About a kilometer from North Sydney station, on the leafier side of the business-hub suburb, is an old public house called The Union Hotel.
It’s nothing remarkable from the outside and upon entering it has all the warmth of a friendly local pub, with some quirky French touches decorating the place.
So walking upstairs I’m taken aback and convinced almost immediately that I’ve walked into North Sydney’s best kept secret: Uncorked Restaurant.
The ambiance is chic, elegant and a little bit sexy.
Rouge accents provide a Montmartre sultriness to an otherwise bright and modern restaurant. It’s obscenely quiet for a Friday lunchtime as we slide into white leather booths that have swing open arms on the outside (Ingenious!). Settling in with an angelically refreshing Pimms, I can’t help feeling that this is the perfect place for a long lunch.
The Gallic touches are no coincidence and Uncorked has a menu of modern French cuisine. The Blue Swimmer Crab and avocado on brioche is an artwork in its own right and, somehow, tastes even better than it looks.
Creamy, tender crab meat sits atop a slice of brioche both crisp and buttery at the same time. The secret though lies in the careful combination of everything on the plate, including a smear of red pepper coulis and an avocado mousse so diaphanous in texture it’s almost unrecognizable. I take one bite, lean back, and sigh with pleasure.
Bouillabaisse is rustic Provençal food at its best – fish soup, to be blunt about it. But well, this restaurant is sharp as a tack and its version is slicker than François Hollande in the French Presidential election.
In fact, like M. Hollande, it becomes a dish that is both confident and sophisticated despite its fairly rudimentary foundations. And it’s not at all austere. Scampi, scallops, prawns, vongole, mussels and snapper are allowed all their individual voices to sing against the harmonizing backdrop of bouillabaisse broth. The best seafood is prepared without excessive interference and this interpretation on the classic stew keeps all its pieces in a fine balance.
I must however, admit to experiencing pangs of food envy as I gaze across the table at a perfectly formed gruyere, chèvre and walnut soufflé. It floats there, beckoning, and when I decide to fork it and have a mouthful it’s like a cloud of creamy sin. The combined cheeses are rich and savoury.
That richness carries through into the dessert menu, where the theme is indulgence sans doute. After much serious consideration, the consensus is to “go out with a bang”, quite literally, on a chocolate torte that’s laced with popping candy. That’s not all though; it’s surrounded by a smattering of chocolate soil, a quenelle of ice cream and finally, a brown and gold iridescent chocolate and mandarin macaron.
It is supremely chocolate-y. Made for a chocoholic much more committed than I, the round of jaffa gave a necessary lift to the dish. In the other corner, Persian love cake with zabaglione ice cream is dense but not cloying or syrupy like you might expect. Make no mistake it’s a sweet dish, but judiciously so and all about nuttiness.
Relaxed yet sophisticated, Uncorked is a gorgeous restaurant hidden away from the usual business crowd and completely unexpected given its location. You wouldn’t guess it was there from its aging pub exterior. And boy, would you be wrong. The pub restaurant is making waves in Sydney these days, and for a business lunch north of the Bridge, or just something a bit special, it really is a corker.
The Union Hotel
271 Pacific Highway (Cnr West St)
North Sydney NSW, Australia
General Hotel Enquiries: +61 (0) 29955 5844
Uncorked Restaurant Booking: +61 (0)2 9955 6099
Le Bistro Bookings: (02) 9955 5844