Saturday, March 10, 2012
Spencer Guthrie, Newtown
If you're in Newtown and have Thai restaurant overload, new fine-diner Spencer Guthrie is a brilliant option. In fact, the site for Troy Spencer and Oliver Guthrie's new venture actually had a former life serving wokfuls of pad thai, but the owners have reworked it into a smart, understated 30-seater, with bentwood chairs, exposed walls and lovely pressed-tin panelling. Chefs Spencer and Guthrie met at La Sala six years ago; Spencer wound up at French bistro L'Etoile, Guthrie at Italian landmark Lucio's and now they're in a kitchen that's lettersealed in their own name. Ethics and sustainability shape the contemporary menu, while still giving flavour a lot of mileage.
After enjoying slices of house bread – baked with the zip of thyme and pepper – you might pick dishes such as Charred Squid with Smoked Tomatoes, Chilli and Puffed Rice ($20) or Pork Belly with with Caramelised Peaches ($30). I particularly liked the beetroot entree, with red and golden varieties overlapping on a creamy, nutty cloud of goat's cheese and walnuts. A dash of horseradish adds a spiky, wildcard element to it all. The Grilled Eggplant, Romano Pepper & Quinoa ($27) has a lot of firepower – perhaps too much, as the peppers end up stealing top-billing attention away from the lovely, cooked-to-collapse eggplant. Dessert is an indecision-triggering affair (Hazelnut Cheesecake, Salted Caramel & Almond Sorbet or Chocolate Tart with Buttermilk Ice-Cream?), but the "what to choose?" dilemma is just the long-haul route to finally getting the Orange-scented Ricotta Cake ($15), a thin, light sweet given some savoury back-up with olive oil and thyme ice-cream (which may sound oddball, but it actually has a whistle-clean taste and a gentle, just-there punch) and a tropical medley of cubed mango and passionfruit. It's excellent and doesn't make you mourn the reduced access to green curry or pad thai at all. In a postcode full of so-so cafes and Thai overkill, Spencer Guthrie is a welcome new fixture. It slots in nicely between the more casual Bloodwood across the street and degustation-only Oscillate Wildly around the corner – and is fully its own character. Introduce yourself, it's worth it.
Spencer Guthrie, 399 King Street, Newtown NSW (02) 8068 1080, www.spencerguthrie.com. You can also follow Spencer Guthrie on Facebook.