4Fourteen, Surry Hills
Modern Australian cuisine with a touch of Irish
Located 414 Bourke St, Surry Hills NSW 2010
On a cold winter’s night in Sydney, you really can’t go past 4 fourteen in Surry Hills for a hearty, belly-warming dinner. Although our visit was on a mild early spring evening, the winter-style menu did not disappoint, leaving us very much content, bordering on overindulgent.
Located centrally in Surry Hills, just off Bourke in Fitzroy Street, it appears to take its name from its Bourke Street corner positioning, 414, probably as 72a (Fitzroy St number) just doesn’t have that same ring. Regardless, its neon signage and large exposed window frontage attracts you from afar. A very spacious, well lit, and open dining area with high ceilings invites you in, with a central bar at front of house, and an open kitchen to the rear, in full view of diners. Its rustic interior and décor makes it even more comforting with pieces of yesteryear scattered throughout, broken up by abstract art and modern furnishings that give it a unique charm of its own. If this does not make you feel you’re home, the food is bound to do so.
Before we get to the food, I have dined at many a restaurant in Sydney and abroad and the service here is second to none. From bar staff to wait staff, all served with a smile and happy to please. It was fast, efficient and very professional, with any queries readily addressed and all requests catered for (yes, even accommodating those with the ever increasing food intolerances). The seating and tables were well spaced and even a full house did not feel claustrophobic nor too noisy, with the background music readily allowing for comfortable conversation across the table. Bookings are best made ahead of time, especially for weekends that work on two evening sittings. We opted for the later sitting on this occasion.
While tables for two are readily accommodated, this is the place to come with a group of family and friends, as the menu is based on share plates. Small or large plates are on offer and you simply pick the combination that best suits your combined tastes and appetite. While there is a plentiful choice of seafood on the menu, we decided to hit the farm, with Ox tongue roll, Crisp lamb ribs, Crumbed pigs ear and Suckling pig terrine to start.
The Ox tongue roll was actually an open burger served with celeriac slaw, some green leaf, a creamy tangy mayo and pickled cucumber. This roll needs to be eaten together, so that all elements are combined and not deconstructed (as we did while sharing). While the chargrilled ox tongue was tender, juicy and highlighted by smoky overtones, the fine celeriac slaw was somewhat bland on its own. A little more seasoning would have picked this up but overall was quite a tasty dish.
The deep-fried lamb ribs with crispy skin were tasty, with the tender meat falling effortlessly off the bone. While the fat was well rendered, some ribs were more fat than meat. The spicy yoghurt was a great accompaniment and helped balance the fat most of the time. The crumbed pigs ear was just that, a fried pig’s ear with a side of apple sauce and salsa verde. Not really sure what I was expecting from a slice of fried cartilage but surprisingly, the flavours and textures worked well together and did not overwhelm the senses.
Still on the porcine theme, we finished with the last of our small plates, a suckling pig terrine with pistachio and pickles. The terrine was served with onions and pickles, topped with crackling chips. The terrine had set well and was impervious to moisture, despite the fact that it was swimming in a pork-flavoured stock. While the texture was balanced, with the added crunch of the pistachios, I can’t say that the suckling pig flavour was that evident. Again the senses were satisfied but not overwhelmed.
We stayed on the meat medley theme, adding beef as one of our larger dishes, Beef Shin to be precise, served with a buttermilk curd, mushrooms, pancetta, and fried onion rings (the fryers were working overtime tonight). The shin was cooked perfectly, tender and fibrous, melting in the mouth. The jus filled with salted pancetta pieces, highlighted this slow cooked beef while the mostly raw finely sliced mushrooms added little. The fried onion rings could have been left off, especially if you had not got to them before the jus softened their crispy shell. A nice touch was the much-welcomed addition of blanched greens that combined well with the curd and meat.
The Pork of the Day were slices of pork loin, served with sage potatoes, in hock stock that we may have sampled earlier, with pickled onions and split peas, topped with a giant sheet of crackling. The cooking of this pork paid a lot of respect to the meat, and was a highlight of the night. True rustic comfort food at its best. The hock stock did its job but the al-dente split peas could have been cooked through rather than pickled. The use of lentils may have been a better choice. While everyone loves crunchy crackling this aspect did not fail to deliver, but the salt seasoning was too strong, almost curing my tongue. Fortunately the wait-staff were readily on hand keeping our water glasses full.
The gladiator of meats to complete our large plates was the Whole roast lamb shoulder (serving for 2), served in a heavy French oven/casserole dish with large roast carrots and a side of colcannon, in its own iron dish. This Irish-style mashed potato, with its light creamy texture highlighted by cabbage and topped with fresh spring onions was spot on. This with some crusty bread is a meal in itself, and worked a treat with lamb and the beef shin to boot (colcannon can be ordered as a side if you do not go for the lamb). We also ordered a side of salt crust sweet potato that probably wasn’t needed and contributed to the overindulgence. Back to the hero, the lamb shoulder, was another of the slow cooked meats, falling off the bone, tender and tasty. The salsa verde topping was a little overpowering at times and masked the flavour of the lamb to some degree. By this stage we were reaching saturation point and another friend or two could have easily joined us to finish off this meal. Staff were more than obliging to pack it up for us if we were willing to take it home.
“True rustic comfort food at its best.”
Our biggest regret was not leaving enough room for dessert, that we started noticing decorate the surrounding tables of other patrons. The snickers looked like a must for chocolate-nut lovers, with the white chocolate sandwich looked just as tempting. We could not resist and opted for the roast pineapple, citrus and coconut tapioca to refresh the palate (always room for some dessert!). The cooling coconut-flavoured tapioca hit the spot accentuated with the blood orange citrus flavours, together with fine slices of whole fresh pineapple that delicately draped the fine starchy balls. With this came roasted pineapple; warm chunks of cinnamon and aniseed flavoured pineapple that unfortunately clashed with the other cooler elements. This addition missed the mark and was the only part left on the plate, until it cooled down that is. While others had given up, I decided to give the roasted pineapple a second chance. This pineapple possibly would have worked better if it had been served chilled after roasting.
4Fourteen is a fine eating establishment, worthy of a return visit. We enjoyed a cocktail at the bar before being seated to a relatively small, yet well thought out menu, allowing many dishes to be prepared ahead of time, promoting quick service, and more importantly happy hungry diners. Best advice is to not over order, try some new dishes and flavours and leave room for dessert. We could have easily done with one less large dish. Service is five star and location and ambience is warm and inviting. Looking forward to seeing what the summer menu brings.
Verdict: Yummy in my Tummy — MindBlown
Reviewed by Frankie V and Co.