Ester to me is that cool friend who sits on the peripheral of your friendship circle. You’re aware of her presence and you know she’s awesome but fate and busy schedules have conspired such that neither of you ever ended up having that brunch date. 2016 is all about doing the things you always say ‘you wish’ you could be doing, so a series of Whatsapp messages with Jeff and Sarah landed me a pre-birthday celebratory lunch with them. Mom and her childhood friend are in town so we squeeze more people in because more is always merrier when it comes to food.
I don’t often take interior shots because I get way too excited over the prospect of good food but here is one Jeff took. Ester is an absolute gem in the unassuming suburb of Chippendale. It’s a modest size all round, much larger than you falling off a milk crate stool in a small bar, much more intimate than the empty hallows of a strangers’ restaurant.
Two little plates of fried chickpeas are the complimentary nibbles to snack-on. I’m a breakfast kind of girl but in anticipation of this lunch, I’d pretty much starved myself all morning. Sorry to everyone for demolishing these almost completely on my own.
Jeff and Sarah like to joke about how I’m the baby of the group (by a fair number of years) yet we all still get along through a love for food and a penchant for never getting off Whatsapp. My guess as to why we’re pretty good friends is that they both embody similar traits to my mom who is pretty much my best friend. For one, Jeff and mom make fun of me over the same topics like my interest in video games, my default position of lying on the floor at home and my need to sleep by 9.30 pm every night. Sarah and mom on the other hand have similar tastes, they’re both in long-term relationships with carbs. This made ordering the bread and butter a no brainer for our table. It’s quite dark with springy innards and an almost burnt crust that might make it a bit too bitter for some people. But spread the butter generously over it and you’re good to go. You can watch the video below of Matt Lindsay making the bread on Foraged, cheers to Jeff for the tip.
First dish up is one that I’ve specifically asked for amidst the usual Asian pleasantries when it comes to ordering food (“Oh anything is fine”, “It’s up to you, I eat anything”). I can never pass up the opportunity for beef tartare and when Ester’s version turns up it’s not quite like anything I’ve ever seen. There’s a crust on it that I can’t identify and we’re all mostly confused until we cut right into it.
Thus revealing a creamy mess of diced up raw beef, herbs and the aforementioned condiments. It’s not particularly heavy but the sorrel leaves that accompany it definitely help to give it a cleaner taste. If you are so carb-inclined like Sarah and mum you can opt to put it on the super crispy chips instead.
Ester has a special that day that’s not on the menu which features squid, zucchini, some other vegetables I can’t remember and purple flowers. I love squid so I think I ate more of this compared to my other dining companions. I liked the slightly herby Thai-esque seasoning that went into this dish but mom found it a little too sweet.
The name ‘Ester’ is synonymous with bone marrow, one of its signature dishes. I haven’t had much bone marrow in the past and never really liked it for its gelatinous texture. Ester’s version keeps it a little interesting as the sambal breaks up the homogeneity while quite literally spicing it up too in terms of flavour. Spread it on the fantastic bread (these slices are also toasted) and you have one very happy Sarah. This was definitely one of my more positive experiences with marrow but I probably wouldn’t order it again, just a personal preference.
Refer to previous note about how much mom and Sarah love carbs. I’m not big on potatoes but these were exceptional. The cuts meant that the tips were super crispy. The duck fat definitely added a certain depth to what would’ve just been plain ol’ potatoes and whatever that cream it was that these potatoes sat on rounded this up to perfection. So far, Ester’s doing a pretty good job at getting me to eat types of food that I wouldn’t normally.
The centrepiece and one of our two main courses is the cauliflower. It’s hard to imagine a 100% vegetable dish being so amazing but I definitely spent most of my limited stomach space on this. The cauliflower head is packed full of flavour while the roasted almonds and almond sauce make each mouthful plenty moreish. Licking the plate was definitely something I considered doing. Jeff instead weirdly opts to see if the cauliflower’s leafy bits are edible and/or tasty. They are not.
The spatchcock tastes like chicken, uber succulent and juicy chicken that is. I also love the sauce and it definitely fits into my dreams of becoming a miniature so I can dive head first and swim in it.
No one at our table is particularly dessert inclined, myself included, but I am hard pressed to pass up the opportunity to try the burnt pav. This is my favourite between the two desserts and it’s hard to explain why I enjoyed a dish that was deliberately burnt. I typically find pavlovas a little bit cloying with sweetness from the cream and also from the meringue itself. This variation redeems that as the flavours are a bit more subdued. I also think the passionfruit cream really worked (although some at the table found it too sweet) and the smattering of elderflower (I think) really lifted it too.
In contrast, everyone else prefers the three milks. The “milks” in question being a cow’s milk pannacotta, sheep milk yogurt foam and goats milk dulce de leche.I did enjoy it although the crunch wasn’t ideal for me due to the presence of ginger. For some reason no one else could taste it until the very end when Sarah detected a mild hint.
Ester is pretty ace guys, if you didn’t get that from my really long review. I’m glad I finally got to hang out with this proverbial cool girl. On a personal note, I do apologise for the lack of posts lately. There’s definitely a lot in the pipeline that will be coming along soon.