544 Bourke St Surry Hills, NSW 2010
|Opening hours||Dinner Wed-Sun from 6pm; lunch Sat-Sun from 12.30pm|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
|Phone||0468 991 088|
Is degustation dining an endangered species? Who wants or needs 10 or 12 courses in the middle of the week, with all the attendant drinking that needs to be done in order to just get yourself through it?
But here's an idea. The dishes come two by two at Arthur, turning what looks like a scarily long tasting menu into a five-course meal. And with two seatings a night at 6pm and 8.30pm, it's clever, too.
Having served a four-course, fixed-price menu at Farmhouse in King's Cross, chef and owner Tristan Rosier says it's a business model well-suited to contemporary – and sustainable – dining.
"There's no wastage," he says, as he lays the first two dishes on the table. "I know what everyone will be eating, so I don't have the problem of nobody ordering the fish."
Most tables around me already have theirs, so I know what to expect – a few bright bites of pink pickled radishes, and two artichoke hearts crusty with rice and tapioca flour batter and nutty sunflower seeds. The bread is a course in its own right, from its burnished, chewy crust to the developed sourness of the crumb.
Coming two-by-two, the dishes succeed in building a narrative arc – or should that be ark – that has a beginning, middle and end. Next up is an almost juicy kangaroo tartare, its steeliness tarted up with the tang of bush tomato and pickled cukes, topped with a thatch of tiny potato straws.
Its running mate counters the 3D flavours with torn clumps of fresh buffalo mozzarella, green tomatoes, fennel, and double-shelled broad beans, sauced with a bright green oil of fennel fronds and parsley.
Housed in a typical Victorian corner residence, roughed up with deconstructed walls, and set with solid wooden tables and 35 bentwood chairs, Arthur is a throwback of sorts to the small, suburban restaurant, from Rosier and partner Bec Fanning.
A gleaming central island kitchen bar dominates the second room, with a wall of Australian spirits and wines and high counter dining in the street-front dining room.
By now, I'm up to nicely cooked king prawns bathed in hazelnut-rich romesco, and roofed with crisp shards of brik pastry. Its stablemate is a luxurious dish of white asparagus with a fresh, green pesto.
Originally trained at Biota and Est., Rosier explores a similar produce-driven, plant-forward cooking style as Ester, Acme and Automata, investing it with bright, savoury, gutsy flavours, rich with nuts and herb oils.
Just when you start to flag, along come rich, tender, slabs of slow-cooked, pasture-fed beef rib, with baked cipollini onions and a lush cime di rape puree. Two more plates of divinely silky mash and gnarly, fried brussels sprouts keep things in the comfort zone.
Desserts are light and dark; the light being a swirl of meringue with kaffir lime leaf cream, strawberries and white chocolate that's pretty and easy to eat.
The dark is a single, glossy finger of chocolate delice on a biscuity bed, paired with syrupy mandarin and flaked almonds.
The whole place is as sweet as pie, with supportive service from manager Rebecca Colegrave. It's probably too much food – no, it's definitely too much food – but it's thoughtful, intuitive and well-paced; the dego for people who don't like degos. This idea – of sending out dishes two-by-two – could well save the species.
Drinks Three bespoke cocktails with an emphasis on native botanicals, three crafty beers and an easy, breezy, all-Australian wine list of a dozen each fruit-driven reds and whites (eg the vibrant, citrussy 2018 Hughes & Hughes Riesling from Tassie)
Vegetarian Can be sorted with 24 hours' notice
Go-to dish Kangaroo tartare, pickled cukes, tomato, potato
Pro tip Nuts are rampant – those with allergies will need to check with staff