Punch­ing above its weight

Monthly Chronicle - - Dining Out Locally -

It’s pos­si­bly the skin­ni­est restau­rant in Syd­ney in the un­like­li­est of sur­round­ings. Yet this tiny restau­rant packs so far above its weight you’d think you were in the top end of town.

Skinny be­cause the space is a mere two me­tres wide; un­likely sur­round­ings be­cause it sits in the cor­ner of the Westleigh Shop­ping Vil­lage and oc­cu­pies the space where the trol­ley bay for the su­per­mar­ket next door used to be.

But the hum-drum stops there. Ryan’s Gourmet Cafe opened at the end of May and has de­vel­oped a fol­low­ing so fast that the two nights a week it’s open for dinner al­ways see it packed out. Fail­ure to book will mean walk­ing away hun­gry.

By day it’s a cafe serv­ing fash­ion­able break­fasts and lunches in modern sur­round­ings with grey walls, wooden benches and funky lights.

But it’s the dinner we’ve come to try, not least be­cause two cour­ses for $40 and 3 cour­ses for $50 seems like great value for money and sen­si­ble pric­ing for the area.

Epony­mously-named chef Ryan Craw­ford works in the equally nar­row gal­ley kitchen not big enough to swing a cat in but re­mains cheer­ful pro­duc­ing sub­lime modern Aus­tralian cui­sine along­side his fam­ily who tonight are all lend­ing a hand - mum Linda and sis­ter Lau­ren wait­ress­ing while dad Les­lie washes up.

With a pedi­gree span­ning an ap­pren­tice­ship at Nobu in Lon­don and 12 years in Hong Kong where he was ex­ec­u­tive chef at the Shang­hai Ho­tel’s Aberdeen Ma­rina Club (mem­ber­ship a snip at $3.5m HK), the food is ex­pertly crafted by this boy who grew up in Westleigh.

His cui­sine, says chef, is based on “what I feel like cook­ing on the day and what’s fresh in sea­son - it’s modern Aus­tralian with French tech­niques.”

Com­fort food - with­out the stodge

The menu is a great nod to com­fort food given how cold Syd­ney mid-win­ter nights can be, but with­out the heav­i­ness of tra­di­tional Bri­tish fare. We start with baby oc­to­pus fire roasted and ten­der with a tomato and chilli sauce shared be­tween two - a good hit of chilli which didn’t over­power the per­fectly cooked ten­der lit­tle octopi.

The other shared starter was roasted beet­root risotto, nor­mally a main but re­quested as a first course. t ap­pealed be­cause of the un­usual mar­riage of rice and beet­root - out came a pretty pink mas­ter­piece with creamy Per­sian fetta on top, sub­lime and mor­ish. Prob­a­bly the best risotto this re­viewer’s ever had, south of Capri.

Onto the mains: my friend Jo­ce­lyn, who eats salmon at least once a week, said her seared salmon ‘leaf’ on a bed of creamed leeks with leeks floss on top was “the yum­mi­est salmon I’ve ever eaten.”

Her hus­band Martin and I both chose the roasted pork chop with but­tered bal­samic cab­bage - he’s half Hun­gar­ian so knows a thing or two about Eastern Euro­pean cui­sine. The pork, he re­marked, was cooked to per­fec­tion - moist and ten­der, and the cab­bage with bal­samic was a won­der­ful vine­gary foil to the rich meat.

The fourth main was the roasted duck breast with puy lentils and con­fit leg casse­role, again a won­der­ful mar­riage of flavours. The ac­com­pa­ny­ing brus­sel sprouts were crispy crunchy and made our English diner “feel all Christ­massy”.

It would’ve been re­miss not try the two desserts on the menu, shar­ing the Af­fogato and the sen­sa­tional Crepes Suzette, round­ing off a sen­sa­tional meal with a flour­ish.

The dessert plate clean, Jo­ce­lyn re­marked:”I can’t be­lieve I’m sit­ting in a suburban shop­ping cen­tre!” Sur­prise your­self with a re­mark­able meal at this small but per­fectly formed restau­rant.

The low­down: Ryan’s Gourmet Cafe Shop 27, Westleigh Shop­ping Vil­lage, Eu­ca­lyp­tus Drive, Westleigh. Un­li­censed. Opens for break­fast and lunch Tues­day to Satur­day, dinner Fri­day and Satur­day. 2 cour­ses $40 3 cour­ses $50 Tel: 9481 9072

Chef Ryan with the Crepes Suzette with or­anges

Roasted duck breast with puy lentils

Seared salmon leaf with leek floss

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