After a year as Group Head Chef at Trippas White Group, Nick Whitehouse is using his restaurant business acumen to revolutionise the food offerings at The Epping Club. Though Whitehouse “hadn’t thought of cooking in a Club,” he tells me he took the job, “because their food vision aligned with the food I wanted to cook.”
The open kitchen at Rawsons is quietly humming with industry. Whitehouse is training his young team in core values, such as eliminating waste, which will no doubt serve them well in their future careers.
He transforms an oversupply of honeycomb into an intriguing honeycomb vinegar gel, slathered onto a plump, Cold Water Scallop ($13).
The scallop is seared to golden brown but sliced to reveal its barely cooked innards – it’s beautiful, outperforming Oysters ($16/6), which arrive without enough of their natural liquor.
Whitehouse is making everything in-house, starting with salt-flake crusted butter and the “Og” House Smoked Salmon ($16.90). The subtly smoked, dry cured fish is thinly sliced, then scattered with capers, dill and rye crumbs, against a dollop of sour cream cheese.
The bread is an import from Grain Organic Bakery in Rosebery - another nod to Whitehouse’s time with Trippas White. The bread is excellent, a simple pleasure, which encapsulates a lot of what Whitehouse seems to be about here: taking a few key ingredients and allowing them shine.
This philosophy is well illustrated by Whipped Goats Curd Ricotta ($14.90) painted onto stylish earthenware under a pretty panzanella salad of scorched tomatoes.
Scottish Cock-a-Leekie soup is the inspiration for a homey, skin-off, free-range Chicken Breast ($25) sitting on leek puree, with a clever prune garnish.
It’s simple yet well executed, and will likely have you reaching for compelling Triple Cooked Chips ($8) to scrape across your plate. I endorse this action – even in the restaurant’s fancy surrounds, which include offshoot dark wood private dining rooms with contemporary chandeliers.
And if the hunks of dry-aging beef loitering in the meat fridge at the entrance didn’t clue you in, beef is somewhat of a speciality here. Smoked on Australian red gum hardwood, the Smoked Wagyu Cap ($27.50) works nicely against sweet steamed onions with blow-torched edges.
Portion control – the key to profitability – is another Whitehouse strong suit, ensuring you're left eager to attack a Mango Soufflé ($12.90). Wobbling elegantly a good five centimetres from the ramekin, this textbook pudding delivers a lot of bang for your buck.
While the wine list was a little too pedestrian for my liking, it’s hard to complain when there’s Charles Heidsieck NV Champagne ($110/bottle) on hand. And truth be told, I’m probably not the average Epping Club diner, however after this meal, that could be something I remedy.
The Epping Club, 5 Rawson Street, Epping
Ph: (02) 9876 4357