Upscale casual at Ester

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of going to a fairly new restaurant, Ester, which is making waves in the foodie scene for its casual environment but fantastic food.  It’s in a neighbourhood I wouldn’t normally find myself in, but that’s one of the things I love about exploring new restaurants – they always make me explore the city and inner suburbs more thoroughly.  The food here didn’t disappoint – I’d heard great things and I was quite impressed with the quality, consistency, and variety.  We got a banquet menu for about $65 a head which in Sydney terms is quite a good deal, and there was definitely a lot of food but not so much that I was unpleasantly full.

A centrepiece of their concept is their woodfired oven, which they do all sorts of cool things with.  In general I would classify this as upscale casual Australian food at its best – using fresh and local Aussie ingredients to create a fantastic meal!

IMG_6899Pickled mussels with a green chili sauce and potato crisps.  I am not a potato chips fan normally but man were these delicious.  And I loved the mussels too.

IMG_6900Crispy pigtail with a black vinegar sauce.  This falls into that category of dish that I would never get looking at an a la carte menu, but when it’s put in front of me on a banquet menu I find that I actually love it.  This basically just tasted like crispy pork belly and the sauce was amazing.

IMG_6901Prawns with grilled lettuce and brown butter.  You can never go wrong with grilled lettuce, lots of lemon on the side, and of course brown butter makes everything better!

IMG_6902Calamari with squid ink.  I absolutely love calamari that’s not deep fried, and the way this was done in the wood-fired oven was fantastic.

IMG_6903On the left, pumpkin with an almond sauce, and on the right, fillet of blue cod over saltbush, which is a native Australian green.  I found the sauce on the pumpkin a bit heavy but loved the pumpkin itself, and thought the fish and the greens combo was delicious as I always love trying new types of greens.

IMG_6904Mixed leaf salad on the left and steak with a bagna cauda sauce and radishes.  Again, not normally a fan of bagna cauda sauce (it’s anchovy based) but it tasted fantastic with the steak, which was perfectly cooked and some of the best meat I’ve had in a while.

IMG_6905Their signature dessert on the left – “three milks” and a salted caramel semifreddo on the right.  For an entirely non chocolate experience, this was quite nice.  (although yes it would have been nice to have some chocolate)  I actually liked the salted caramel one better than the three milks one, although I loved how tangy and light the three milks one was (it’s hard to describe – it was just like all these different textures in your mouth).  Overall a great end to the meal!

It’s easy to see why this restaurant is making waves – they are unfussy about their menu but the food is up to a higher standard than you get in many restaurants around here, and the service is fantastic too (super rare for Sydney).  The kitchen is open and it’s great to see how busy they are throwing all the ingredients into the wood fired oven before they come out to you.  It was a great experience and I’d definitely go back! (if I didn’t have only two months left here and multiple other restaurants I need to check off my list…)

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