SYDNEY
Stanmore is a neighborhood right outside Sydney that has a feel of a small ghost town because of its quiet roads and tattered storefronts. It’s not the place where you’d think to find a restaurant offering a degustation menu.

But that’s where I was, wandering the quiet streets of Stanmore on one of the rare sunny days I had in Sydney, looking for the Sixpenny restaurant. I’d made reservations for a Saturday lunch, and arrived early after a 15-minute train ride from the Central Business District.

Don’t get me wrong, the neighborhood wasn’t dodgy; several homes I walked past looked quite nice. But it was definitely quiet, and the street signs confused me as I tried to follow Percival Road to the restaurant. It didn’t help that the restaurant, right at a corner, doesn’t have a sign and cloaks its windows with gauzy curtains, making it appear closed from the outside.

But once I finally realized where it was and entered into the cool and modern interiors, I was warmly greeted by the hostess, who called me out by name (I was probably the only person with a reservation for one) and took me to my table. I appreciated the friendly, welcoming service, as they gave me a chance to settle in before starting up the food.

Amuse sent from the kitchen included a tomato gougeres (top left), mushroom with verbena (top right) and Treviso with cheese and dandelion emulsion (bottom).

Amuse sent from the kitchen included a tomato gougeres (top left), mushroom with verbena (top right) and Treviso with cheese and dandelion emulsion (bottom).

Dining Options
The tiny restaurant, which has been opened for less than a year, offers only a degustation menu and almost everyone dining there had reservations and came from somewhere else. Rarely do neighborhood residents ever drop in for a bite. Apparently, that’s the experience Chef James Parry wanted to create – a dining destination that would entrance food lovers from around the world.

A five-course (AUS$110 or $102) or eight-course (AUS$135 or $125) menu is offered for lunch, and I went with the eight courses since I worked so hard to find the place. 😉

At Sixpenny, all the dishes are brought out by a chef from the kitchen. Unfortunately, a few times I had chefs who had a very strong Australian accent, so I really couldn’t understand their descriptions of the food (I’m sure I sounded just as strange to them with my American accent). So my apologies to the restaurant if I misidentified any of the dishes.

The opening of amuse bouche included a gougeres with a filling of tomato paste that was like tomato jam, a mushroom with verbena and cooked Treviso with dandelion emulsion and cheese. They all looked simple and sounded complicated, much like the rest of the meal.

Elegant and Sophisticated
Many of the courses were elegant and beautifully plated, and I enjoyed the creativity in preparations, using recognizable ingredients but displaying in new and different ways. For example, marinated veal was served in a savory glaze of anchovies and served next to a cooked cabbage wedge. Two very common combinations — the savory meat offset by the bland cabbage — but the plate with the two items looked almost like ceramic pieces in gallery showcase because of the interesting glaze on the veal and a green powdered sprinkled over the cabbage.

One of my favorite dish was a pastrami pork cheek (I probably would love anything with the word pastrami in it), which initially scared me because of the clearly visible layer of fat. But it was the type of fat that was so buttery, it didn’t have any gelatinous texture often associated with raw fat. It was all encased by a crispy thin skin and supported by the moist tender pork cheek.

The “white period” dish of stone crab with macadamia milk shavings with a few bits of macadamia nut pieces.

The “white period” dish of stone crab with macadamia milk shavings with a few bits of macadamia nut pieces.

Not every dish was a success, but I appreciated the attempts to be creative. A stone crab dish with shavings made with macadamia milk (I call this dish the “white period”) looked like a fluffy white medallion, but the flavors didn’t seem to blend well with the crab. I felt it needed some acid to offset the richness of the milk.

And a dessert of pumpkin yogurt ice cream sandwich looked creative coming out on a plate made of dehydrated pumpkin skin, but the flavor was mild and not very “pumpkin-y.”

Still, these are just minor quibbles to what otherwise was an enjoyable and satisfying meal. A simple dish of potatoes hidden under spinach leaves looked like they were roasted but instead had the moist texture of steamed potatoes with a sprinkling of finishing salt that added a nice crunch and flavor. (I have to say, all the dishes were well-seasoned to my taste.)

A plum dessert with jasmine curd and prune chocolates was a rich but delicate taste of the sweet prunes with the crunch of chocolate blending with the coolness of the curd.

The Last Bite
This no-rush meal made up of beautiful and tasty dishes was a major treat during my Australian vacation. Sixpenny gave me a glimpse of how modern Australian cooking can compete on the world stage while honoring the local ingredients showcased on the plate. It takes a bit of work to find this spot, but it’s worth the discovery.

Rating: 3.5 out of 4 camera snaps

3.5snaps

 

 

Sixpenny, 83 Percival Road, Stanmore, Sydney, Australia. PH: +61(02)9572-6666. Open dinner, Wednesday to Saturday from 6 p.m.; and lunch weekends from noon. Reservations, major credit cards accepted. www.sixpenny.com.au

Sixpenny on Urbanspoon

The simple, contemporary decor of Sixpenny. On the right, a small plate of home-made potato chips are brought out, and I started with a glass of sparkling wine.

The simple, contemporary decor of Sixpenny. On the right, a small plate of home-made potato chips are brought out, and I started with a glass of sparkling wine.

The meal started with a crisp and elegant dish of apple and white peaches with sour cream or curd.

The meal started with a crisp and elegant dish of apple and white peaches with sour cream or curd.

A type of white fish from New Zealand steamed moist and firm with a brown paste that was like peanut butter.

A type of white fish from New Zealand steamed moist and firm with a brown paste that was like peanut butter.

Potatoes with mustard came to the table nestled under a canopy of cooked spinach leaves.

Potatoes with mustard came to the table nestled under a canopy of cooked spinach leaves.

Pastrami pork cheek with grilled wedge lettuce and pickled garlic.

Pastrami pork cheek with grilled wedge lettuce and pickled garlic.

Marinated veal in a glaze with anchovies and wedge of cabbage.

Marinated veal in a glaze with anchovies and wedge of cabbage.

Desserts included a pumpkin yogurt ice cream sandwich (top left) with a palate cleanser of lime jelly with mascarpone and mandarin orange ice, and a final dish of plum dessert with jasmine curd and prune in chocolates.

Desserts included a pumpkin yogurt ice cream sandwich (top left) with a palate cleanser of lime jelly with mascarpone and mandarin orange ice, and a final dish of plum dessert with jasmine curd and prune in chocolates.

Chef James Parry (center) and his crew after lunch service.

Chef James Parry (center) and his crew after lunch service.

 

9 Responses to A Review of Sixpenny in Stanmore, Australia

  1. foodhoe says:

    beautiful presentation, each dish looks fresh and exciting, swooning over the pastrami pork cheek!

  2. Those desserts look amazing, and I imagine that the seafood must be good there too!

    • Ben Ben says:

      Yes, the seafood there were amazingly fresh. Even just shrimp and simple ethnic restaurants were nice and crystal like.

  3. Row says:

    Wow, these dishes are so gorgeous! Very refreshing and fun take on the degustation menu. 🙂

  4. Carolyn Jung says:

    I like how you went for the larger tasting menu. Good for you! You SHOULD! That pastrami pork cheek looks amazing. I’ve got five pounds of pork cheeks in my freezer now. But I think I’d need mad skills to turn them into anything quite as refined as what you enjoyed. 😉

    • Ben Ben says:

      Carolyn, love how you just happen to have pork cheeks in your freezer! I’d heard of beef cheeks but never pork cheeks until you cooked with it and I had it here pastrami style. You should smoke it to get that pastrami cured taste. I bet it must be the slow smoking that lets the fat turn into that buttery goodness without it rendering away.

  5. Elisabeth Oscar says:

    Died laughing at your summation of Stanmore. It’s a million dollar suburb with some of the finest Victorian architecture in Sydney which is why it contains National Trust-listed homes. The whole suburb is heritage-listed and contains large mansions built for some of the major retail families of 19th century Sydney – the Gowings, the Palings, the Marcus-Clarkes etc. Have a look at realestate.com.au to check the prices of even three bedroom terraces before making ill-informed comments simply from walking from the station to Sixpenny.

    Stanmore has a similar professional demographic to the Eastern Suburbs not only because of its expensive real estate prices but also because of its close proximity to the University of Sydney and RPA hospital and the fact that it is only a 10 minute train ride to Town Hall. 15 minutes from Central? I am also starting to believe that you don’t own a watch, either.

    Marrickville Council runs historical tours of Stanmore to outline its history from settlement as the site of Major Johnston’s Annandale Farm to its mansion-building heyday. Stanmore was also the birthplace of many notable Australians such as former prime minister Harold Holt. Before talking through your hat, it might be a good idea not to comment on topics you know nothing of. Also, Stanmore is quiet because it is within walking distance of the major eat streets of Newtown, Glebe and Leichhardt so there’s no reason for larger scale restaurant development beyond the few good cafes such as The Little Mule, Cafe Percy, Papercup and Mollycoddles.

    • Ben Ben says:

      Woah, I wasn’t saying Stanmore is a dump. Like I said in my third paragraph, I’m not saying Stanmore is dodgy or anything like that. I even said the homes I saw were really nice, and your claims about the real estate seems to back that up. But right in that area where the restaurant is located is a bit quiet and not really bustling. I’m sure Stanmore has a lot of rich people living there. I wasn’t saying there wasn’t any. And no, I don’t own a watch. I look at my iPhone.

      • Elisabeth Oscar says:

        Apology accepted Ben. You might like to know that the garage you passed on the way from the station – the last 1930s service station in Sydney and used in many movies – sold last week for $3.1 million to make way for an apartment block.

        Readers may also like to know that you also walked past Belle Epoque Antiques amid the “tatty storefronts”which supplied much of the furniture for the movies Australia and The Great Gatsby. Because of Stanmore’s proximity to the CBD and major shopping centres, the village is now filled with doctors’offices for RPA hospital and other businesses who need quick access to the city. Thank heavens we still have another building you walked past – The Salisbury Hotel – rated as one of the finest remaining Art Deco pubs in Sydney.