3 Jersey Road Woollahra, New South Wales 2025
Fairy bread, chocolate crackles … the kids are having fun. They're getting borderline hyperactive, in fact, icing their chocolate crackles ($4) with daubs of chicken liver parfait, and making their fairy bread ($4) from brioche and topping it with sprinkles of avruga and salmon caviar. There's even a ''crabstick'' ($4) that references Chinatown's prawn toast with a square of fried sourdough topped with blue swimmer crab and sheep's milk yoghurt.
Welcome to Pinbone. So this is what happens when a bunch of young guns get together and form a dynamic and slightly illicit chefs' co-operative pop-up, then get adopted by the Buzo/Vincent/Wine Library partnership and given a new home (the old Buzo) in which to grow up. I bet chefs Mike Eggert and Jemma Whiteman (Billy Kwong, Duke, Three Blue Ducks, etc.), and front of house, Berri Eggert (Duke, Bar at the End of the Wharf), never thought they'd open a proper, grown-up restaurant in leafy Woollahra.
The slightly awkward, upstairs/downstairs dining areas have been lightened and brightened and the white tablecloths whipped away. Geometric metal pendant lights and prints of animals piggy-backing other animals lend a touch of not-taking-ourselves-too-seriously. As if the menu hasn't done that already.
You could argue (and I do) that the idea of eating even an unsweetened chocolate crackle with rich, chicken liver parfait is bonkers; that the savoury fairy bread is too soft-on-soft, and that the crab stick is more style than content. But at Pinbone, it's their way or the highway, so best to relax into it and have some fun. After "snacks", move on to a few of the modestly priced share plates - baldly listed by their prime ingredients, in shopping list fashion - and prepare to have your ideas of what-goes-with-what trampled in the nicest possible way.
Do carrots go with mussels? Yes, when the mussels are lightly soused, the cream is emulsified mussel juices, the carrots have been slow, slow, slow-roasted and the carrot tops fried until crisp. In fact, there's a sweet, earthy, land/sea harmony taking place that's really quite delicious. Does squid go with bone marrow and cauliflower? Yes, again. Scorch-roasted cauliflower florets and squeaky squid shavings sit on a bed of lightly whipped bone marrow dusted with caramelised onion powder in a new combo that feels somehow familiar already. Even a traditional arrangement of well-roasted, well-rested chicken ($28) with purple kale and a squish of garlic puree comes with the soft crunch of snow fungus on top.
Ceramics are handmade and handsome, and composition is instinctive, natural, and unfussed. Mustard green leaves veil seared, sliced skirt steak ($28); the chew resilient and the charring overly enthusiastic. A rather large number of grilled duck hearts ($22) come tossed in ducky juices, strewn with pickled celery, wilted nettles and black turtle beans.
The wines are seemingly as natural as the food, with a fresh-thinking list of new breed labels, including a lightly herbaceous 2013 Jamsheed Harem Pepe Le Pinot from Mornington Peninsula grapes ($48).
A pale, golden dessert of corn, panna cotta and malt ($12) has quite a complex back-story, but tastes more of cream than anything else; maybe I'm missing something.
I'm thinking they push things a bit too far, and they probably do, but there's promise and talent and niceness aplenty. Along with its accommodating, can-do approach, Pinbone slips naturally in among the youthful forces shaping the next few years of Sydney dining: the likes of Three Blue Ducks, Sixpenny, Ester, Nomad, Vincent, Hartsyard, Moon Park, Monopole, Russo & Russo, Cafe Paci. Yep, the kids are all right.
Best Bit: The creative, collaborative approach
Worst bit: Awkward dining spaces
Go-to dish: Carrot, mussels $20