This is a FOMO-free zone. The table next to you will never receive an amazing-looking dish that immediately makes you question your choices and fills your heart with regret and envy. Everyone at Arthur is eating the exact same thing, because the premise here is that you lay down your $80 and let chef Tristan Rosier take the wheel.
Is that name ringing a bell? Probably because he was most recently in the kitchens at Surry Hills bar and diner Dead Ringer, and before that he was dabbling in more set-menu feasting at King Cross’s Farmhouse. Clearly he knows the system works, and both sittings are booked out on our visit – this is not a restaurant for walk-ins.
They turned around the old Bar Baretto site in six weeks, and now it’s a warm, open-plan space where you can watch the chefs prepping each course while you sip on a McLaren Vale fiano with a muted tropicality, or a blood orange Spritz. In fact, it feels a lot like you’re lurking in your fancy mate’s kitchen, drinking wine while they do the hard work, and eating an opening course of sweet pickled radishes, butter and housebaked bread, which is what they’ve given you, so stop nicking ingredients from the chopping boards, you.
Frying tender artichokes in an almost translucent batter gives them a crunchy aura. This is definitely the sort of snack you want to outsource to the professionals, as is tartare, which achieves as close to a perfect texture balance as we’ve ever found. The ratio of tiny julienned French fries to diced rare kangaroo in this native riff on the classic French dish means every mouthful is equally smooth and crunchy, with snap from capers, tang from pickled cucumbers and a surprising sharpness from something that tastes a lot like sundried tomato paste.
Buffalo mozzarella torn over broad beans and a bright dice of green tomato is an easy win for spring, which sits in direct flavour contrast to an intensely bisquey dish of juicy prawn nubs in a romesco fortified with hazelnuts.
It’s all building, in both intensity and size, to the main event, which is three items on the list of 12, rolled into one substantial meal in its own right. Right now it’s a butter soft beef short rib, cooked down until all the marbled fat between the muscle fibres has melted into the meat. A classic silky mash arrives on one side, and fried Brussels sprouts given fresh ballast from sweet-and-sour currants is as close as veg gets to being fast food.
You will be very full at this point. It’s not excessive plating by any means, but it’s a lot of food regardless, so you might not be able to finish both the chocolate delice that tastes like the centre of Lindt balls, and the meringue gussied up into a weeknight pav stand-in, with some diced strawberries and makrut lime cream piped into the middle.
Arthur keeps the good surprises in the kitchen and on the plate, and does away with any worries regarding the bill or how much food you’ll get. It’ll always be the same price, plus drinks, and you’ll never leave hungry. You get what you get and you don’t get upset, because the cooking is smart, sharp, and most importantly delicious. It’s a hell of a promise, but Arthur is keeping his word.