Porcine review

The Paddington venue is perched above Sydney's second P&V natural wine store.
The Paddington venue is perched above Sydney's second P&V natural wine store. Photo: Edwina Pickles

268 Oxford St Paddington, NSW 2021

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Opening hours Thu-Sat 6-11pm; Sun noon-5pm
Features Licensed
Prices Moderate (mains $20-$40)
Phone 0423 015 032

Those of a sensitive disposition, look away now. This isn't for the likes of you. This is for people who like porky bits, snails in their pie, funky wines, and chatting up the next table with a view to partying on. These people will be pigs in the proverbial at Porcine.

In yet another post-lockdown business model put together by like-minded people with a splendid disregard for the status quo, this rollicking Frenglish bistro is from Harry Levy and Nik Hill.

Levy was last seen down the road at Don Peppino's, and Hill has cooked at Quay, Sepia and London's The Ledbury, recently popping up at The Old Fitz (now Brasserie Fitz) and the Milan Cricket Club.

Duck pâté in bread and brandy.
Duck pâté in bread and brandy. Photo: Edwina Pickles

They've moved in above Sydney's second P&V natural wine store from Lou Dowling and Mike Bennie, in what is not so much a symbiotic relationship as a co-dependency.

You can pop downstairs and buy a bottle at retail price, then BYO it back to your table, for $25 corkage. Even the pigs alluded to in the name Porcine are co-dependents.

"We buy a pig a month from Extraordinary Pork in Dubbo and turn it into salumi and charcuterie for the restaurant," explains Levy. "They [P&V] buy hams and terrines from us for their blackboard menu downstairs."

Slices of house-cured 'jambon maison' with tarragon mustard.
Slices of house-cured 'jambon maison' with tarragon mustard. Photo: Edwina Pickles

You can grab a stool in the shop or its courtyard and share a cheese plate ($28) or a jar of Hill's smoked eel paté ($32). But let's head upstairs, and admire the split-level dining room with its broad, handsome picture window open to the street, and extra tables wedged into the dog-leg rear balcony.

The menu reads like a nursery rhyme of piggies going to the market. There are slices of house-cured "jambon maison" with tarragon mustard ($15), pork chop with chou farci (cabbage stuffed with more pork, $48).

Hill is such a good charcutier, you could order any sort of terrine and be happy. There's a fabulously fatty Quebecois pâté known as cretons ($15) that's basically a ball of coarse and crumbly pork studded with pork fat served with lentils, ready to spread on bread. It's a must.

Calves' shin, snail and garlic pie.
Calves' shin, snail and garlic pie. Photo: Edwina Pickles

Tonight's duck pâté ($25) is a slab of duck and pistachio terrine that looks classically "en croute" in pastry, but has been stuffed inside a hollowed-out loaf of bread, wrapped in a brandy-soaked cloth (torchon) and baked.

For the aforementioned sensitive people, not everything is pork. There's Smoketrap smoked eel and potato salad ($24), scallop vol-au-vent ($30), an odd dish of Jerusalem artichokes with an Earl Grey tea and chicken liver sauce ($26), and a near-perfect salad of endive in grilled orange vinegar ($21).

There's also a calves' shin, snail and garlic pie ($32). It's a funny old thing, with a marrow bone wedged into its puff pastry topper filled with a glossy sauce foyot (hollandaise riched up with veal jus) that falls back into the shreddy meat and garlicky snails. It's like eating out of a 1975 cookbook from a country auberge, right down to the mandatory doily beneath.

Chocolate tart, with Armagnac prune ice-cream.
Chocolate tart, with Armagnac prune ice-cream. Photo: Edwina Pickles

In spite of the cholesterol count, this cooking is quite nuanced, so don't clout it to death with big, tannic wines. I wander the shelves downstairs and find an old friend, the spicy, balanced 2019 Sorrenberg gamay from Beechworth ($61, plus $25 corkage) to balance the richness.

A long sliver of chocolate tart ($15) is all bittersweet elegance, with a fabulous prune and Armagnac ice-cream.

Coming hot on the heels of Potts Point's Bistrot 916 and Woolloomooloo's Brasserie Fitz, Porcine brings its own subversive, rollicking, protein-led, carb-laden charm.

If you're a fan of delicately refined food and robotically professional service, stay well away. There be dragons up them stairs for the likes of you.

But if you love the good-humoured bouchons of Lyon and raucous French bistros of Montreal, and teaming the heights of pork cookery with all manner of minimal-intervention wines, then you'll be a pig in you-know-what.

The low-down

Vegetarian: Limited, as you might imagine. Alternatives available on request.

Drinks: Classic cocktails, sake, crafty beers and a tight list of lo-fi wines informed by the P&V natural wine store downstairs (BYO from the shop, $25 corkage).

Pro tip: House wines are $12 glass and $59 bottle.