Four in Hand Hotel - Dining Room

Looking at the Four in Hand Hotel, you would never think twice that this is a fine dining establishment serving haute cuisine. Though unassuming in stature, the restaurant does have a Victorian old-world feel to it. Coupled with slow jazz music and this makes for a romantic getaway from the Sydney CBD.

Befitting of the setting is the staff, who are all professional and attentive to the guests. My glass of water was never empty no matter how many times I try emptying it.

Priming our degustation was the ambiguous Amuse Bouche. For the uninitiated, this is simply a starter that’s off the menu provided to you when you opt for the degustation. Drunk like a tea, it is gently sour and pleasantly sweet with undertones of fish like that of a tom yum soup. Interesting to say the least.

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Our entrée is the Tuna Sashimi with Lemon Curd, Cucumber Juice, & Sea Herbs. Conceptually, this sounds like a dream as the lemon curd should accentuate the sweetness of the tuna. Alas, the lemon curd overpowered the tuna leaving a bitter aftertaste. Oh how I wished the tuna was not the gelatinous, tough-to-cut piece that it was.

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Next up, the Pickled Mussels with Ham Broth and Prosciutto. The first spoonful was delightful since the pickled mussels danced with the prosciutto like it was a waltz with the broth serving as the music. Yet rather than fading out, it lingered in saltiness – an unpleasant ending.

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Approaching the mains was the Warm Corned beef with Bresaola, Buffalo Curd and Nashi Pear. Thankfully, the corned beef wasn’t as salty as ham broth. Like a doting parent, the nashi pear tempered the corned beef with its refreshing crunch with the bresaola serving as the photogenic friend and the buffalo curd as the inconspicuous but interesting friend. Finely balanced.

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The moment we’ve all been waiting for: Suckling pig with Crisp Tail, Parsnip and Sprouts. Making a grand entrance as a roasted pig’s head on a board, I found myself smiling with glee though some were shocked by the kitchen’s somewhat whimsical choice. As we gazed into the pig’s eyes, we found that we also had been served pork belly slices.  Though succulent, the flavorless pork belly left me desiring for something to bring it alive. The Brussels sprouts (a child’s nightmare) was dismembered into two or three leaves, allowing the bitterness to be a gentle complement to the rather plain pork belly. While the crisp tail was diced and served in a crumbed crucible resembling snout but overshadowed for it was crispy and plain. Fortunately my piece of pork belly was cooked well, but a closer look at the impaled pig shows there are some areas that are undercooked. Such a shame and a far cry from Porteño!

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As a side show folks, meet Mr. Mashed Potatoes the most savory mashed potatoes I’ve ever tasted. Mixed in the salted purée, the parsley and onions grants it an undying texture with subtle flavor. The mashed potatoes deserves to be dish in its own right for being this complex and a pleasure to eat. Yes, replace the tuna sashimi entrée with this!

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Finally, the Chocolate Malt for dessert. The chocolate malt was like a rich mousse intertwined with sugar crisps and what looked like half-sphered Malteser ice cream. There’s honey on the side that serves as an alternative to the mousse. Word to the wise: inhale through the nose as you eat this dessert since the chocolate powder can force an involuntary cough.

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Anyone who dines here has to admire Colin Fassnidge for his creativity and inventiveness. While his intricate presentation is at times theatrical, you would expect that some of these dishes would taste just as good. The thing is, like Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup paintings, as meaningful and interesting as they are, you wouldn’t go out of your way to buy a can and eat it willingly.

~ Jambon Cochon

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