When an estimated 17% of Australian women (1.6 million) report experiencing domestic violence at the hands of their intimate partner*, you’d expect adequate Government funding to address this issue would be a given. Yet despite much rhetoric from this Liberal Government, there are constant threats to cut funding to this already overstretched sector. YWCA NSW doesn’t want to watch their vital programs and services that support women and children experiencing domestic violence to fall over at the whim of changing Government priorities. So, since 1984, they’ve run a ‘profit for purpose’ fundraising model with their Y Hotels in Sydney, where the profits they make from these ventures go directly into programs and services.
In 2016 the YWCA NSW rebranded their Hyde Park hotel as the Song Hotel, and last February they renovated its food offering. What I’m about to describe is a restaurant experience that comes with a feel-good factor, where we, as diners, are able to address some of the failings of our Government simply by eating out…
Song Kitchen represents a total transformation of the hotel’s former cafeteria-style eatery, into a stylish bar and dining room.
The upstairs bar makes the most of the available natural light, while the sunken dining room creates intimacy while still retaining height and a sense of spaciousness.
While there is interconnection with the Song Hotel, the separate entrance and quirky architecture ensures you don’t feel like you’re dining in a hotel lobby.
Since we’re drinking to combat domestic violence, it should be easy to justify a pre-dinner cocktail. The Mariachi Margarita ($18) answers the call admirably, with a well-balanced blend of Epsolon Blanco Tequila, muddled green chilli, lime and agave syrup served with a salt rim. It’s spicy without becoming ballistic. Their Jazz Sazerac ($18), based on Bulleit Rye, is a particularly smooth rendition of this robust, absinthe-spiked drink.
In the kitchen you’ll find Charlotte Gonzales, who honed her solid French bistro technique in Merivale’s Fred’s. The menu she has created keeps Song Kitchen’s role as a hotel restaurant in mind. It's full of likeable, accessible dishes like Grilled King Prawns ($22). Plated simply, the trio of charred crustaceans are garnished with romesco salsa, a smoky, garlicky red capsicum sauce with a hint of chilli, a drizzle of olive oil and a squeeze of fresh lime.
The Kingfish Ceviche ($19) is more about showcasing texture than look. The diced kingfish retains a toothsome bite against tart finger lime, crisp radishes, and popping grains.
The wine list also stays faithful to the YWCA’s core values, with the products of female winemakers and estate owners making up half the list. With Corn Fed Chicken Breast ($32) next on my dining agenda, I chose Damien North’s 2015 Journey Wines Chardonnay ($12.50/glass, $29.50/half bottle, $59/bottle). It’s tight, citrusy and austere with a whisker of cashew nut creaminess.
The wine opens up slightly when my simple, accessible chicken dish lands. It's comfort personified with silky mash, crisp broccolini and a savoury jus gras that to my mind could be reduced fractionally to give it a less watery, more gelatinous pan juices type of mouth-feel.
My dining companion hits up a 2015 Calabria Vermentino ($8.50/glass, $19/half bottle, $38/bottle) from Griffith NSW against a classic 250g Grain Fed Scotch Fillet ($35) and chips. The lemon and petrochemical notes in the wine aren’t quite my cup of tea, but they do cut the fat on this rich sliced steak and creamy Bearnaise combination. The steak is tender, and the shoestring fries are compellingly crisp and oil free.
We wind up our night with a Crepes Suzette ($14) that makes me wonder why it was that this classic dessert ever fell out of favour? With folded, caramelised crepes, a juicy orange caramel and a sphere of vanilla ice cream flecked with Madagascan vanilla, it’s an easy, well-executed win.
When teamed with the exceptional and informative service of Manager Melanie Bolton, Song Kitchen is a credible restaurant with a big purpose that deserves to be taken seriously.
5/11 Wentworth Avenue, Sydney
Ph: (02) 9285 6244