Is Firedoor Sydney’s hottest restaurant of 2019? We think so, and here’s why.
A seminal Surry Hills restaurant finds its sweet spot. Review by Elizabeth Meryment. Images by Nikki To,
In June 2017, something happened to Firedoor. Out of the blue, the restaurant unexpectedly found itself on the front page of The New York Times, complete with a picture of chef Lennox Hastie slaving over his wood-fired oven, in a piece of glowing editorial written by Times food critic Pete Wells.
Wells was in town following an extraordinary piece of junketeering by Tourism Australia and Visit Victoria, who jetted food identities into Melbourne in a bid to convince them the food capital of the Southern Hemisphere resided down south. Wells found his way to Sydney anyway and put Firedoor on his list of venues with chefs whose cooking had “global origins, cosmopolitan sensibilities, or both”.
Two years later the effect of that piece on the restaurant is profound.
Walk into Firedoor on an early weeknight and find a buzzing room full of diners, including a handful of Americans. The old communal table that dominated the room has gone, freeing up the energy flow. Excellent waitstaff glide about confidently. The music is louder, cooler, more joyful. In the kitchen Hastie remains a forceful presence, working up a sweat over fire and coals.
This month sees the introduction of two new menus to complement the usual a la carte offering. At night there’s a chef’s tasting menu — an exploration of the Firedoor lineup — for $150, and on Thursdays and Fridays find a five-course lunch tasting menu for $90. Both represent outstanding value for food as genuinely original as this.
The evening menu starts with a sequence of dishes that combine incredible Australian produce with Hastie’s signature technique of cooking exclusively over fire (there are no electrical appliances in this kitchen). Start with a delicate winter broth, followed by a knob of earthy, smoked burrata, and moving onto some of the night’s early showstoppers: a quirky shish kebab of seared kangaroo interlaced with white onion on skewers presented on a bed of pine needles; then a huge daube of absolutely fresh sea urchin nestled on a disc of flatbread beside smashed pumpkin, followed by a tart dish of mackerel with finger lime and wasabi. Each dish is rigorously composed, delicious, and gorgeous to the point of theatrical.
Then comes a plate of sweetish cabbage with mussels, outstanding wood-fired bread, Murray cod with charred cos, and, the big one, a portion of wagyu with radish and tomatillo that shows a next-level mastery of cooking meat, the flesh soft, buttery, with smokey, charred flavours. A line of deserts includes a rum baba that is set alight at the table, for a playful finish.
It is a magical thing to see a restaurant with a lot going for it reach its full potential. At Firedoor it’s as though the international recognition Wells bestowed upon it was the fillip needed to bring a new sense of confidence to the room. Firedoor is, well, on fire.
23-33 Mary St, Surry Hills
(02) 8204 0800; firedoor.com.au
Tasting menus: (lunch) $90 (dinner) $150
A la carte: $8-$184