The Sydney food scene has drastically evolved since I last lived here and The Butler was one of the exciting new places that has recently opened up. With a lovely friend who always has wonderful dining experiences with me visiting from overseas, it seemed a perfect time for us all to check it.
Being summer and having heard the rumours, I booked a table. Boy was I glad I did! When I arrived at the old Mezzaluna, there was a line out the door as very trendy staff directed even trendier looking people to a bar to wait up to two hours for a table. When I got to the front, two of the original trendy people consulted over whether I really did have a booking before deciding that I did and the male of the trendy species took me through the small house and out into the sunlight.
The back of The Butler is a beautiful open sun room with stunning harbour views. As I’m led down the stairs, I’m bought back down to earth by the trendy person’s conversation:
Trendy Man: “Your booking is for four right?”
Me: “Yes. My friends will be here soon.”
Trendy Man: “Are you sure they’re real? Are you sure they’re not here with you now?”
Wow! Obviously, I didn’t look trendy enough. I was shown to my table (for four as it were) and left with the menu. My friends actually weren’t that far away – one was parking and the other two were leaving their Darlinghurst home as I sat down – but for those 10 minutes, I was ignored by the wait staff. The restaurant was full but they were too busy flirting and joking around at the order point to as if I wanted a drink while I waited. It was only after the first of my friend arrives and refused to let the host go before he’d taken a drinks order.
Anyway, eventually we all arrived and after a lot of time trying to attract attention, we finally all got drinks and sat down to peruse the menu. The menu itself French inspired with a few Sydney classics included for good measure. As is trendy in Sydney these days, the menu is all share plates – some smaller some larger. For a table of four, they recommended 5 – 7 plates and we went with 7 chosen from the small and large sizes.
The food comes out at random times so we had a few minutes to look at the view. It is a fantastic view! The dining room is psuedo-French Caribbean style and, with the roller blinds up, looks straight back at the city. Simply stunning – especially as the sun sets.
The first dish arrives: cod coquettes with curried mayo. They are little salted, fishy, fried balls of deliciousness. They’re crispy and crunchy on the outside and soft, fluffy and warm on the inside. The curried mayo was wonderful with the croquettes as well – it was good with other things too like the swordfish sashimi and the grilled squid.
Grilled octopus with white beans and sherry vinegar came out next. The octopus was beautiful grilled, with a charred, smokey flavour, however, (and this is going to be a recurring theme) there weren’t very much of it. It was difficult to scrape the white beans off the bottom of the plate and and I think we each got one tomato each off the plate. What we had was very good but there really wasn’t enough to share to between four.
The next dish was the cured swordfish with calms and fennel and the shaved cabbage with prosciutto and soft egg. There was some debate about whether or not you’re meant to eat swordfish but please sign me up to each it – it was wonderfully soft with just a hint of a sour note. I couldn’t taste the fennel (I did wonder if it was the crispy stuff on the top which no one could identify) but the crunchy stuff on the top was very good and broke up the softness of the dish.
The shaved cabbage wasn’t really great for sharing, considering it was meant to be a sharing dish. The soft egg was a single soft egg cut in half on top and the prosciutto was whole pieces that we had to break up at the table. But the flavour combination was fantastic. I”m a huge fan of red cabbage and it had a lovely light vinegar dressing.
The tabasco prawns came next. A lovely combination of tabasco and mango sauce with small little sugar prawns and coconut quinoa (basically, crunchy things that didn’t really have a flavour). This was probably my favourite dish of the night – it was too spicy or too sweet. However, the familiar compliant about the portion size came up. We each got two prawns and the dish was over $22 – so we were expecting a little bit more that cost.
It was at this point that we realised we only had one dish left and the entire table was still hungry so we added some hipster chips served in a glass jar to our order of pork belly. The chips actually arrived before our pork belly and were the standard fair. The chips arrived first and I was quick to sop up the tabasco and mango sauce from the prawns with the chips before the pork belly arrived.
The pork looked beautiful when it came – with crispy skin and a piece of crackling sticking up from the plate. It only took us a few minutes to devour pork belly, lentils and the mushroom, pork rissole that came with it. All was incredibly tasty, especially the red capsicum sauce that accompanied it. The crackling was hard to share and while it made the plate look beautiful, there are probably more practical ways to serve it.
After another battle of “get the waiter’s attention”, we decided we’d had enough. We were all still quite hungry and made the decision to have Messina Gelato on the way home rather than the desserts on offer.
To be honest, I won’t be going back to The Butler. While it’s beautiful – the decor and the food – the portion sizes are small, it’s expensive and the staff made us feel like they were doing us a favour even being there. If you want to go be seen in Sydney by one and all, this is the place the be. If you want to be feed, best stop at Grill’d on the way home.
123 Victoria Street
Potts Point 2011
+61 2 8354 0742