A sensitive refit of the Kings Cross Hotel sees the building restored to its former glory, sans the green paint. Experience the sexy rooftop bar, loads of diverse outdoor (smoking) areas and watch the world go by on the great wind-protected balcony with a commanding vista (including a peek into the Fitness First aerobics classes across the road).
There are even two very cute Juliet balconies that you could enjoy a romantic meal on, and if either of you is a smoker, you could smoke during the meal if you are so inclined. In fact, this whole hotel has been very sensitively designed for smokers, with a large number of pleasant outdoor spaces.
Coffin Bay Oysters ($3.50/each) are always a good start to any meal. The oyster season is of course ending, but we're sucking the last drops out of it with pleasure. Plus oysters have become (like duck) a bit of a benchmark - they're an easy dish to have across many restaurants, and it's easy to separate the good ones from the poor ones. These oysters definitely lie on the side of good.
Head Chef James Yu (who has been with the group for ten years) leads an effective kitchen which manages dining throughout the hotel. It’s gastro-pub fare with fine dining touches like a pleasant amuse-bouche of Potato, Leek and Truffle Oil Soup.
Most entrees are easily shared, including the Seared Sea Scallops ($16), innovatively served with baby turnips and pork belly. The turnips mimic the unctuous texture of the scallops and prove a very good match. These entrees are part of a tapas menu served in the rooftop bar.
Even better is the moist, flavoursome Crispy Skinned Duck Breast ($16) which is served on little mounds of braised red cabbage, with a dollup of apple and date sauce and a walnut on top. My dining companion is not enamoured with the walnut, but I like the way it adds an element of crunch, and I think the flavour profiles of each element in the dish match.
We pause between the entrees and mains for a look at the view in the setting sun (for me) and a cigarette for my companion. In the photo on the left hand side above, you can see the welcome wind break of a thick, transparent wall. It's on the other side of that wall that smokers can relax and enjoy a cigarette. On the right hand photo above you can make out the small Juliet balcony table for two - look for the arch on the right hand side of the photo.
Our sojourn is interrupted by a bonus course. I am not exactly sure why this course is presented between the entrees and mains, but the small plate of Cucumber Wrapped Goats Cheese is quite nice, and it adds to the sense of bang for your hard-earned buck.
My pick of the mains is the 250g Roasted Grain Fed Beef Eye Fillet ($32) perched on a bed of truffled Paris mash with forest mushrooms - notable mostly for the good quality beef, the mash wasn't bad either.
We also tried the Herb Crusted Lamb Tenderloin ($26) which was well-cooked and tasty. The splashes are a balsamic reduction, and the mound is a roasted baby eggplant and chickpea salad topped with a spring onion chutney - both were great.
A Pumpkin and Wild Rocket Salad ($12) with Gippsland Blue Cheese and Fuji apple is also memorable. I would have preferred the cheese crumbled myself, but perhaps I am a just being a lazy sod? This combination shows off what I think is a feature of this restaurant - the chef is not bound by tradition on his dish combinations, showing a flare for slightly unusual ones.
Another pause for nicotine for my companion leaves me again transfixed with the view. Night as fallen, so the icon Coke sign is at its dazzling best. With my final glass of 2007 Pipers Brook Gewurztraminer ($49) from Tasmania nearing an end, my thoughts turn to dessert.
Milky Bar fans will adore the White Chocolate Panna Cotta ($12), which was my dining companion's soothing choice.
I was actually quite full, so I opted for what I thought would be small and soothing - the Green Tea Ice Cream ($12). It turns out to be a rather large three scoop serve, and on the evening I dined it had more tannins than a Cabernet Sauvignon, so it was not quite the soothing dish I had imagined. Each scoop is served on a nice almond meringue, with a topping of coconut milk foam.
After our meal we were taken on a tour of the rest of the hotel, including the lovely rooftop bar and the super sexy Crown Room. The Crown Room is the old lift engine room from back in the day where lift engines took up a whole room. It is perched on the top of the hotel with windows on every side, providing the most stunning 360 degree view. You could fit twenty people up there for a private function - it even has its own beer taps! The gorgeous light pictured above is in the Crown Room, and it's certainly a space that I'm going to keep in mind myself should I feel like an intimate party some time in the future.
First Floor, Kings Cross Hotel,
248 William Street, Kings Cross
Ph: (02) 9331 9900