Kipling's Garage Bar

Lenny Ann Low
Cosy lodge-like feel: Kipling's Garage Bar in Turramurra.
Cosy lodge-like feel: Kipling's Garage Bar in Turramurra. Photo: Fiona Morris

2 Eastern Road Turramurra, New South Wales 2074

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Opening hours Mon-Sat, noon-late; Sun, noon-10pm
Features Open fire, Licensed, Accepts bookings
Prices Moderate (mains $20-$40)
Phone 02 9440 4088

Sitting on deep Chesterfield couches in front of a commanding fireplace surrounded by Rudyard Kipling tomes, an air of deep contentment descends. It deepens further as the staff of Kipling's Garage Bar sweep towards us with a procession of beautifully arranged starters on dinky plates.

Peking duck pancake with cucumber and hoisin sauce; grilled chorizo with haloumi skewers; salt and pepper calamari with rocket and aioli. These are just three of the, it turns out, 10 dishes we have ordered. And that's not including the dessert selected later on. 

It is easy to get carried away at Kiplings. First we are marvellously comfortable reclining on gentleman's club-like chairs before a fireplace which is not merely decorative but can hold a real fire.

Mini beef burgers at Kipling's Garage Bar.
Mini beef burgers at Kipling's Garage Bar. Photo: Fiona Morris

The rest of the room also has a cosy lodge-like feel. Tables are made from reclaimed wood, there are padded, patchwork-like chairs and a tall wall of wine is stacked on wooden shelves behind the mosaic-tiled bar. The walls are exposed brick, lighting comes from large suspended globes and candles, and shelves hold car-related bric-a-brac.

Despite these automotive references, it's not obvious that Kipling's is converted from a 1920s mechanic's workshop. Four years ago it was a neglected site. By 2012, owner Helen Thompson had turned it into a smart, tapas-style restaurant and bar with an extensive cellar and innovative food.

Al fresco diners sit where vehicles once had their tyres replaced. Huge doorways, once ushering in oily, coughing cars, have been converted into warehouse-style windows with smaller doors in the middle.

Grilled chorizo and haloumi skewers.
Grilled chorizo and haloumi skewers. Photo: Fiona Morris

It is named after Rudyard Kipling, in particular his quote, "A man can never have too much red wine or too many books". This is painted in large letters across one side of the building and there is indeed a lot of red wine, and quite a few of the writer's books, inside.

There is also, at the two tables we have commandeered, pan-fried New Zealand king salmon filled with smoked, sun-dried tomato wrapped in pancetta, pea puree and caviar sauce. It is a tender revelation, balanced by the pancetta's sharp, salty goodness. 

Also lined up are tip-top mini beef burgers with cheddar, pickled zucchini and chips, baked figs wrapped in pancetta filled with gorgonzola cheese, and tempura king prawn tacos with tomatillo. 

Lychee pavlova.
Lychee pavlova. Photo: Fiona Morris

It is almost overwhelming sampling so many flavours. Making us even more light-headed are glasses of Barking Hedge pinot noir, Mitolo Jester cabernet sauvignon and a tall glass of White Rabbit pale ale. Kipling's also offers carafes of red sangria and Pimm's and lemonade, along with four house-themed cocktails (the Kipling's Colada is a cheek-flushing mix of dark rum, Malibu, pineapple juice and Kara coconut cream).

The children's menu, at first glance, looks relatively simplistic. Penne pasta with sauce or cheese, fish and chips, cheese pizza or cheeseburger and chips. But the adults end up eating half the pizza (with a particularly good tomato base) and oohing over the non-oily, almost melty grilled fish.

And then comes dessert. Our request for this brings a small smile of amazement to the waiter's lips but if you want to eat a lot of food, reclining on a couch rather than sitting straight on a chair is the best way forward.

In minutes we receive lychee pavlova with vanilla cream, and vanilla pannacotta with fresh blueberries, strawberries and mulberries. They are eaten slowly and lovingly. The good strong coffees that follow are the only way any of us manage to gather the impetus to stand up and leave this heavenly place.

A short walk down from Turramurra Station, Kipling's manages to balance fine food, good wine and beer with easy-going elegance in a peaceful locale, not such a common feat north of Crows Nest. Even better, honouring its car-related history, you can park right outside.

THE PICKS Mini beef burgers, grilled chorizo and haloumi skewers, lychee pavlova
THE LOOK Modern, airy, octagonal space incorporating elements of former life as a mechanics 
THE SERVICE Fast, attentive and knowledgeable about the menu.