Hunter & Barrel – Cockle Bay Wharf (Sydney)

Seagrass Boutique Hospitality Group enjoyed a good reputation thusfar, having various brands on their portfolio including The Meat & Wine Co. and Ribs & Burgers, both multi-location restaurants that know a thing or two about good, juicy meats. The latest addition to the hospitality group’s scope is an interesting concept titled Hunter & Barrel, looking back to the days of the hunter for coal-inspired cooking and bringing in the ever-growing trend of barrel-aged drinks. The new concept will have a few locations in both Sydney and Melbourne, and the most picturesque so far is on the roof of Cockle Bay Wharf, in the unique, round-shaped space that used to be Chinta Ria (which has now moved to Double Bay).

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In terms of fit-out, Seagrass have done a stunning job. The space is well considered and distinctive, decorating the walls with pillars of candles, the booths with thick ropes, and the bar-side bench seating with gorgeous wooden finishes, sitting under an eye-catching roof of low-hanging foliage. It’s a medieval ski lodge for the most part, with spacious outdoor seating in a little courtyard. As far as looks go, this is an impressive and unique addition to Cockle Bay Wharf.

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It’s worth taking a close look at the drinks here, with a range of cocktails, wine on tap, and beers available. The Chieftan ($16) is a fresh blend of Belvedere Vodka, Midori and fresh watermelon, washed with rosemary and prosciutto for a beautiful creaminess and savoury flavour that comes in the back palate, after the dominant melon taste. Even better is The Solera Negroni ($16) which mixes barrel-aged negroni with fresh negroni to re-add the punchy balance of sweet and bitter, as well as lift those botanicals of the Settlers Gin back up, while retaining those soft oak notes that bring the vermouth and campari down and balance the two.

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The food menu is one massive laminated page, split into sections the most tempting in the middle – shared sets Hunter’s Feast or Gatherer’s Feast, a list of “From the Coals” meats, and three “From the Skewers” options. Other than that you’ve got snacks and starters, sandwiches, “From the Pot” options, salads, sides, desserts, and a small kids menu designed as “Little Hunters”. There are a lot of choices here, but you’re best off starting with the shared platters.

The Hunter’s Platter ($28) is your typical serving of charcuterie with eggs, pickles, sauces, and bread. The bread is soft, the wagyu bresaola is moist and full of flavour, and the boiled eggs are nice and salty. There isn’t much to complain about here at all.

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A standard starter follows with the Fried Squid ($15) and bush pepper mayo, thankfully bringing a very light batter with little grease. More interesting is the Spicy Fried Corn ($7) with green chilli salt, buttery and delicious but not at all spicy.

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From the Pot the Sheperd’s Pie ($25) was recommended, but my guest and I opted for something a little bit different, tucking into the Braised Kangaroo Tails ($24) stewed with carrots and chilli. I’m not sure where Hunter & Barrel are getting their chillies from, but again, there’s little to no spice here. Thankfully, the kangaroo meat is strong and tender, falling right off the bone into the warm stew.

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Coal-cooking promises rich and smokey flavours so it’s not hard to go straight for this section. The Slow Roasted Beef Rib ($34) is not lacking for taste, with a long, lingering back palate that’s tangy, creamy, and pleasant, but the smokey flavour is lost. The same goes for the Grilled Flat Iron Steak ($28), which is slightly overcooked but still hits the spot with the generous spread of glistening garlic butter.

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Surprisingly, the best of the three mains we tried was the Cheeseburger ($18) with fried onions, lettuce, and tomato. Though medium is the lowest they can go here, this is a beautifully tender patty, rich and robust with fresh salad and a soft, seeded bun. Although, perhaps it’s not much of a surprise seeing as the burgers at Ribs & Burgers always satisfy, and the cheeseburger at The Meat & Wine Co. – similar to this one – is always worth a go.

All “From the Coals” mains come with a choice of sides, and there’s much to pick from here, all generously included with the best being the soft Cast Iron Button Mushrooms ($8 without a main) with rich garlic butter, and the Grilled Cauliflower ($8 without a main) with garlic sauce and toasted almonds.

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Of course, marshmallow needs to feature if the restaurant hopes to stick to theme, and fortunately there’s an addictive Chocolate & Marshmallow Roast ($10) that comes with thin, round biscuits. It’s served steaming hot, with sticky, melted marshmallow combining with rich, chocolate so there’s a nice spread to cover the biscuits with.

Though not all the food here sticks to theme – to be fair, it’d be hard to balance – Hunter & Barrel have done well to offer something distinctive in both look and feel. The food won’t be blowing anyone away, but there are some really good choices here, and the drinks are excellent for the price point.

Hunter & Barrel – Cockle Bay Wharf

Address: Cockle Bay Wharf, 303, Sydney NSW 2000
Contact: (02) 9264 9888
Website: www.hunterandbarrel.com
Hours: Sunday-Thursday 12pm-10pm; Friday and Saturday 12pm-10:30pm

Headline image credit: Hunter & Barrel