Paddington, is the ‘Sunday Best’ suburb of Sydney. Boasting equally chic and affluent Australian fashion labels and hole-in-the-wall art galleries, a quick jaunt down Oxford Street is all you need before you find your steps a little lighter, your smile a little wider. It’s also home to some of the best eateries known throughout Sydney. And for better or worse, The Stables, newcomer to this happy part of town, sits at the annex of said delicious eateries. ‘Just behind Saint Peter’, ‘Ten steps from 10 Williams Street’ and ‘A march along from The Paddington’ are all apt and easy directions for first-timers, but how will this bode for said new challenger?
A back street entrance tips the restaurant game into hard mode. But seek and you shall find, an interior that is surprisingly New York bistro. The lush leather and white with mint accents are a visual throwback to the original purpose of the space, actual stable grounds that once housed the horses of Paddington Inn. Coffee is The Foundry Blend, roasted specifically for The Stables at a place out in Marrickville. A couple of vinos joined us that day but of note was the Houghton chardonnay ($12) from Margaret River.
Our horse bolts through the stable door with our one share plate, the burrata, San Daniele Prosciutto, sourdough ($26). We loved the way a hint of sweetness permeated through each bite of mozzarella, and the way it held hands with the savouriness of the San Daniele prosciutto. The fresh tomatoes are seasoned with a light hand of olive oil and herbs are also a nice touch. Their powers combined, this sweet, salty and savoury combination leads one down to thoughts of a fiendishly good pizza.
We then enter entree territory with some butter poached lobster, herb jus, avruga caviar ($31). I had high hopes for this, the most decadent sounding item on the menu and The Stables did deliver. The lobster tail had been gently poached with a slightly muted flavour that sang once it was eaten in unison with the avruga caviar. The dark horse of this dish though was the ice plant, a native green that always lends a quirky texture to a dish.
The seafood motif continues with the blue swimmer crab, pasta blanket, dashi crab broth ($29). Another strong contender for dish of the day, we were both pleasantly surprised at the generosity served to us with the amount of crab we found on the plate. The bursts of finger lime were fantastic at cutting through the savoury, a reminder that seafood and citrus are always an excellent combination. I nibbled at the pasta blanket but left it mostly untouched, I don’t think it needed it at all.
Third of our three entrees is the roast mushroom medley ($21). We’re big fans of mushrooms already so it’s a low bar for admission, but what struck us was the abundance and variety of mushrooms in this dish plus the incredibly umami mushroom paste. I didn’t pick up much of a gorgonzola hit from the sauce but the creaminess was appreciated to round off the earthy flavour profile. Again, I wasn’t sold on the puff pastry. I can understand restaurants adding in carb components to make dishes more substantial, but this, like the pasta blanket, felt a bit like an afterthought.
A couple of main items that I had my eye on were unfortunately sold out that afternoon so we take a further turn down the vegetarian path with the miso braised eggplant, parmesan, schallots, dill, aromatics ($25). Out of everything we had that day, this was probably the biggest letdown. Having had some of the best miso eggplant Sydney has to offer, there were some obvious flaws to this, the biggest being a distinct lack of caramelisation which meant the miso hadn’t been in the oven or on the grill for long enough. We’re also a lot more used to eggplant being chunkier, the stringiness of these meant the skin to flesh ratio felt a bit off. There’s meant to be parmesan in this dish and something called aromatics but none of it is particularly detectable by any of the senses.
A side of grilled broccolini ($12) is our offering to the health gods but it is incense wasted as we found the broccolini wasn’t cooked quite enough which meant the stems stayed tough with a raw aftertaste. This grassiness was persistent throughout the drizzled herb sauce that tasted like blended kale. Thankfully the hazelnut crumb was present to offset some of this but I wouldn’t have called this one particularly enjoyable.
Six dishes down and we’re about to ring home but the black tahini sponge ($18) catches us off guard with a description that boasts genoise, brandy infusion, passionfruit gel and malted ice cream. I felt that the individual components tasted good, with a shout out to the black tahini layer and the ice cream itself. But for some reason, none of it seemed to merge into a single dish for me as the components neither complemented nor clashed interestingly with one another.
It’s a bit of a come-down to end the meal on the three least enjoyed dishes of the afternoon. I do think The Stables has promise and it’s worth noting that the service was excellent and the space was exceedingly comfortable. But another day lived in Sydney is another day closer to the tipping point of true oversaturation in the market. Mediocrity need not apply.
Address: 1 Victoria Street, Paddington