On Thursday we sent our secret foodies on a mini historical adventure around Paddington. For those who missed out, allow us to take you back in time. The suburb well known for designer boutiques and expensive terrace homes was once part of a large estate owned by convict distiller, James Underwood. In partnership with convict Robert 'Black Bob' Cooper he subdivided the land with the intention to setting up a gin distillery. In order to find the secret location of our Old Oz ' Mod Oz dinner, our diners were first required to collect a secret envelope at the newly restored Imperial Hotel.
Opposite the Imperial is the heritage listed ‘Juniper Hall’, Paddington’s oldest house. It was built by Cooper in 1822 as a family home, and named in honour of the Juniper berry, an essential ingredient in the production of gin.
During the 1800s to early 1900s Paddington became hugely populated and was one of Sydney’s most over-crowded suburbs. With a working class population affected by the Great Depression of 1929 Paddington was home to several slums.
It wasn’t until 1960s when ‘Victorian era’ architecture came into vogue Paddington became hot residential property. Paddington still retains its old world charm with narrow lanes and one-way streets. It is also home to a new restaurant and wine bar at the top of Oxford St, aptly named Mr Cooper’s.
Upon arrival our guests were greeted with a ‘Mr Cooper Le Fizz’, a gin-based cocktail before enjoying fabulous and unique four-course meal. Uncertain about what exactly ‘Modern Australian’ entails? Here’s what head chef John Rankin presented that night, demonstrating the various international influences on Modern Australian cuisine.
We started with smoked haddock croquettes with basil tartare sauce, served on a shared board with chicken and snail pies with pea puree. The croquettes were fried to a golden perfection. The crispy crumbed exterior gave way to the smooth and creamy centre of the mild and smoky fish. The basil tartare sauce gave the perfect accompaniment, a cross between pesto and aioli. Many were hesitant about the chicken and snail pies at first, but were won over by the beautiful flaky pastry encasing a rich and hearty filling of pieces of chicken and snail.
Second course presented a chicken and pork terrine, accompanied by chicken liver parfait and grape relish. The terrine had a great flavour and blend of textures. The chicken liver parfait was probably my favourite component of the meal that night. The mousse was impossibly smooth, light and rich, served in a shot glass topped with a layer of grape jelly. The sweetness of the grape balanced the creamy parfait in a surprising and unexpected blend of flavours. It was heaven spread onto a slice of mini sourdough. The Poliziano chianti which accompanied this course was also fantastic, and really complemented the sweet flavours of the grape jelly and relish.
Main course was duck for two, including duck breast, braised leg with mushrooms, duck fat potato gratin, baby carrots and beetroot. The miniature crock-pot hid a stew of braised mushroom and duck leg, which were incredibly tender and flavoursome. The crunchy gratin, carrot, fried beetroot wedges and duck breast were also delicious, especially with a slick of the accompanied mushroom sauce.
By the end of the main course we doubted our ability to continue eating… but there will always be room for dessert. Especially when it’s wedges of creamy Gippsland Brie with lavosh crisps and pear paste, followed by a lemon curd with blueberry ice, meringue and shortbread. I ate more than my share of Brie, but it was so creamy and moreish I just couldn’t stop. As for the lemon curd, the tartness topped with refreshing blueberry ice was heavenly. Scooped onto a piece of crumbly shortbread with meringue on top, I left Mr Cooper’s one happy foodie.