I arrived at Pony Lounge & Dining situated in the Rocks with some trepidation. On occasion I am expected to like or at very least be willing to try just about everything food related. But morally I can’t eat horse, I grew up riding and loving them. I also really don’t like black pudding and Sean Connolly once made me eat it on the radio show while we were live. It was awful and I am now scarred for life. So to my total relief and joy I read through the Pony Lounge and Dining menu to discover that they do serve lots of wonderful sustainable produce like Kurabuta Pork, Veal, Thirlmere Chicken, Mirrool Creek Lamb but thankfully no pony.
I interviewed Executive Head Chef Damien Heads on the show and discovered a man who is working very hard. With two demanding restaurants on either side of the bridge as well as a young family he arrived at the studio with a tiny parcel of food. Naturally I hinted I might be a little hungry and he mumbled that they had done so many covers the night before they had almost run out of food. What he did bring was the Seared Sirloin – Soy, Lime, Chilli and Lemongrass dressing. It worked very well with the wine and I was left wanting more.
My dinner guest was the dynamic, energized and passionate Claudia Bowman from McIntosh and Bowman the cheesemongers. Claudia loves good food so she was the perfect guest. Plus I am cooking up a new exciting venture and I knew she would be a great sounding board. The rocks would not usually be on my list of food destinations. However in the past few months I have had two very good, reasonably prices meals here. One at Baroque and now at Pony Lounge and Dining.
We started with Sydney Rock Oysters $3.60 each, trying both the natural and the Nham Jim Dressing, Crisp Eschalot. I always love a meal when it begins on the right note and fat creamy oysters are the way to start the magic. We then moved onto the small plates of which there are around 16 dishes. My favourite was the Sashimi Yellowfin Tuna Spring Roll with Green Soybean Sauce $16.50. Good textures with a great balance of crispy and spicy.
The Tortellini of Slow Cooked Beef Cheek, Heirloom Tomato, Broccoli and Tarragon ($24 entrée, $32 main) was delicious; I was starting to regret the suggestion of sharing everything. The waitress was very knowledgeable about where the produce came from and was happy to assist us with her favourite choices, which made the ordering process a breeze.
The Firstlight NZ Wagyu Sirloin, with Potato Dauphinoise, Eschalots and De Puy Lentils $46, was very good. Our chips could have been slightly crispier but the meat was tender and full of flavour. I know the supplier of this product personally and I know that he is very particular about quality so these animals live well and the results are in the eating.
Dessert is the the moment of truth and my Apple Flan, Apple Caramel and Vanilla Bean Ice Cream $15 was delicious, as good was Claudia’s Dark Chocolate Pudding, Salted Peanut Brittle and Espresso Ice Cream $14.80. I did have a little food envy when I saw hers.
The interior is long and thin but warm and comfortable, the atmosphere is buzzy and the wine list good. My ideal evening would be going to Wine Odyssey across the cobbles for a pre-dinner drink and then having several Pony dishes to share. On the other hand if I were going to hang out with my North Shore friends Pony in Neutral Bay would be a very good option.
Good ethically produced, sustainable produce puts this restaurant on my top 10 recommends. Well worth the dinner out. www.ponydining.com.auThe Rocks
Cnr 14-15 Kendall Lane and Argyle Street The Rocks, Sydney
T: (02) 9252 7797
Open: Daily 12pm-3pm, 6pm-11pm
[email protected] Neutral Bay
12-25 Grosvenor St, Neutral Bay T: (02) 9904 3400, Sydney [email protected] Open: Lunch Thursday – Sunday 12.00 – 3pm Dinner Monday – Sunday 6p, – late Breakfast Sundays from 8am