Bianca: To celebrate Madre’s impending acceptance into the pensioner’s hall of fame, otherwise known as her birthday, we decided to treat her to dinner at her favourite chefs Surry Hills restaurant, ‘4Fourteen’. Now I’ll put this out there first up, mother and I have a little bit of a soft spot for the Irish born celebrity chef, the accent and smile don’t hurt either. Was my dad a little uncomfortable at Madre’s constant badgering of the staff about Colin’s whereabouts that night, sure! He wore it well, it was her birthday after all.
To set the mood for the evening, we arrived a little late and found a car spot our first loop around the surrounding street, surely a sign for a great night. We were warmly greeted and shown to our table. A celebratory occasion just isn’t the same without some sort of alcoholic beverage surely? Mum and I at my urging, shared the ‘Fireball’ – Lemon, orange, fig, Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey’ $17. A particularly potent concoction, perhaps it wasn’t the greatest moment for me to launch into my spiel about Fireball whiskeys recent(ish) splash in the news (anti-freeze anyone?) mother was now under the impression I was trying to kill her on her birthday.
I was kind of hoping my dad would order the ‘Princess Needs A Drink’ just for pure hysterics, alas he went with his favourite classic an ‘Aperol Spritz’ $17. Which was suitably sour, I wouldn’t have minded stealing away with that glass either. Kleptomania does run in the family.
On to the main reason we were here, besides Colin of course. The food! A few entrées were ordered. First up were ‘CJ’s Chips and Dips’ – chard and crackling. $10. Absolutely genius, taking a vastly underused vegetable like chard, lightly coating and then deep-frying. Umm, I’d eat chard everyday if it was this good. The puffy crackling was flawlessly cooked and tipping this dish over the edge was the spicy smoked potato mayonnaise.
Not wanting to be complete gluttons, we shared two croquettes between four, the ‘Ham Hock and Cheese Croquette’ –w/ mustard crème fraiche $4.50ea. Crispy on the outside with a glorious oozy middle, we all picked up on a discernible horseradish component, mum thought it overpowered all other flavours. I’d have to agree with her here, she tried hers without the accompanying crème fraiche which I feel is vital to balance the entire eating experience.
The last of the entrées and probably my favourite dish of the night was the ‘Glazed Lamb Ribs’ –w/watermelon. $11 two per serve. I was told by fellow FFS’aker Vanessa to order these so made sure we got two servings so we each had a rib. Never in my life would I think to pair these two ingredients together but they work so incredibly well. Firstly they were cooked long and slow, so most of the bones were pulled out prior to serving, the meat was tender and virtually melted upon each bite. The sauce really reminded me of Kylie Kwong’s famous crispy skin duck with plum sauce, playing on both sweet and sour elements.
For the mains we were swayed by the shared plate’s and decided to go with two large mains and a side salad. The first of which was the ‘Braised Whole Lamb Shoulder’ – w/ mustard and herb crust. $72. Easily large enough to satisfy four people, we each pulled and prodded for the best bits, which was quite easy – it was all so good. Having gone to Chiswick for my birthday a month prior and comparing this lamb shoulder to Matt Moran’s, I’m afraid Colin has you beat. Seasoned gorgeously and with the accompanying vessel filled with the valuable pan drippings we unceremoniously dripped it all over our precious pulled apart lamb. It was nice to see some additional veggies thrown in there as well (which wasn’t the case at Chiswick).
We also shared the ‘Pork Belly’ – w/pumpkin, charred onions and prosciutto. $32. It was hard to pick a favourite between the lamb and the pork as they were both so good but I think the pork may have just edged out the lamb with the majority. I was expecting a pork belly with crackling, no idea why, as it wasn’t stated as such on the menu. So I was a little puzzled when a circular mound of pork nestled pristinely on the plate was brought out to us. It was almost as if the pork was slow cooked, shredded then re-assembled and formed into a dome-like piggy fortress – then was perhaps blasted again in an oven. What resulted was a heavenly almost caramelised top with the soft pork below. We also enjoyed the scorched Brussel sprouts
To make ourselves feel a little healthier we also shared the ‘Mixed Grain Salad’ $12. I’m a big fan of quinoa so I thoroughly enjoyed this, the others were not so keen. I then made the executive decision to pour some of the lamb drippings into the salad. Which made dad and my older brother a little happier. It’s quite a vibrant salad with red and white quinoa, puffed wheat, almond slithers and shaved fennel.
We couldn’t possibly celebrate a birthday without some sort of sweet ending, so we decided to go with the ‘Snickers’ which was not printed on the menu but they alternately offer the deconstructed ‘Bounty’ and the Snickers. Vanessa had also organised through some ‘connections’ to have Colin’s book ‘Four Kitchens’ signed. So they brought that out as well as the dessert with a hand piped ‘Happy Birthday Orestina’, it is of course the little small details that make all the difference. At this point I had well and truly eaten my fill but the show must go on, the snickers is a play on the classic chocolate. Elements on the plate included toffee like shards, a nougatine chocolate component, peanut butter ice-cream and white marshmallow (these were my identifying ‘points’) I could be completely off base.
The family then ordered a round of coffee’s and we were brought four little petit fours, cherry chocolate bites, with a light coating of cocoa powder. Mum ate hers and got cocoa powder EVERYWHERE, which my brother and I promptly photographed and posted to Facebook as any dutiful child would.
And of course no meal in the Surry Hills area is truly complete without lining up and scoring a scoop or two of Gelato Messina. Which is exactly what we did, on my dad’s request surprisingly.
I can’t really fault my meal at 4Fourteen at all, food was excellent, décor is lovely and the staff really went above and beyond organising the ‘birthday’ dessert.
Our next mission is to track Colin down at ‘Four In Hand’!!