You met him at Pony Dining, but now Chef Damian Heads is riding his own horse. Taking over the Neutral Bay Pony outpost, he’s created his own remarkably unpretentious bistro, despite the fancy Matthew Darwon fit-out featuring five kilometres of wood! Actually Darwon’s simple organic shapes and materials suit Damien’s cooking style, which – while reminiscent of home cooking – takes it to a level you couldn’t achieve without the intense heat of a woodfire grill utilising slow-burning charcoal and iron bark timber. Grilled Haloumi with Smoked Tomato Relish ($15.50) illustrates my point admirably, presented simply but delivering a unique smoky aroma. It even outshines his Grass Fed Dry Aged Sirloin on the Bone ($38/350g). On the floor, the personable and warm Laura Simmons knows her way around his menu, matching a pretty Seared Scallop Salad ($22) to my Blood Orange Margarita ($15). The focus upon everyday dining continues into a Lamb Backstrap ($34) presented on smoky eggplant with quinoa, tomato and herb salad; plus sides that include Mash ($6) that’s ninety percent potato (practically a restaurant miracle)! Crunchy Steamed Greens with Almond Butter ($8) will set off your steak, and if you throw in a jammy Woodstock Octogenarian Grenache ($46/bottle) you might start wishing you were a Louvre apartment complex local.
Woodland Kitchen and Bar
2/19-25 Grosvenor Street, Neutral Bay
Ph: (02) 9904 3400 woodlandkitchen.com.au
Modern Australian, Wine $$$-$$$$