10 Neild Avenue Darlinghurst, NSW 2010
Martin Boetz is a man who knows his vegies. Raw, fried, braised, whichever way they come, gourds, brassicas and beets take a starring role at the bar-restaurant-deli hybrid Rushcutters, where he is executive chef.
Much of the produce at the farm-to-plate-focused eatery is supplied from the chef's farm co-op and other producers from the Hawkesbury region. Bunches of basil and baskets of lemons and zucchini add warmth to the exposed brick walls of the renovated industrial space.
No. 10 Neild Avenue began life in the interwar period as a tyre factory. It was previously home to the restaurant Neild Avenue, which was sold in July to the Keystone Group, the company behind the likes of Gazebo Wine Garden and Sweethearts Rooftop Barbecue. After a refurbishment, Rushcutters opened in October. Former Longrain chef Boetz and head chef Brian Logan are on board, with a menu designed around northern European cuisine.
The soaring warehouse space is split into two sections by cut-out stable doors; the dining room is on one side, the bar and deli on the other. The latter is open early for breakfast, late for drinks and serves a lighter menu as well as coffee, sandwiches, salads and cakes, eat in or takeaway.
The drinks list includes wines from as close to home as the Hunter Valley and as far away as Germany. There are a few organic and biodynamic drops too, plus a good number by the glass. The house-made sodas are clearly pitched to the clean-living set, using coconut water as a base. The white tea version is disappointing, tasting overwhelmingly of coconut. But the orange and nectarine is fruity and refreshing.
The dining room is a casual, laid-back affair. Large tables of ladies gather for a bite and a glass or two of wine and a few young couples wander in for a plate or two before heading out to forage for dessert.
Highlights of the share plate-focused menu include the elegantly simple, crispy-skin mulloway with shaved fennel, and beetroot salad. Chunks and slices of sweet yellow and red beets come with goat's curd, watercress and parsley, dressed with olive oil.
Vegetables star in other dishes too, from ribbons of zucchini with seared kingfish to raw and fried cauliflower paired with scallops.
The pork schnitzel is a faithful and satisfying rendition. The four crumbed pieces of meat are served only with lemon wedges, so we order some sides. The red cabbage is disappointing, too sweet from too many currants and too tart from a vigorous dousing of vinegar. The dill pickle-laden potato salad is lacklustre and in need of seasoning.
Another miss is the spiced raisin strudel. It's very sweet with thick, doughy pastry.
The portions are quite generous, even the lighter options. This is great for larger groups but worth bearing in mind for tables of two, especially if you want to try a few things on the menu.
Service is attentive and knowledgeable on a dinner visit, but goes awry over lunch. A drinks order fails to appear, the wrong dish arrives at the table and bread makes it to all other diners but us.
Still, there is a lot to like about Rushcutters. It's a large, lovely space with enough flexibility to suit the needs of many.
Menu North European with a paddock-to-plate ethos
Prices Fair but can be pricey depending on the order.
Recommended dishes Local fish with riesling butter and fennel, beetroot and goat's curd salad