Part of my foodie crew (featuring AKB, IB, JG, MB and the notorious G) and I headed over to Ester Restaurant in Chippendale, back when chilly nights out were still the norm. Ester is opened by the friendly people that brought you Vini, Berta and 121BC but while it is part of that family, the one thing that makes Ester special is the wood-fired oven… see below for some awesome things you didn’t think could come out of an oven.
While perusing the menu and waiting for the rest of the gang to arrive, we were served some super tasty, crispy chickpeas lightly garnished with salt and rosemary. New alternative to potato chips?! The menu is divided into several sections which give you an indicator of expected size of the dish as well as how it may be cooked. Of the ‘Snacks’ I had to get some of the Blood Sausage Sandwiches ($6 each) not because I was a huge fan of blood sausage, but I had heard amazing things and that it was almost like a version of David Chang’s eponymous pork bun. I think once you get over the fact it’s blood sausage you can really start to enjoy it. The sauce was amazing too, definitely could’ve done with a few extra although the price seems rather hefty at $6 per piece…
We also chose the Carrot, parmesan, sesame ($12) off the ‘Snacks’ menu – they look like they’ve been in the oven , don’t they! They tasted wholesome – there’s something about eating carrots with the leafy bits still attached. While I wasn’t sure about the sesame addition, the parmesan (in the form of a thick dip) was well received.
Moving on to the ‘Small Plates’ section of the menu, one of the things that immediately caught our eye was the Blue Swimmer Crab, salt and pepper ($24). It kind of didn’t register to me that we were ordering a whole crab, and I sort of expected it to come out soft-shell crab style – all nicely broken up and ready to eat. Instead we were presented with the whole thing – eyes included! This reminded me of eating mud crab at Chinese restaurants and once we were supplied with the adequate utensils we got digging. In this case, you’re really taking ‘work for your food’ literally – but it makes every mouthful that you do manage to squeeze out of those spindly legs even more rewarding. It tasted amazing, but perhaps avoid it if you get frustrated when taking your food apart with your hands.
The second dish we ordered from the ‘Small Plates’ section was the Duck, pear, enoki ($19). I remember thinking – the duck and pear are great, but where is the enoki?! Very nice, light dish, and the duck wasn’t overcooked. The pear lends a sweeter taste to the whole dish and it was a nice change from the usual duck+orange combination we see quite often.
Onto the ‘Woodfired’ section! After my forage into cauliflower at Hartsyard, and the fact that I think I had heard great things about the cauliflower at Ester (although I may have made that bit up in my head), I was determined to get the Cauliflower, almond, mint ($14). Cauliflower (any vegetable really) with nuts always ticks the box for me, and this certainly didn’t disappoint. I like that some of the cauliflower was really quite charred – it shows there was some good work done with that oven.
The ‘Woodfired’ section of the menu also houses the larger dishes on the menu. We ordered the Lamb, yoghurt, coriander ($32) (tender and tasty as you’d expect) and the Chicken, lemon, garlic ($26) so the boys had something to fill up their stomachs as well! I was particularly impressed with the Chicken – sometimes I think it’s so hard to get chicken right, as the meat gets tough, but I guess the woodfired oven did a great job here!
The only disappointing thing about our experience at Ester was the seating times. I’ve never really been the person to complain about that – I understand that a restaurant wants to be able to sell a table twice a night. However, at Ester we were really caught out. We had a 6:30pm booking which we had to vacate by 8:30pm, but dining in a group means inevitably some people will be late and we don’t place our orders on time. Suddenly a waitress informed us our time was nearly up at 8:15pm – we didn’t even have a chance to order or even look at dessert! I think that was a real shame, and in the end we all felt like we were rushed out the door in an almost impolite way. It’s hard to get seating times right as well; 6:30pm seems a bit too early for those who may only finish work at 6pm, and then again 8:30pm seems too late for those of us who have work early the next morning…it really is a tough one for restaurants. But I would really like to check out Ester (and its desserts!) again – perhaps going as a pair will work out better.
46-52 Meagher Street
Chippendale NSW 2008