Nel – 29 May 2015

So a little place called Nel restaurant popped up on my feed, and I thought it was worthwhile visiting. Sure, there were other places, such as LuMi, Ume, or fancy places in Potts Point. However, for some reason, just the thought of a “Nel” was intriguing.

It seemed like a fairly easy place to book for lunch, and the fare was described as modern British, which was good, since I have a strong tendency to go for Japanese restaurants. I was also a little wary of their price point – $35 per person for lunch. I’ve never seen any fine dining so cheap, apart from prix fixe menus.

Our first dish was green peas and ham: pig’s head croquettes with a pea sauce. I was happy they used the cheek meat, though it wasn’t clear to us that these were eaten with hands. I think my family were a little confused, but I’m more than happy to look weird and eat food however I want. Not as great as Hartsyard’s pig tails, but still nice.

It seems a lot of places are deviating from the standard sourdough selection. This was a mature cheddar sourdough, accompanied with butter. No butter knife was provided, however if we used our 1st main knife, they would have replaced it (as happened to my brother).

Rainbow trout, pickled radish, vanilla corn, miso. This trout had an amazing melt in the mouth texture! It also wasn’t heavily flavoured, which I didn’t mind, because the miso mousse did quite well to enhance it. About the miso mousse… it kind of tasted like butterscotch to me, rather than a more salty soy experience. I guess this helped complement the corn. The radishes were less pickled than I liked, but it meant that the radish flavour stood out, so I guess that was intended.

In this 5 course tasting menu, this was the only dish where there was a choice – lamb, or vegetarian risotto. Since I really don’t like risotto no matter how well it’s prepared, I opted for the lamb. So did everyone else! I’m so glad I chose the lamb. Once it was presented and explained, I loved it even more. There was a piece of lamb backstrap on yoghurt, and to the side was lamb mince ragu wrapped in onion, tempura lamb brain, then potato on a black garlic puree. The mince was possibly a little too lean, but it had an awesome flavour to it, and I like the fact it was wrapped in onion. The tempura brain – that was the highlight for me! The crunch and flavour of the batter worked well with the creaminess of the brain, though it turns out, when I tasted the brain by itself, I wasn’t too big of a fan. I do like this better than pancreas though, at least for now.

Dessert was a chocolate caramel ice cream with vanilla mousse, poached pear, meringue sticks and a pumpkin and orange sauce. Though the ice cream was melting by the time it got to our table, it was a most delicious ice cream! It had a richness in the chocolate that I really like, without being too sweet. The poached pear was on the crisp side, which was fine with me since it added a lightness to the dish. The pumpkin sauce on the other hand, tasted mostly orangey and I couldn’t make out too much of the pumpkin flavour. I would have liked that to be a bit more balanced, especially as I don’t like orange chocolate combinations even if they taste amazing.

Five courses, you say? The last one was a tiny pastry thing with a currant in the middle, and lemon curd on top. They were such tiny morsels that I didn’t take a picture and simply ate it.

Overall, was it worth $35? Oh yeah! My wallet was certainly very pleased! But nothing here was particularly standout, though my two favourite parts were the tempura brain and the chocolate caramel ice cream. Their dinner menu is actually distinctly different and focuses on more seafood, so I imagine the experience is quite something else.