SYD­NEY RE­VIEW

Pin­bone’s new ad­ven­ture is here for a good time, not a long time, writes PAT NOURSE. Get it while it’s hot.

Gourmet Traveller (Australia) - - News -

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.

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