Some men are born to break rules. They challenge society and make us question how we see the world. Mandela, Ghandi, Muhammad Ali, Dali Lama, even Robin Hood have all gone down in history as famous ‘rule-breakers’. I know you’re thinking, “Surely she’s not going to compare a chef with the likes of Ghandi”! In my world food trumps politics and it is my religion so yeah, I guess I am.
Some worship historical monuments, others your local Paddington pub. It is here at the Four In Hand on a Thursday night that Secret Foodies takes place upstairs in the private dining room. In the kitchen, Irish born Colin Fassnidge leads a team of merry men (and women) not in green tights but a ponytail and butcher stripe apron. This foodie crusader goes against the mainstream serving food he wants to eat rather than what’s expected. Thankfully, slow roasting, organic produce, wholesome traditional concepts with a modern flare is also what we want to eat.
Seeking refuge from the winter chill guests peel off layers in the warm and cosy dining space. Two cocktails are on offer to start the evening. The June Fizz, a mixture of pineapple juice, crème de fraise and sparkling wine, garnished with pineapple and the Bitter Sweet Fizz, sugar cube soaked in bitters topped with sparkling.
We take our seats and Iggy’s bread is placed on the white tablecloths. All food is made on site except the bread. Why? “Because Iggy’s is the best in Sydney” states Fassnidge and no one is about to argue that point.
To wet our appetites the kitchen sends up Amuse Bouche with Fish, Citrus and Basil Soup. It’s their way of teasing our taste buds, getting them excited for what’s to come.
As we experienced with Matt Kemp from Restaurant Balzac and our Lamb-A-Thon experience, Fassnidge too is an advocate for sustainable produce, locally sourced ingredients and experimenting with different cuts. For entrée we are served Braised Pigs Tail with Sweet Corn and Crab Salad with Lobster and Ginger Chowder. The pig’s tail is so soft you can cut it with a spoon and the lobster chowder is amazing. This could easily satisfy me as a main. For those non-pig eaters there is a perfect duck terrine on offer. Both dishes are matched with a glass of Atlas Riesling from the Clare Valley.
I would have been disappointed had we not had some form of head to toe for our mains. When my favourite, lamb head to toe is presented I’m not the only one excited. That excitement doubles when thick wooden boards are laid on the table with 12 hour braised Lamb Shoulder with heirloom Carrots, pickled baby artichokes that pop with cinnamon flavour in your mouth. The Voodoo Cabernet Sauvignon from the Barossa Valley is a great compliment, not too heavy but an equal match for the richness of the meat.
Dessert arrives and I watch as serious concern sweeps across the faces of most men in the room. Helplessly they sit and witness expressions of absolute pleasure they’ll struggle to replicate with women ever again. The 4’s chocolate snickers could have caused uproar and a group of angry men storming the kitchen in a jealous rage had they not tasted it for themselves. With caramelised peanuts, tiny cubes of fudge, a soft, light and fluffy chocolate mousse with paper-thin crisps of chocolate on top you’ll never look at a snickers bar the same way. A glass of Grand Maison Monbazillac from Monbaz was served to match. Unlike a bad New Years Eve, on this special occasion everyone was going home satisfied tonight.
We are on to a winner at the Four In Hand. Fassnidge did his apprenticeship at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons in Oxford England, under renowned chef Raymond Blanc. It was here lessons in seasonality were instilled and reinforced again in Australia at Banc under Liam Tomlin and later est. with Peter Doyle. In 2005 Fassnidge took over Four In Hand and maintained a one hat rating in The Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide until 2010, when he was awarded a second hat.
He’s been getting a lot of media attention of late with the front cover of Timeout for Burger Wars and a challenger Masterchef a few weeks ago. Is Colin Fassnidge our next superstar celebrity chef? According to Fassnidge he doesn’t succumb to the celebrity chef hype and at the end of the day you’ll find him in the kitchen. We won’t catch this man dancing across our TV screens or endorsing a mass chain supermarket any time soon. A man with few words in person, plenty to say on twitter this chef’s food speaks for itself.
I had a wonderful time at Four In Hand but enough about what I think, let’s here what our foodies have to say…
105 Sutherland St, Paddington (02 9362 1999)
Open lunch Tues-Sun 12pm – 2.30pm dinner Tues- Sun 6.30 pm – 10pm (Sunday -9pm)