“You’ve just ordered the two hardest drinks on the menu,” the bartender at The Foxtrot tells my dining companion. Sorry, not sorry, I’m having my Diced Diamonds ($19) anyway.
Leaving aside that it was on a page called the Ladies’ List, it’s a subtly serious drink blending house-infused pineapple tequila, lightly smoky Ilegal Mezcal Reposado, orange juice, lime juice, agave syrup and passionfruit pulp. Conforming to gender stereotypes, I like it better than Ray’s Remedy ($24) from the Gentleman's List, despite usually being a whisky cocktail fan. It’s basically Penicillin, made on Chivas 12-year-old Scotch whisky, lemon juice, ginger, honey and a Laphroaig float. I suspect my preference is because they promised me peat, and delivered me my Laphroaig "float" via a single spray from an atomiser.
These cocktails take so long our whole meal is sitting and waiting in the leafy, open-air loft before they’re ready. This could be remedied by delivering cocktails, but with less than forty people in the split-level bar, the staff informed us they don’t do table service when they’re busy.
Charles Curnow on the other hand, is clearly used to doing volume. He’s the ‘Madman’ behind Chef’s Kitchen; once a bricks and mortar shop in St Leonards; then a food truck that specialises in corporate catering to venues like building sites; and now suppling the bar food right here. Curnow is fine dining trained with time at Quay Grand, Prime in GPO, and Bathers Pavilion. It’s armed him with a make it in-house attitude, so you’ll find him mincing whole pieces of beef by hand for his patties; making his own sauces, including the Kansas and chipotle barbeque sauces, and smoking his own onions and brisket.
Obviously you don’t need to say smoked brisket to me twice. I order the Meaty Ménage ($16) that teams it with his house-made, seasoned beef patty, bacon, cheese and tangy mayo (to cut the fat) on a soft, golden milk bun. This burger is smoky, and the loosely minced patty has good char and a juicy centre.
I like it better than The Cali ($14), which by the time we get to it, it eats a bit wetly. I’m inclined to blame the bar though. The Cali is more your classic burger with gooey cheese, crisp lettuce, tomato, pickles and subtler burger mayo.
The BBQ Wings ($10), made by hot smoking chicken wings in medium spiced chipotle barbeque sauce, didn’t really rock my world. The spice was too subtle, the interiors too slimy, and the barely seasoned, crispy coating glued on with buttermilk rained off them as soon as I touched them.
The Loaded Fries ($15) on the other hand, were excellent. A generous serve of chunky, beer-battered chips arrive loaded up with super-smoky pork shoulder then slathered with Kansas barbeque sauce. They're lashed with liquid cheese and then sprinkled with enough scallions to justify saying you ate a vegetable. The chips hold up well under this onslaught, and I find myself hunting out more of the delicious smoked pig.
The loaded fries are actually the stars of my evening at this burger joint-come-cocktail bar (who don’t much like making difficult cocktails). Thanks to the Australian Good Food Guide for arranging my visit.
Chef's Kitchen at The Foxtrot
28 Falcon Street, Crows Nest
Ph: (02) 9437 9494