UP­STAIRS DOWN­STAIRS

Does Ade­laide’s BISTRO BLACK­WOOD live up to the LOFTY ex­pec­ta­tions cre­ated by its OLDER SIB­LING? Fleur Bainger finds out.

Australian Traveller - - Weekends Reviews -

EX­PEC­TA­TIONS. WHETHER IT’S a break­out band putting out a fol­low-up al­bum, a best­selling au­thor re­leas­ing a new book or a stand­out chef open­ing a lo-fi ver­sion of their lauded restau­rant, hype al­ways ups the ante. I know this, yet I can’t help feel­ing star­ryeyed ex­cited about my book­ing at Bistro Black­wood. Rock star chef Jock Zon­frillo is be­hind it – he of Orana fame. That’s right, the chef deemed Aus­tralia’s hottest by The Week­end Aus­tralian Mag­a­zine, who runs Gourmet Trav­eller’s 2018 Restau­rant of the Year. No one ex­pected an Ade­laide fine diner to top the Aus­tralian culi­nary charts, es­pe­cially one cre­ated by a feisty, tat­tooed, swear-jar fill­ing Scot­tish-Ital­ian. But Zon­frillo’s pre­science with na­tive pro­duce and steely drive to de­fine true Aus­tralian cui­sine have drawn the na­tion’s ador­ing spot­light. En­ter his new baby, Bistro Black­wood. Open­ing last Sep­tem­ber di­rectly be­neath Orana, it fills the ground­floor space that Zon­frillo first called Street ADL and then Black­wood. The menu serves more af­ford­able Oz-fil­tered fare with the essence and flavour of Orana; clas­sics with Zon­frillo’s Aus­tralian bush twist. The bistro floor has had a light and bright do-over. It’s a haven of tan booths, pale pine and a white mar­ble bar wrapped in navy, with brass-pot­ted green­ery over­head. Out­side, smart Parisian wicker seat­ing lines the pave­ment. Seated there, I’m charmed by flaw­less ser­vice from a smartly dressed gent, who guides me to­wards cer­tain menu items over oth­ers. The sig­na­ture dish, steak tartare, is a sub­tle ride through na­tive flavour­ing. An Aus­tralian spice mix of wat­tle seeds, na­tive pep­pers and more fil­ters through raw meat that’s crowned with fer­mented gar­lic grass paste and sheep sor­rel leaves; smoky baba ganoush flavours per­me­ate. A side of salty, vine­gar-sprayed fries ex­hibit the fun that Zon­frillo and head chef Sam Christo­pher are go­ing for. Crisp prawn roti formed into a tower blends shat­ter­ing, thin flat­bread with – for $22 – a too-fru­gal lick of but­tery, pul­verised prawns. Ac­com­pa­ny­ing fer­mented chilli sauce takes up the slack, sear­ing with­out burn­ing the taste­buds and emit­ting earthy, ad­dic­tive In­dian curry tones. Mains ar­rive and the ser­vice evap­o­rates. Had our man re­turned to check, I’d have queried the medi­umwell done roo that’s lin­gered too long in the fire pit. Brown, chewy slices ben­e­fit from crunchy quinoa, but de­serve more spiced yo­ghurt dress­ing. The rec­om­mended shell­fish spaghetti with mar­ron sauce is re­ally just dressed up mari­nara with strong notes of ocean brine. Mus­sels and pip­pies are dom­i­nated by thick noo­dles that aren’t worth fin­ish­ing. Then, more fun: lamb hol­landaise sid­ing steamed broc­col­ini is like con­sum­ing liq­uid lamb, both sur­real and de­light­ful. With the wait staff MIA we even­tu­ally go in­side to ask for the bill – the sec­ond time as­sis­tance is sought. Dessert isn’t of­fered so we re­solve to find it else­where. I leave puz­zled. I’d ex­pected Orana-lite. Hints are there, but the ab­sence of wow fac­tor dis­ap­points. I read on­line re­views posted at the time of my visit and see a dip in favour, back­ing my hunch that some­thing’s off the boil. My ex­pe­ri­ence is hope­fully an anom­aly, but in a sec­tor where you’re only as good as your worst meal and your owner is rated best of the best, un­for­tu­nately there’s no room for stum­bles.

CLOCK­WISE FROM TOP LEFT: Bistro Black­wood is a light and bright space; Chef Jock Zon­frillo; A white mar­ble bar is wrapped in navy; The bistro’s sig­na­ture steak tartare dish with bush flavours like na­tive pep­per.

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