Why doesn’t every neighbourhood have a One Penny Red? It’s not an unreasonable request. After years running the defunct Neutral Bay Bar and Dining, chef RJ Lines has moved back west. His new place, which he’s opened with restaurant manager David Murphy, follows a similar ethos: good produce cooked with restraint, served in semi-casual surrounds.
The restaurant and bar is built inside an old heritage-listed post office, and split across two levels. Downstairs, you’ll find high ceilings and a long brushed metal bar that doubles as a dining area. It’s also the best place to sit if you’re going to put a dent in the impressive wine list. Crunchy salt cod fritters don’t skimp on the fish and are served with a spicy chilli mayo. They’re pretty much made for a glass of Tom Shobbrook’s Didier reisling - all snap and vigour with some fairly generous skin contact.
Buttery beef short rib, glossy with pomegranate syrup, is accessorised with tufts of deep fried curly kale. Deliciously rich as it is, an acid on the plate wouldn’t go astray here. Do as we do and order the rainbow chard, sautéed till soft with plenty of chilli and garlic. A larger dish of fresh, hand-rolled pappardelle is a little on the pasty side, especially mixed through with fresh ricotta, though the raw zucchini ribbons are a nice point of textural difference.
For our dime, you’ll find us upstairs in the bar eating RJ’s cheeseburger, listening to Spoon. It's good, too: a nice soft patty (though still with a little chew) on a soft bun, melted cheese, tomato sauce and a side of thick cut cheddar-flavoured crisps. Though why the otherwise friendly and helpful bar staff decide to start spray-and-wiping while we’re in the middle of eating said delicious burger is slightly baffling.
Anyway. We chase it with the banana-caramel beignets with chocolate dipping sauce. They’re less like the crisp, icing-sugar-covered shells you might have tried before and more like a soft, slightly juicy doughnut, but worth a dig all the same.
This is a fun local, and we’re not the only ones who think so. The place is pumping upstairs and down mid-week, mid-winter. We can’t wait to try the weekend brunch menu – bring on the bubble and squeak.