The term ‘fine dining’ isn’t normally heard in the same breath as ‘RSL Club’, but the newly refurbished Epping Club is hoping to change all that. With the opening of Rawsons Restaurant, the club is looking to revitalise the dining scene in the north-western suburbs. The man they’ve chosen for the task is Nick Whitehouse, who brings some impressive credentials to his role as executive chef, hailing from Sydney’s iconic Flying Fish and Wildfire.
Whitehouse has had an interesting career, from working in Michelin star restaurants to featuring on MasterChef’s ‘Professionals’ season and cooking for well-known bands like the Red Hot Chilli Peppers and Slipknot. His new venture at Rawsons is similarly eclectic, putting a new spin on traditional fine dining. It was difficult to know what to expect, but the menu is definitely a welcome change from stuffy club menus. This isn’t to say that it’s convoluted or particularly radical, though. Whitehouse’s approach is simply to bring fresh produce to life, combining a few key ingredients to deliver unusual results. He is also passionate about taking a holistic approach to cooking, which sees nothing go to waste.
The venue itself is lush and modern, featuring two private dining spaces and a chef’s table. There are touches of eccentricity throughout, from the cellar wall separating the main dining area from the private dining room, to the meat fridge housing huge chunks of aging beef at the entrance to the restaurant. The private rooms are intimate and elegant, featuring dark wood furniture, black furnishings and a contemporary chandelier.
Diners also have the option to eat their meals overlooking the kitchen, to take in the view of Whitehouse and his team hard at work. For those looking to graze, there’s a ‘nearly raw’ bar menu including dishes such as the Seared cold water scallops with honeycomb vinegar ($13), ’30-second’ Hawkesbury river squid ($12) and barely seared prawns($12). The prawns are accompanied by a garlic butter powder; a unique take on traditional garlic prawns. They’re tender and smoky, and the powder dissolves into a buttery texture on your tongue.
There is also a great range of wines, including some excellent local options. For red drinkers, the Kilikanoon Shiraz from Clare Valley is a must-try, and a d’Arenberg The Dry Dam Riesling is the perfect accompaniment to some of the light and summery entree dishes on offer.
If you’re looking for a cheese plate to accompany your wine, you won’t find any standard cheese wedges and crackers here. Instead you’ll be treated to a unique twist on cauliflower cheese, made up of Pyengana 18 month mature cheddar served with grated raw cauliflower, pear slices and caramel ($11.50). The rich sweetness of this dish also earns it a place on the dessert section of the dining menu.
The main dining menu features French inspired classics like the “Og” house smoked salmon($16.90) entree , served with a buttery, crunchy rye crumb, incredibly smooth sour cream cheese and sprigs of dill and shaved radish. More substantial dishes include the Kurobuta Pork Belly, served with an unexpected combination of poached Hawkesbury squid, a caramel soy sauce and english sprouts ($26.50).
The dessert menu also has a European twist, featuring a Raspberry soufflé ($13.90) and a Vanilla panna cotta ($12.90) served with guava, strawberry gelato and a white chocolate crumble. The stand-out is the Chocolate marquise ($13.90). Inspired by a Cherry Ripe, it’s an exquisite combination of rich dark chocolate, tart cherry sorbet, airy coconut foam and a generous honeycomb crumb sprinkled on top.
This new venture highlights the power of combining fresh, seasonal produce and letting the ingredients speak for themselves. Little touches like a dusting of smoked salt or sprigs of fresh herbs bring out the flavours in each dish, but Whitehouse is clearly focused on providing a ‘wow’ factor with simple plates of good quality food. Rawsons is a welcome addition to the north-western suburbs, and signals a new twist on fine dining: luxury that is affordable and simple, but definitely out of the ordinary.
Address: The Epping Club, 5 Rawson St, Epping
Contact: (02) 9876 4357