Set in an unprepossessing location in the gritty(ish) backstreets of Chippendale the restaurant nestles amongst new apartments, old warehouses, terraces and warehouse conversions and the new Central Park development looms overhead. I really love that a restaurant that is sort of the middle of nowhere (as much as anywhere in the inner city can be “in the middle of nowhere”) is going gangbusters. Proves that if you build something great you don’t need to be on bustling Crown or King Streets for the customers to turn up.
Ester is much more spacious than I was anticipating and despite the concrete walls, the wooden floors and the gale blowing outside the place was lovely and warm. This is no doubt due to the big wood-fired oven they have blazing away in the kitchen. I really like the big arches on the wall - the remind me of the arches of a wood-fired oven. I wonder if that is the intention they were going for?
Whilst we pondered the menu we were given a little bowl of roasted chickpeas with salt, rosemary and (I think) fennel seeds (or something else with an aniseed flavour). I wish I could've lingered over these more as they were all gone by the time my wine arrived.
After a particularly craptastic day I was keen for a glass of wine...or two. I don’t really know much about wine varieties so out waitress was happy to recommend something close to the only wine I know I like (which FYI is a Pinot Gris). I pleased to say my Dario Princic Chardonnay Pinot Grigio Bianco '12 Friuli Italy (wow that’s a mouthful) ($15.00) went down a treat. Ester has a good choice of beers if you’re that way inclined and Dave went for the Mountain Goat Organic Steam Ale from Victoria ($8.50). His beer had a great, fruity scent and flavour and was super easy to drink.
The menu at Ester is a little cryptic. There’s no description, just a few things are listed separated by a forward slash. You can either cross your fingers and hope for the best or ask your waitress for a bit more information. We’re happy to go the first route and are not disappointed at all.
A lot has been written about Ester (by bloggers, avid Urbanspooners and “proper” journalists alike) and many people sing the praises of the Roasted Oysters ($4 each). I’m an oyster lover from way back and couldn’t pass these by. The oysters are served slightly warm (sounds gross, but trust me it’s EPICALLY good) after a brief stint in Ester’s famous wood –fired oven and dressed with a horseradish mignonette. If you’re an oyster lover too then these are a must order.
I think the Lobster Sausage Sanga ($9 each) is a new item on the menu. The “snag” is lovely and tender with a wonderful hit of lobster within. I was particularly enamored with the bread which was thick, moist and crumbly, almost like cake in texture. Excellent.
We were ordering quite a lot (whoops) so just ordered one Smoked Pork Croquette ($5 each) between us to try. The smoky flavour from the oven was really evident in our croquette and I think the lemon was a good way to really lift the flavour to something a bit special.
I’m not sure that I’ve ever actually ordered bone marrow before but I know a few people who are devotees so I wanted to see what all the fuss is about. Ester’s Bone Marrow and XO sauce ($17) is served with some deliciously smoky (yes, everything is smoky) wood-fired bread which matches SO well with the unctuous, fatty, buttery marrow. Yum.
The cauliflower / almond / mint ($8 for a ½ serve) is another now-famous Ester dish. We’re told the cauliflower is quite a big dish but they are happy to offer a half serve if you’re wanting it as a side to your main...which is what we do. I really love when restaurants are happy to bend a little with their menu to allow their customers a bit more flexibility in ordering. The twice-cooked cauli is served with on top an almond purée and topped with almonds and fresh mint. It really is VERY delicious.
The Honey Glazed Duck ($38.00) is a special for the night and we HAD to order it as Dave finds it nearly impossible to pass up duck on a menu. He was pretty happy let me tell you! The Asian-inspired duck had a super crisp skin, a sweet honey glazed and a subtle Aniseed flavour (Star Anise)?
During dinner I confess that salad is one of my favourite things to eat, a confession brought on no doubt by the salad we ordered. The salad of cos / walnut / white anchovies ($9) is a good counterbalance to the rich, fatty duck and the white anchovy dressing was a thing of beauty. Whilst I declare that I LOVE salad I think what I really love is a good good dressing...something that for me is hard to replicate at home.
I like that the Salted Caramel Semi-Freddo ($4) is just a little dessert. Sometimes you want something sweet after dinner but cannot face a whole dessert. This of course is not that time for us as we also order the whoppingly large Citrus Curd Meringue Pie ($15). The pie comes not served by the slice, but packed into a rather hefty bowl. I have flashbacks of the Magic Pudding as soon as it’s placed before us. Once we dig down beneath the soft, fluffy meringue the citrus curd is *just* on the right side of being eye-squintingly tart, with just a hint of sweetness. The whole lot sits on a dark, crumbly cake-like base. Absolutely LOVED this!
I paired my desserts (well, technically “our” desserts) with an interesting glass of Japanese dessert wine. I’ve never had Japanese dessert wine before, or even heard of it, so it was fun to try something new. Loved the apricot flavour and slightly sour afternote. Much less sweet than other dessert ones I’ve had.
I really enjoyed my dinner at Ester. The food was excellent, hearty, rustic and flavoursome though I have to admit nothing blew my socks right off my feet. I'm keen to go back and try a few of the other things on the menu though as there is SO much more to try (like the prawns please). Soon I hope. If we can get a booking.
Ester Restaurant and Bar is at 46-52 Meagher Street, Chippendale. Phone them on 8068 8279.