Pinbone’s new adventure is here for a good time, not a long time, writes PAT NOURSE. Get it while it’s hot.
Pinbone’s new pop-up is here for a limited time only. Get it while it’s hot.
Idon’t know what to make of the doughnut labelled “bother me”. It’s stencilled on the wall along with a dancing pig holding a bottle of wine, a slice of pizza, a dancing can holding a pizza, a dancing slice of pizza holding a bottle of wine, and a love heart beribboned with the word “pizza”. Interesting move for a place that doesn’t sell doughnuts or dancing pigs. Or pizza.
On the other hand, the phrase “self-serve coolroom full of really great wine” is easy to grasp. That, plus a new outing for the Pinbone mob makes an excursion to Mascot a “when” proposition rather than an “if”. Yes, the name “Mr Liquor’s Dirty Italian Disco” smacks of a brainstorming session that needed more brain and less storm. And it’s consistent with some aspects of the look and feel of the place that are a little grating in their overreach.
But if your idea of a good time runs to getting together with a bunch of pals to graze over olives, a few things on toast and/or a few things that go with bread, then seguing to a tasty hunk of protein or a plate of pasta over a good, well-priced bottle or six, it turns out these things are easy to forgive.
And as much “fun” as there is being pushed (mini-neon signs on the tables, the offer of tambourines, god help me), there’s plenty of unforced amusement as well. The place is set in what used to be the drive-through bottle-shop of the Tennyson Hotel. The pub itself was the sort of place you might have visited if you were in a hurry to find a cash machine or relieve yourself. The rejigged bottle-o, though, is full of life. The ceiling is high, the floor is concrete, the noise is substantial, and when the roller doors are open you might be lucky enough to see the odd Commodore SL roll up in search of a carton of throwdowns and a packet of darts.
Imagine if the exclamation marks on the menu (“Please order at the bar!” “Fresh bread!”) had been taken to their logical conclusion (Polenta! Corn! Chervil! Credit card payments incur a 1.5% surcharge!). You could certainly justify putting one next to the ’nduja. Chefs Jemma Whiteman and Mike Eggert make a version of the spreadable sausage that’s as spicy and porky as you’d expect, but with a brightness of flavour all its own.
If we’re going to get typographical, I’d put an asterisk next to a couple of dishes to mark them optional. The white beans, zucchini and pangrattato (gluggy,
but not in a fun way), say. But that’s just a matter of there being more worthwhile dishes. The excellent roast chicken, for instance, a brown and handsome bird, jointed, juicy and lolling in a slick of tarragon butter with half a roasted lemon. Sardine aïoli makes an inspired foil for fried sardines in a light, crisp crumb, and tuna crudo finds a groove with diced beetroot, all showered in horseradish. Flavours are generous but the plating is tight.
If whoever tizzed up the room didn’t quite know when to stop, the kitchen at least has a grasp of how much is enough. Porchetta, yellow beans and grilled spring onion. Gnocchetti in a deeply savoury lamb ragù. At no stage does a waiter threaten to pour anything from a tiny jug at the table.
The kilo of rib-eye grilled and sliced to share is presented with mustard, chilli sauce, horseradish cream and a hunk of parmesan, but really its best accompaniment is a bottle of 2010 Biondi-Santi Brunello di Montalcino – a steal at $148. Spending that kind of money on wine at a restaurant that has refectory-style tables and a mirror ball isn’t for everyone, but Mr Liquor has you covered. If you love wine, but don’t mind having your glass topped up by a kid in Phantom Menace socks, this place is the most interesting thing to have opened in Sydney in recent memory. When you walk into the fridge you’ll find the classics alongside the wines for which team Pinbone has more of an affinity (Gravner, the high priests of Italian weird, and their local counterparts). The snowsuits hung by the coolroom door are an endearing touch.
Service, led by Pinbone co-founder Berri Eggert, is also winning. It’s deeply casual, but tied together by what looks like a genuine commitment to helping guests have a good time.
The hazelnut tiramisù is pleasingly hazelnutty and free of doilies, the panna cotta, more a baked custard, a cheerily rough-and-ready child of the wood-fired oven, the soft-serve a strawberry swirl sprinkled with strawberry, and peanut brittle.
Strong in value and long on merriment, Mr Liquor makes for a wonderfully goofy outing. What it isn’t is here for a long time – at least not with the Pinbone team running things. You’ve got until April to drink your fill. Might even be time enough to figure out that whole doughnut-“bother me” thing. Oh, wait! Doughnut bother me – do not bother me. Haha. Good one, Merivale.
Above: clockwise from bottom: fried sardines with sardine aïoli; pickles; burrata; ’nduja; olives; and mortadella bianca. Above from left: Pinbone, aka chefs Jemma Whiteman and Mike Eggert and floor manager Berri Eggert.
Strawberry swirl soft-serve with pine-nut brittle. Left: spatchcock with lemon and tarragon butter.