Ever wondered what happens to our Time Out Taste Test
(the annual cooking comp where Sydney's best young chefs battle it out to reign supreme) apprentices once they qualify? They occasionally go on to open restaurants inspired by 19th-century European farmhouses. Well, at least Michael Mu Sung did, along with co-chef Tristan Rosier.
This is Farmhouse, the minuscule restaurant that does two seatings a night, communal-style, with a small wine list and a menu that’s scrawled on the wall daily. It's like being transported to someone's kitchen in the '80s – it's a thoroughly realised look, with a brick floor and joining walls, rough wooden cupboards, glass vases of dried natives and ‘Raspberry Beret’ over the speakers.
They start you off with a little antipasti: fluffy Italian bread, lightly pickled grapes, heavily pickled zucchini, ribbons of pancetta and house-churned butter. So far, so retro. But then you’re launched into the Thousands with Major Lazer’s catchy, dreamy hit of 2012, ‘Get Free’, and a serve of crunchy, toasty Cornflake-crusted chicken with a sweet mayo kick cut with pickled daikon and cucumber.
This is a restaurant that favours intimacy, friendliness and a good dose of sass from the floor staff. "Who wants the black cock?" our waitress asks loudly, referring to the rooster-print plates. Intimate is definitely the catch-cry here. Some of the seats are so close to the kitchen that you come away smelling like you’ve just done a shift at the pans, and the toilet’s so tiny there’s literally nowhere to swing, shake or wiggle.
A salad of braised witlof, fried quinoa and house-made lemon ricotta comes riding side-saddle with a platter of slow-roasted-overnight lamb (why does it taste re-heated?), roast onions, Israeli couscous and currants. It’s OK without being amazing. If you’re only doing two sittings booked in advance, why not just do something a little more family-style and get the whole table involved with a hunk of meat roasted that evening?
That said, we’re very happy to keep the caramelised bananas with soft shavings of coffee granita, a puff of white chocolate mousse and crushed-up macadamias to ourselves. And, did you know, they make a surprise cake every day? Every. Day. Ours is lemon poppyseed with vanilla-curd butter. Yum.
It’s definitely a restaurant you’ll want to experience with a larger group – if you’re tagged onto the end of someone else’s party as a table of two, it can feel a little lonely, unless you’re happy to get in on their fun and elbow a few ribs. We say get amongst it.