Tuesday, 26 September 2006

a stallion of a meal at pony

Pony Lounge & Dining
The Rocks Centre
Corner of Argyle Street and Kendall Lane, The Rocks
Chef: Damian Heads

I was meeting Jonas after work so we could check out the section of the Botanical Gardens that we’d booked for our wedding ceremony. A slight detour to the pub ended all of that and since Nicki lived across the street we roped her into our mischief also.

This impromptu drink turned into an impromptu dinner and the three of us went in search of an interesting dinner venue.

Then we remembered Pony! Nicki had passed by when she walked to work and I had read press releases and snippets from Gourmet Traveller and the Sydney Morning Herald.

I was impressed that after being open for such a short time, Pony was already serving up some pretty good food. I guess that’s down to chef Damian Heads who was the 2003 winner of the Josephine Pignolet Award – ‘Young Chef of the Year’ as well as a regular on Ready Steady Cook at Channel 10.

Since it was still dewy-new no one had found the sparse outside deck with a great view of the street and a cosy position under the heaters. A long communal table dominated the space, but we chose a smaller table closer to the street.

The interior was like a space ship kitted out in western gear – shining metal surfaces and organic egg shaped light fittings alongside marbled brown and white cow hides and exposed dark wood beams.

Our waitress (Sheryn?) was fantastic and built a rapport with us immediately. It was a shame that another waitress - who seemed to be the floor manager - was significantly less genuine and bordered on rude. Our lovely waitress made up for it though!

A complimentary bowl of tiny Ligurian olives whet our appetites and so Nicki and I decided to order some small plates for entrées.

Butterflied sardines ($8.50) came with crispy breadcrumb, parsley and pine nut tops. The fish was wonderfully oily and rich and matched the herby breadcrumbs well.

Seared sirloin slices ($12.30) were wonderfully rare and topped with a tangy dressing of soy, lime, chilli and ginger. It was an attractive dish with an invigorating flavour.

For main there wasn’t too much choice for our vegetarian, so Jonas settled on the bintje potato gnocchi with gorgonzola and spinach ($24). He commented that the gorgonzola wasn’t as strong as he would have liked but that the texture and flavour of the gnocchi made from bintje potatoes was exceptionally good.

Nicki’s ocean trout ($28) looked exquisite, served with fennel, Jerusalem artichoke, blood orange slices and garlic mayonnaise. She was pleased with the overall flavour composition, but it was disappointing that a significant portion of her fish was raw (no, not rare, raw). This was only one half of the trout so we suspect it wasn’t the chef’s intention.

My lamb cutlets ($31) were also close to undercooked, but I was happy with the flavours in the parmesan crumbing. Three cutlets to one serve was generous and I couldn’t finish one of them. The roasted baby carrots and caramelised shallots matched the lamb perfectly and I was quite impressed with the overall dish.

A 2004 Chard Farm Rabbit Ranch Pinot Noir from Central Otago, New Zealand ($56) was a satisfying drop with light cherry and herbal elements, even if it didn’t really match the dishes we ate (another case of Jonas’ powerful addition to pinot noir).

I finished the meal with a fruit trifle ($12). A compote of rhubarb, raspberries and strawberries were layer with cream, jelly and a little sponge cake to make a fruity, but rich finale.

We enjoyed a fantastic spontaneous dinner and went home happy and very, very full.

Located smack band in tourist central, my only hope is that Pony doesn’t fall into the trap of its neighbours by dumming down the menu to feed bored tourists. Stick to your guns Pony!



  1. "My name is Jonas" by Weezer is a great song :D

  2. you liked the rabbit ranch? even jonas?
    i thought it was shithouse!!
    very, very light body and too sweet, almost a (bad) rose i felt. and $56 is a bit steep, even otto don't have the temerity to charge that much (and if any restaurant knows mark ups, its otto.) Chard Farm generally make some great pinot but this second label doesn't do them justice

  3. if i recall correctly, yes i did like the rabbit ranch. and i liked it exactly because it was very light. an easy drink.

    but thanks for sharing fabio.

  4. heh. thats not pinot for me. i prefer a burgundian style, eathier flavours. i'm surprised though, that you should warn a restaurant against dumbing down their food and then espouse the virtues of a travesty of a wine such as the rabbit ranch. actually dissapointed is the word i'm searching for.

    if this sounds harsh its probably cause its 2 in the morning an i've been dealing with idiots who swill sauvignon blanc alongside a well done wagyu with bernaise all night. i'm jaded. and i've decided to take it out on YOU!!!

    Cotes du rhone. thats my thing right now. if you come to bodega with me i'll bring a nice bottle or two for you to try.

  5. oh fabio. old and cranky before your time.

  6. wheresmymind - my own jonas likes the weezer song too.


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