Like many clubs across NSW, the Canterbury-Hurlstone Park RSL has recently updated its conception of club dining. Their flash new modern Asian restaurant, Nu Bambu, has a Paul Kelly fit-out, and a top-notch chef at the helm, in Indonesian-born Freddie Salim (ex-Longrain).
They’ve moved to an online booking system, and point this out with considerable attitude if you happen to book by phone in the old-fashioned way. Despite this, the club check-in procedure is the same, drawn-out affair; particularly if you have to join up because you live elsewhere in the Inner West.
Service standards continue to lag behind the restaurant’s aspirations when we’re seated, fifteen minutes after our booking time due to the membership fiasco, and informed abruptly it will come off a surprise two-hour table cap. The night is rescued when our assigned waiter arranges to extend the time to ensure we aren't rushed. He is also able to comparatively discuss wines from the short but interesting wine list; clearly having been afforded the opportunity to taste them, including the unusual Japanese 2015 Gris De Koshu ($79) that we end up choosing.
The wine is well matched to the pan-Asian cuisine that flits between Indonesia, China, Thailand, Japan and Vietnam. There’s a faint bitterness to the koshu grape that keeps it interesting under a pear-like simplicity. There’s some grapefruit and minerality in the wine too, which goes gangbusters with Oysters ($16/4). Freshly shucked oysters in an RSL club… maybe there is hope for the world yet! The four small, Wallis Lake oysters are expertly handled with a genius combination of kombu (seaweed), white soy and lime that leaves a hole for you to really appreciate the bivalve’s fresh, estuarine flavour.
I nearly ordered another four immediately, but the arrival of our Beef Short Rib ($24) distracted me. Presented with sweet fish sauce and cucumber relish, the rib is insanely well rendered. It’s also sliced from the bone making for much easier eating than some of the other short ribs I’ve loved around town. Based on this dish and the oysters alone, I would return to Nu Bambu.
Before our entrée plates are cleared, our mains start arriving. Fearing R.S.L. blandness, we’d asked to eat the menu’s hottest dish – Yellow Spiced Chicken ($18). The pleasantly deboned fried Maryland pieces speak of turmeric and lemongrass. The fire is in the sambal goreng – a fried chilli paste - that is a real beauty. Slather it on your moist chook to suit your personal taste, and then pacify your mouth with cucumber and crackers.
Mussels and Pipis ($37) are served in combination with a light but pretty combination of Thai basil, julienne red chilli and crispy eschallot.
Their briny juices do well over flavoursome Indonesian Fried Rice ($15) dotted with lamb rump and garnished with pickled carrot, cabbage and cucumber.
None of the portions here are what I’d call big, so despite ordering multiple large dishes, we still have a hankering for more. Crispy Choux ($14/4) will finish you off, but lack nuance. The lychee lemongrass interior pleased me, while the lurid green pandan custard appealed to my dining companion. We munch them with the Mars Iwai ($9) - a Japanese whisky inspired by American whiskies. It has a huge bourbon nose and dark toffee flavours, making it a good dessert companion.
Sorbets ($12/3) are where the magic is. Made in-house, eating the pineapple and rum is like clear felling the forest in your stomach. It’s a sorbet Warhead that’ll aid digestion and have you wondering if you like pleasure or pain. Combine it with charcoal coconut to put your mouth back together, and it'll send you off into the night wondering if all RSL clubs now eat this well. (They don't.)
Canterbury-Hurlstone Park RSL,
20- 26 Canterbury Road, Hurlstone Park
Ph: (02) 9559 0088