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Uncorked Restaurant

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by Sally Hammond

I knew that 'pub grub' was improving, but nothing could have prepared me for what awaited us at the top of the stairs which we entered from West Street, the side street for this corner hotel which has been a local landmark for many years.

There's no other word to describe the white and scarlet interior of this hotel restaurant, than dazzling. Appropriately named Uncorked, it was refurbed three years ago, but it could have been yesterday.

Better still, there are funky notes. White and padded booths along the side of the room have hinged ends which add even more privacy, while red glass screens and lamp shades add enough accent to create the effect.

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Picture a small wedding reception here - or at the other end of the scale, you could imagine that an Elvis impersonator in a trad white jumpsuit would blend right in!

However - we had been invited to dine, not collect home-decorating ideas, so we were most interested in what long-term Union Hotel chef David Little had in store for us.

An amuse-bouche of gruyere and cauliflower twice cooked souffle set the tone, its texture and flavour perfect for the chilly night we could see outside though our first floor window.

When the next small dish (Chef Little was allowing us to taste through some of his signature menu items) salt and pepper Berkshire crisp twice-cooked pork with a celeriac puree ($18), showed us that here was a chef that knew his stuff and cared deeply about sourcing top-quality products.

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Roast quail on a chickpea and pancetta ragout ($18) with calvados vinaigrette was a wakeup call for our tastebuds, putting them in good shape for the snapper fillet served on this occasion with eggplant, green olive and anchovy with a hint of chilli and, with a nod to new cuisine trends, a tomato and thyme. At $30 it was a steal.


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All entrees are $18 currently, with mains $30, and our main of meltingly tender Dutton Park duck breast with jerusalem artichoke, orange and carrot and a red wine jus proved again how sensationally priced this place is.

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The service is unobtrusive but helpful. For instance, our delightful waiter, when we ordered fries, gently suggested the crispy Desiree potatoes with parsley, nutmeg and chives ($6) might be even better. Great call! They were absolutely delicious and I'd eat here just for those alone.

We looked at the dessert menu ($12) planning to do only that, then somehow found ourselves unable to resist sharing the chocolate and hazelnut delice with salted caramel ice cream. As an almost-never orderer of desserts, it was a rare and wonderful (albeit calorific) indulgence.

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Uncorked Restaurant, insulated from the busy streets and hotel below, offers a leisurely dining experience. As our meal progressed, the room filled as people filtered up the stairs for dinner, bringing a steady hum of conversation and those satisfied dining noises that every restaurateur and chef loves to hear. 

Unsurprisingly, Uncorked Restaurant was name Best Restaurant in a Pub at the Restaurant & Catering NSW Awards For Excellence 2010. And in case you are wondering, the floor covering in this colourful place is, of course, rosy too. 

No surprise to us, really, as we already knew we'd had a red carpet experience.

Uncorked Restaurant, upstairs at The Union Hotel. 271 Pacific Hwy, (cnr West St), North Sydney, NSW (02) 9955 6099, Licensed, books essential. Open for lunch: Wednesday to Friday, dinner: Thursday to Saturday

 

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