302 Crown Street
302 Crown Street. Is it Surry Hills? Is it Darlinghurst? Who knows? Who cares! All one needs to know is that this is the home of the wicked Low302. I confess, Low302 lives in my mind in glorious infamy – there may have been a period a couple of years back where every Friday night either began or ended in this fine establishment. It’s your birthday? We’ll go to Low. Exams have ended/begun/are halfway through? Low302 it is. Your colleague’s sister bought a hamster? Low302, hustle! It’s a trendy spot and you will no doubt see a few of those pesky celebs (or people who wish they were) in there from time to time, but don’t let that deter you. My first ever trip to Low saw me drinking on Daniel Johns’ tab all night after he overheard me utter a horrendous expletive, entirely unbefitting a lady. I occasionally run into him around Darlo and I’m still met with, “HEY! You’re that girl who said #$%! at Low302!” But I digress.
After chatting with friend and Low302 manager, David Hernandez, about their new chef and new direction as a restaurant as well as hot cocktail bar, I knew it was time to revisit this old favourite. Like a fine wine I was glad to see that it had matured well with age. The design and general ambience of the place was still as cool and inviting as ever, with lush leather, hardwood floors and glorious down lighting (a gal’s best friend after a long day). The bar is absolutely stocked with premium spirits and is so damn tempting it fills me with a combination of joy and fear. With a cheeky grin from the bartender, you know this place has mischief written all over it. And with a revolving door of great local live acts and hot DJ’s, chances are you’re going to hear some pretty bangin’ tunes, whichever night you decide to go.
After a tiresome day of being Becca, I decided to meet a dear friend of mine for a few drinks and a bite to eat a couple of weeks ago. The worries of the day were soon washed away with a Creole Gimlet ($16). The ‘Creole’ness was coming from the inclusion of falernum, which added this fabulous dimension of spice. Along with gin, lime juice and lime syrup I found it an interesting take on an old favourite of mine. If you’re feeling fruity give the Cuban Cooler ($18) a go. Served tall, it combines Havana rum, Lairds Applejack Brandy, pomegranate syrup, lime and soda. On a night that didn’t know if it was hot or cold, it made me sit back and dream of summer.
My partner in crime was sticking to beer and the selection at Low is certainly of note. A great mix of local and international, they have some truly fabulous ales on show. The Hitachino White Nest Ale ($12) from Japan is a serious favourite amongst my buddies. Plus there are a couple of great dark ales to tempt you if you’re that way inclined, including the White Rabbit ($8.50) and the Little Creatures Dreadnought Stout ($12.50). The wine list at Low has a bit more of a local feel, of particular note a few seriously impressive Pinot Noirs. If you can splash the cash pick up a bottle of the Hans Herzog ($80) – it may be a Marlborough wine, but it’s liquid gold… don’t tell the Kiwis I said that.
Octopus and Potato Carpaccio
With all these delicious beverages coursing through us, some food was definitely in order. Share plates are, yet again, the name of the game in this neck of the woods. I couldn’t go past the Octopus and Potato Carpaccio ($15), purely out of curiosity. Pressed octopus and just cooked potato are thinly sliced and dressed liberally with preserved lemon, herbs and olive oil – served up with toasted pumpkin bread. It’s a dish of strong flavours, that’s for sure and the crispy bread is essential from a textural standpoint. I thoroughly enjoyed it though, but I respect anyone that gets creative with a cephalopod.
Twice Cooked Tempura Chicken Wings
When it comes to fried chicken, my friends and I consider ourselves somewhat connoisseurs. In this area of the city alone you have a couple of hot contests for the best fried chicken – namely Kenji’s Fried Chicken at Izakaya Fujiyama and of course the delicious treats put forward by the crew at Gardel’s. I can, however, say that the Twice Cooked Tempura Chicken Wings ($11) at Low302 blew both out of the water. Served up with lashings of chipotle mayonnaise, these wings were moist on the inside and incredibly crisp and delicate on the out. Thank the good Lord above that we were served an even number – this dish could tear apart even the best of friends I suspect. Congrats Low302 – you have won the 2011 Surry Hills ‘Dirty Bird’ Award!
Smoked Chilli Crusted Seared Tuna with Tamarind Sauce
From the delicious gluttony of tempura chicken wings we moved on to the ethereal beauty of seared tuna. The highlight of the meal, Low302’s Smoked Chilli Crusted Seared Tuna with Tamarind Sauce ($15) has got to be reason enough alone to pop in for a meal. Seared to perfection, with a fantastic blush of red in the centre, the tuna is not at all lost against the sweet chilli smokiness of its crust. Paired with a zippy tamarind sauce, this plate was gobbled so quickly we contemplated ordering another straight away. Take my advice – do it. David personally recommended this one to us. What can I say? The boy has good taste.
Not being much of a dessert girl (I’m sweet enough… *boom tish*), it really wasn’t essential to finish our meal with a sweet treat. Not essential, but entirely welcomed! I was very keen to try the Low’s take on the Wagon Wheel – but alas it was not available that night. Must get back to try though – who doesn’t love Wagon Wheels? We eventually settled on the Chocolate Assiette. A combination of dark chocolate ganache, chocolate sorbet and a seriously wicked brownie this dessert is really one for the chocoholics. An incredibly rich thing though, the two of us struggled through it (but we are wimps).
What can I say? I was always going to feel at home in a bar where the motto is ‘Aim high, go low.’ I’m glad to see Low302 is still the welcoming, elegant but always-playful nightspot I remember it to be. Moreover though I was impressed: impressed at the quality little restaurant it’s become. Well done guys, you really are on to winner. A big thanks to David for having us in, gracias hermano! So if you’re looking for a new place to try head to 302 Crown St, Darlinghurst…. Or is it Surry Hills? Aaah hell. Just go.