At­ten­tion to de­tail from whoa to go

Weekend Herald - Canvas - - CONTENTS - Kim Knight

Wil­liams Eatery; Two gris and a noir

There is no art on the walls at Wil­liams Eatery. Be­cause have you been to Wyn­yard Quar­ter on the week­ends? Hec­tic. Heav­ing. Border­line bloody hys­ter­i­cal if you are try­ing to find a car park.

“We wanted to cre­ate a haven,” said our wait­per­son.

Grey con­crete and warm paint. Blond oak ta­bles and smoky gold lights. And breeeeathe — some­one will be right along with some­thing de­li­cious.

Tech­ni­cally, Wil­liams Eatery is in Wyn­yard Cen­tral (not Quar­ter), which lit­er­ally sets it apart from the wood-fired and deep-fried main drag. It opened as a day­time cafe ear­lier this year and had only been do­ing din­ner for two weeks when

Can­vas stopped by. We quib­bled over the de­sign aes­thetic. “Min­i­mal­ist,” said James. But fea­ture writ­ers never use one word when two will do. “Monas­tic luxe,” I said, feel­ing even more jus­ti­fied when I googled “goma dofu”.

In Ja­pan, this set sesame cus­tard is ap­par­ently very pop­u­lar with Bud­dhist monks.

At Wil­liams, it has been com­bined with mush­rooms to cre­ate a $22 flavour ex­plo­sion - raw, cooked and slightly pick­led funghi sit in a light kombu and dashi broth; strips of tem­pura nori pro­vide crunch and (bizarrely and won­der­fully) an oys­ter­like af­ter taste. I didn’t even no­tice it was dairy and gluten-free.

If you are none of the above, def­i­nitely order the bread ($8). The house-made sour­dough is not as tangy as some and, a per­versely good sign, I bruised a gum on the crust. Salve that (al­most) wound with an ex­tra swipe of car­away-in­fused whipped but­ter.

Of course they have dumplings, but you’re not on Do­min­ion Rd now. This $18 dish is from the meat-stuffed school of East­ern Euro­pean cook­ery. The shred­ded lamb fill­ing was al­most too sweet for me — bal­ance it with ev­ery last mouth­ful of a creamy feta and dill ac­com­pa­ni­ment. To be hon­est, there are worse ways to spend an af­ter-work Wed­nes­day.

A word here about the wait staff. If you ask these guys where they get their car­rots from, they’ll prob­a­bly give you the GPS co-or­di­nates. Prove­nance matters and, on this menu, they credit ev­ery­one from the ce­ram­i­cists (Fiona Mackay and Hay­ley Bridg­ford) to the cof­fee roast­ers (Flight). I did ac­tu­ally order the miso car­rot main ($21). The vege were pur­ple and, on a scale of cooked to raw, erred to­wards the lat­ter. You don’t nec­es­sar­ily want your car­rot to cut like it has been boil­ing since the 1950s but you do want to be able to cut it. A minute longer, and this dish — adorned with macadamia “cream” and crack-your-teeth-caramelised buck­wheat — might have been sub­lime. It’s a brave new plant-based world out there, but the best places aren’t ram­ming this down your throat. Wil­liams Eatery segues from cas­sava chips and a jerusalem ar­ti­choke gnoc­chi to dishes built ex­clu­sively for car­ni­vores. The slow-cooked lamb shoul­der ($30) melted into a sharp-smoky harissa and yoghurt base and came with a slab of roasted cau­li­flower al­most big enough to earn a menu head­ing of its own. There is a thought­ful­ness about this place that ex­tends be­yond those calm, grey walls. The food is in­ter­est­ing, and the staff are in­ter­ested. We felt wel­comed, val­ued and we were def­i­nitely stay­ing for dessert and cheese, which was the same thing. Cheese sor­bet ($12) was not too sweet and not too savoury. It was a pud­ding to be eaten with mind­ful calm; a med­i­ta­tion on gus­ta­tory bal­ance. The walls at Wil­liams Eatery are art­less — the food is any­thing but.

Wil­liams Eatery 03/85 Daldy St, Wyn­yard Quar­ter Ph: (09) 373 3906 We spent $187 for two. Rat­ing: 17 — Great. Out­stand­ing (19-20), great (16-18), good (13-15), dis­ap­point­ing (the rest).

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