What's in a name? Well, if that name is Odd Culture Newtown, there's not much left to the imagination. King Street's newest natty joint is going hard on the ferments, wild yeasts and all things bubbly. Taking over the coveted Happy Chef space (vale), Odd Culture is a two-level craft beer, natural wine and ferment-happy diner from the group that brought us the Oxford Tav, the Old Fitz and the Duke of Enmore. With friends like that, you know it's going to be all killer, no filler.
Upon entry, it's not clear whether this is a bar or restaurant, with a crowd of everyone from tatted-up off-duty chefs to young families and 60-somethings enjoying a glass of wine or two. You'll find no 'please wait to be seated' sign or host to greet, so it's probably safest just to head to the counter and order a quick tap beer while you get your bearings.
At the helm of the restaurant is head chef Jesse Warkentin (ex Continental Deli) and sous chef Caleb Venner (also ex Continental Deli). The menu is not defined by any one cuisine but an absolute deep dive into the power of fermentation and the alchemy it achieves with flavour. Take, for instance, the deceptively simple dish of fish on toast, a lightly toasted finger of brioche, topped with rounds of raw scallop, mango and jalapeño. Three incarnations of sweetness that end in a shocking cleanliness from the light pickling of the mango. This is the dish to order. In fact, order it twice.
Generous slices of kingfish sashimi are dressed in macadamia milk and mandarin oil the shade of ochre, the result is a rich and hearty render of a classically delicate starter. The contrast of delicate and meaty is reflected in the decor of the split-level loft, with polished concrete floors softened by brushed suede booths and warm wooden tables. An aged advertisement for Reschs dinner ale is the stark focal point in an otherwise minimalist, edging on industrial room, but, just as with the dishes, the balance shows an expert level of restraint and confidence.
The confidence to put a dish as brash as a plate-sized blood pancake with a fried egg (a clear homage to Wartekins UK roots) on your menu next to a roasted whole celeriac with vegetarian XO sauce is to be commended. Thankfully, we don't just eat with our eyes, and oh boy, your tongue will thank you.
The restaurant element is complimented, naturally, by some wild and wonderful booze, with a dual opening of the team's all-natural wine shop just two doors down at the old Black Sheep site. Curated by group beverage manager, Jordan Blackman and overseen by bar manager Sam Paech (ex Baxter Inn), you can pick up a bottle to enjoy at the restaurant itself or grab-and-go at your leisure.
Also on offer at the bottle-o is a deli counter of all sorts of fun ferments made in-house at the restaurant like pickles, sauces, and deli-style snacks. While we may mourn the venue's predecessors, Happy Chef and Black Sheep respectively, Odd Culture has well and truly done justice to the fallen Newtown icons.