-called fairy bread looked like it was a much better choice. The base was brioche, the ‘butter’ was masacarpone and the topping, flying fish roe. I enjoyed the wonderful contrast between the creamy, velvety cream and the soft, crunchy roe. This was sure better than any fairy bread I had back when I was a little kid.
Pinbone’s ‘smoky cheesy potato thing’ looked like a ‘very very naughty thing.’ Essentially, it was a hollowed out baked potato half that held a lusciously buttery gruyere and parmesan filling. I gave it my two thumbs up.
The crispy chicken skin was another fantastic snack – I’m a sucker for fried chicken skin so this dish was always going to be a winner by default. Chuck in a creamy bread sauce and a single anchovy though and you have me singing hallelujah, Dr Alban style.
We then moved onto the larger plates. The peanut custard was a dish that caught both our eyes because c’mon, who’s ever heard of peanut custard? We’re not normally ones to order vegetarian dishes (unless it’s a begrudging side dish to make ourselves feel better) but we were curious.
The peanut custard was very much like a piece of silken tofu, but with a subtle nutty taste. I liked the custard itself (So light! So delicate! So silky!) but I didn’t think the dish was as cohesive as it could have been. The pickled peanuts just seemed like they were thrown in there as an afterthought and I’m not a big edamame fan to begin with so these didn’t exactly win points.
Much better was the grilled salmon belly, a silky, buttery piece of protein intertwined with lovely fatty goodness. A lovely dose of mirin broke down the richness a little while adding a lovely sweetness, while the charred shallot imparted a much welcomed smokiness to the dish. Flawless, absolutely flawless.
Chicken is not normally something we order at restaurants but I frothed when I saw ‘prawn head gravy’ so I knew we had to try this. The chicken was beautifully cooked; soft, succulent and verging on delicate, it was enough to turn me into a breast woman. The beautiful albeit pungent prawn head gravy more than enough flavour while the celery provided a nice crunch.
Of course, we had to have some vegetables to go with our naughty smoky cheesy things, chicken skins and chicken boobs. The roasted carrots here were on point – they were full of lovely charred goodness and sweetness, accentuated by the crunchy macadamias.
At this stage, we appropriately full – satisfied enough to go home without raiding the pantry for midnight snacks yet not full enough that we had food babies growing in our tummies. The problem, however, was that MVB wasn’t done.
Oh no, he wanted dessert.
And he wanted ALL OF IT.
‘We’ll order everything off the dessert menu, thank you,’ he casually said to the passing waitress. She raised an eyebrow just as my eyes grew wide. ‘ARE YOU SERIOUS?!’
MVB nodded. ‘Yes, EVERYTHING.’
I’m not much of a dessert person and goodness knew exactly how we were going to finish four whole desserts but somehow we did it.
There was the toasted sorghum ice cream (sorghum is a grain, btw) topped with a crispy popcorn covered brittle. A tick for me.
Then there was the rich chocolate ganache tart with vanilla milk ice cream. A would be tick if it hadn’t been for the orange flavouring they decided to chuck in there (never was a Jaffa fan, sorry).
Pinbone’s rendition of the classic Neapolitan ice cream did get a tick. I couldn’t decide which part I liked the most: the crispy chocolate-covered chocolate mousse, the strawberry tapioca or the luscious vanilla parfait. Dairy Bell, eat your heart out.
The tangy lemon curd provided a much needed sour boost to all the sugar we had and was probably my favourite dessert. It was paired beautifully with burnt milk custard and crumbs of dehydrated olive and brown sugar. Tick, tick tick.
The meal was well paced without being too rushed so we were out of there before the second wave of diners started to arrive. Overall, it was a fantastic dining experience boosted by efficient, cheerful and attentive staff and a cosy environment. We had plans to return for brunch the next time we were both in Sydney but unfortunately, word on the street is that the Pinbone crew are closing their doors in a couple of weeks. I won’t be able to relive the Pinbone experience again (sniff) but it doesn’t mean you guys can’t – get on it, Sydneysiders!