A sudden shift in Sydney’s weather had us craving something hot before our last Sydney Festival show at the Magic Mirrors Spiegeltent in Hyde Park. Having eaten the Korean fried chicken at the famed NaruOne, I was keen to try the offerings at their rival – The Sparrow’s Mill – touted (by some) as being the best in Sydney.
This spot was the second restaurant for the team behind Red Pepper Bistro, located inside Strathfield Sports Club. It’s busy - even for a six o’clock sitting, on a night where torrential sheets of rain are blowing sideways down the street. Pretty much every table is adorned with a small mountain of fried chicken; and with twelve types on offer, your only real decision here should be which kind to sample first.
We decide to hedge our bets with two half serves – one dry and crisp, the other sticky and wet. First to arrive is Snow Cheese Chicken ($18/half). Bone-in chicken pieces are covered in a golden, crunchy batter that shatters upon impact, coating both you and the table, in a fine yellow dust of powdered cheese, parsley and onion. The nicely dry, oil-free exterior sits in direct contrast to the juicy chicken meat inside, rendered all the more flavoursome from having been cooked on the bone. The salty-sweet flavour is quite unique, and sits very well against chicken - it’s impossible to resist going in for a second helping.
Punctuating our pieces with pickled daikon (white radish) breaks, we dive into our second selection - Spicy Chilli Chicken ($18/half). Here the battered chicken has been adorned with a sticky, red chilli sauce that (surprisingly) doesn’t completely overwhelm the crispness. The pieces are intermingled with long, cylindrical rice cakes (tteok) that give your palate a chewy texture to explore. The chilli level is lively, but as the dish is counterbalanced with sweetness, we barely break a sweat.
Besides, we have bowls of Rice Wine Makkoli ($13) to put out any mouth fires. This milky, white fermented rice wine is wonderfully soothing, and at 5-6%, it has about the same alcohol by volume as beer. Do take care to check the expiry date before drinking your bottle though – we were burned here with a soured one that had expired three weeks earlier.
With many of the leaves in our Garden Salad ($8.00) having seen better days, I’d advise skipping this Western-inspired side in favour of some Korean ones. As well as dispensing plate after plate of fried chicken and bringing out your drinks, the busy wait staff plate up banchan (side dishes) from a bain-marie next to the counter where you place your order.
Expect all the usual favourites, from good kimchi to fish cakes and pickled radish. Sadly they don’t come free with the restaurant’s mainstay - fried chicken - but adding on one or two will only set you back a couple of bucks apiece.
The Sparrow's Mill
Shop 3, 116-120 Liverpool Street, Sydney
Ph: (02) 9264 7109