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restaurants guide

nel restaurant

Address :
75 Wentworth Avenue
Sydney  NSW
Phone : 02 9212 2206 
Email : info@nelrestaurant.com.au
Web-site : nelrestaurant.com.au
Opening times : Lunch : Thursday - Friday from noon
Dinner : Tuesday - Saturday from 6pm
Cards :
AE MC V eftpos 
Licensing : Licensed
Seats : 48
Cost range :
$90 (per head for 3 courses plus coffee)
Restaurant rating :

nel occupies an industrial basement space on the city side of Wentworth Avenue not far from Berta, and closer to Surry Hills that the city. The decor tones down the Spartan fit-out and a focus on the well-lit kitchen softens the light throughout the room.
It's degustation-only territory although staff will try to accommodate any dislikes or allergies, without changing the essence of the menu. There are highlights and not-so-highlights through the menu with inspiration drawn from modern takes on British dishes, but most is very good.

WINE An uninspiring list that at least avoids the all-too-common obsession with dull "orange" wines.

nel - the crumble rumble

A degustation-only menu with only 48 seats is a dangerous playground for a newcomer with no Australian track record. Flying a little under the radar on the ýwrongý side of Wentworth Avenue, nel occupies a basement space that has been converted into an attractive dining room. ýIndustrial comfortableý comes to mind, and the bright-lit kitchen becomes the focus in the soft-lit room.

Waiters rush around with good intent but are hard to catch for either wine, or even to start the show. While itýs a set menu they do offer to change anything you canýt/donýt eat. The food carrier is a calming contrast - delivering each course and charmingly explaining what the ingredient-only menu doesnýt.

The first ýamuseý ý a vinegar marsh-mellow with parmesan flakes ý was impossibly light and melted in the mouth, awakening expectations of things to come. The second ý ýgoma, hollandaise, hamý continued the thought but the quirky, thoughtful pie and pea ýtruffle, rabbitý lost something between the concept and the reality.

From there it was a rollercoaster: lovely raw kingfish with tofu, radish, shizo was a picture on the plate, while ýmussels, cockles, squid, potato, garlicý, while less attractive, was even better eating.

Then we fell in a hole! What was explained as a beetroot custard was runny goo under a varied crunchy topping. Two attempts at ýbeef, coffee, macadamia, king oyster mushroomý failed. Top points for quickly replacing a gristly piece of beef with another, but it remained underwhelming. Iým not a degustation fan unless it performs at a highly expected level, and a big chunk of beef as the ýmainý belly-filling course defeats the ideal of degustation as a performance of developing flavours.

By now weýd also noted the pervasive invasion by a crunch element in almost every dish. We laughed about it and remarked that sweets could hardly continue the theme. Until the first dessert (what is a ýpre-dessertý other than the first dessert?) ý ýgrannyýs apple crumbleý was what Iýd love for breakfast in its granola and fresh apple freshness. Then more crunch with ýchocolate, yuzu, caramelý.

Chefs often seem obsessed with particular fashion elements in presenting food - smears or splotches of sauce, dusts and gravels, and more. I looked up other reviews and different menus without mention of persistent crunch so perhaps we just hit a theme night.

The wine list was serviceable but uninspiring, with a rather odd presentation.

Lots of what was presented was very good, and $88 is certainly not excessive for eight courses. But with degustations near enough is perhaps not really good enough ý the kitchen is under less pressure with every table the same, all dishes understood and well-practised.

Thereýs skill in this kitchen and Iýd be happier with more of fewer better dishes ý perhaps a set price, small a la carte selection. And less crunch and crumble please sir.