Extremely professional, clean, yet casual degustation.
MUST ORDER Wagyu; Mead vinegar custard
AMBIANCE Humble and sharp
WOULD I GO BACK? Definitely
Sixpenny is on an innocuous corner in Stanmore, with thin white curtains and minimal furnishings. The venue is about the size of a large living room, with an island of wines in the centre and oddly-spaced, some-round, some-square tables. The simple green colour scheme and wooden surfaces don’t distract from the food. There are no tablecloths. It’s the most unpretentious degustation fine-dining destination I’ve ever visited. This confidence is well-founded.
The soundtrack is gentle, modern and unrecognisable and the yellow tungsten lights brighten up the room for easy communication. It’s so quiet and simple that you can’t hope to dine unnoticed. And probably not unheard, either. The food is correspondingly contemporary, with nothing to make an unadventurous diner feel uncomfortable.
Service was incredible. The staff were efficient and friendly, without unnecessary chatter. I really like it when the actual chef who prepared the dish comes out from the kitchen to explain it and serve it to you. You get to meet quite a few chefs in the process, and they’re able to properly delineate the cooking process if you’re interested. Something I’d never been asked before, and have only been asked again at Vue de Monde and Cirrus, was whether I liked the pace of the meal. Obviously, the faster the better. But this is a further indication of customer care as well as humbleness. This was the most perfectly-timed degustation I’ve ever had.
I love the ceramic plates, splashed with a light grey glaze. I’ve noticed many restaurants are starting to realise the impressionability of nice plate. Some of my favourite plates are at Barangaroo House, Automata, Bart Jr., Ester and Momofuku Seiobo. Like Barangaroo House, Sixpenny is unapologetically Australian, with Australian flora in vases. It feels natural and casual.
I don’t tend to drink, but the wine list here was as thick as a novel, and everyone around me seemed to be enjoying it more than your average fine diner. A non-drinker on the table beside me orders an apple juice made from five different apples from the south of France, and I’m tempted to do the same.
The snacks were definitely highlights and were served without cutlery. I quite like how you’re expected to eat with your hands, because it forces the rookies to take in all the flavours in one bite–for maximum appreciation. A transparent cucumber with rose geranium snack tastes fresh and pickled, with an interesting pumpkin salt. I really loved the cheese and tomato gougere for its punchy chutney. You’ve sold me by starting off the evening with strong cheese.
I was served a bonus snack, prawn and warrigul greens quiche, because the chef was experimenting and considering serving this dish at a special upcoming women’s dinner event with Automata. The red and orange dust from sun-dried tomato paired beautifully with the greens and cheese in the quiche. The short crust is so light, and melts away in the mouth.
The pumpkin scallop is perfectly crispy, not oily, with an even batter. The snacks were all light and worked when eaten in the recommended order.
I love it when there are plenty of starters. After the snacks, I’m served ’round one’ of bread. It’s a house-made sourdough with marscapone butter. It smells incredible; it’s warm, thick, fresh, simple and bounces back up from your touch. The butter was so light, milky, and not too salty and rich. “This was really dangerous,” say the people beside me. You’ll certainly find yourself filling up on the bread, because there’s also Bread Round Two. It’s called yesterday’s sourdough, which is yesterday’s round one bread, re-baked with coffee beans which add a subtle coffee and nutty flavour. It’s chewy and warm…and there are crumbs of glory all over my table. They have one of those table/crumb brushes that most fancy restaurants are using these days to clean up my dignity.
The waiter told me to mix up my hand-picked Queensland mud crab with clam butter, shiso leaf and raw turnip, which I was hesitant to do because it looked so pretty. They certainly don’t skimp on the butter, and there’s a generous amount of crab.
Blood baked beetroot with venison tartare and hazelnut tastes as good as it looks. The toasted cream was beautiful, with crunch from the hazelnut, shaved hazelnut on top and chives and tarragon.
Rye poached potato with oyster and mushroom takes me back to my days on exchange in Germany eating raclette. The perfectly-poached, whole dutch cream potato is served with crispy kale cooked in butter and salt, and tastes like popcorn. It plays on the classic sour-cream-and-chives flavours, with a kombu twist. A zucchini flower is baked thinly with olive oil. I wasn’t as much of a fan of the raw mushroom stalks.
John Dory with rainbow chard and salted, lightly fermented red cabbage smells beautiful and flakes apart. The buttermilk and citrusy flavours make it so light. This is infinitely better than a similar dish I had at Est., where the John Dory was too buttery and dense.
After this course, the coolest unserrated knife arrives on my table with an ivory-coloured handle. I’m not sure if it’s the actual knife that’s exciting me, or the anticipation it creates for slicin’ up some juicy wagyu.
Ranger’s Valley chuck tail beef with mushroom and masala is mind blowing. It comes from cattle that is Black Angus cross Wagyu; David Blackmore; marble score five. The mushroom and masala jus is dark and so viscous it’s formed a skin (a good sign for me). The crust on the meat is smokey and peppery. It’s been properly ressted; not oozing blood and yet so pink. I used a spoon to scrape up every last drop. BEST RED MEAT DISH CONSUMED TO DATE. Only competes with Dinner By Heston’s beef slabs.
It was served with a generous salad in a separate bowl. I am wondering why I can smell the salad from the other side of my table, and discover it is the liberal sprinking of toasted bonito, which makes the leaves taste fishy/kelpy/seaweedy. I love the minimal use of oil in the salad, which makes it the light accompaniment you’re after.
Mead vinegar custard with frozen raspberry and strawberry consommé is a stellar dessert. Sixpenny make their own mead. It takes ten weeks to turn the honey into wine using natural culture. Every single little raspberry drupelet has been picked apart by a chef. Unthinkable. It’s not too sweet, which is a huge plus. I’m told the only use of sugar is icing sugar in the syrup. The fact that the raspberry was freeze-dried didn’t turn the dessert into something icy and watery, but rather was a welcome, cooling element. You can see the little vanilla flecks from vanilla bean in the custard.
Overall, I liked the fact that all the dishes were hardly sweet at all, but none of them had spicy or sour elements. Apart from the crab dish, none of the dishes were quite rich enough for me. Even the wagyu felt clean.
Sixpenny is the HQ of subtly.
Visit date: 8th February 2018
Sixpenny only offers a set menu of either six ($125) or eight courses ($155).
Sixpenny is located at 83 Percival Road, Stanmore.