The first time I ate at 4 Fourteen was when it just opened. I think it was the first week and I was there with dear friend GA. We sat up at the counter overlooking the open kitchen, Colin Fassnidge was right in front of us, and we had a marvellous meal - we ate until we were bursting and then merrily rolled (thankfully downhill) back to GA's place.
My second visit was just this weekend, a little more than a year later, and prompted by my mother in law (MIL) and her obsession with My Kitchen Rules. She's been in Australia for the past 6 weeks, and when MKR was still on TV, she watched it religiously. We had taken her to eat at Four in Hand on her previous visits to Sydney, and she continues to rate it as her best meal in Sydney, so for Mothers Day, K and I decided to take her to 4 Fourteen - Colin's other restaurant, and a place she had seen on TV as the MKR eliminated contestants battled it out to get back into the main game.
We arrived on the Saturday night for dinner, and the place was just as I remembered it - laid back, filled with happy chatty people, with service brisk and efficient. We gave the MIL carte blanche to order as she saw fit, and she opted for two main share plates rather than for an assortment of small ones: the roast pork and the ginger and liquorice beef brisket, with a side of orange and ginger carrots, served with a cumin and yoghurt dressing which we asked to be kept aside. It seemed that before we even blinked, the food was descending upon our table. Whilst I applaud the promptness of service, a part of me was also noting that clearly none of the dishes were made to order - perhaps plated to order, but not cooked to order.
The roast pork arrived first, and the beef brisket shortly thereafter. The pork was cut from the belly, with fatty strips about a centimetre thick under the crackling. They were served with smoked kipfler potatoes (I loved the smokiness!), stewed rhubarb and sauteed kale. I had high expectations for the roast pork, as it is my favourite dish from Four in Hand, and whilst this was good, it was not near the mind blowing experience that I had at Four in Hand. The pork was quite fatty, the crackling was not as crisp as I would have liked it to be, and as good as the smoked potatoes were... my heart yearned for the colcannon.
The ginger and liquorice beef brisket, served in a gorgeous heavy cast iron pot, was beautifully presented. Accompanying the incredibly tender brisket was fried bread and pickled vegetables - and it was a wonderful combination. I really enjoyed this dish, which surprised me as I'm not a huge red meat eater and I was also apprehensive about the liquorice, but the brisket was so soft and so tender and beautifully paired with the crisp and vinegary baby vegetables. And the fried bread. Oh my God, the fried bread. So damn good!
Our waitress had recommended the side of the orange and ginger carrots, which was served with a cumin and yoghurt dressing. We asked for the yoghurt to be served on the side as we were a little unsure as to the combination but we really shouldn't have doubted it - we were all spooning the yoghurt dressing all over our carrots, they really made the carrots a winner. K remarked "these don't taste like carrots as all!" as he was digging into them - and I agreed. They were roasted until soft, and they were so delicious that I would have been happy eating the entire serving by myself.
We didn't have dessert at 4 Fourteen, opting instead to walk 5 minutes down to Crown St to introduce my MIL to the joys of Messina. For K and I, we love Four in Hand so much that we still prefer that over 4 Fourteen, and for my MIL she thought the same - although I think she got a kick out of eating at a place that she had seen on TV!
Happy Mothers Day everyone, hope you all showed your love to the mum's around you!
414 Bourke Street, Surry Hills (entrance on Fitzroy St)