Steel Bar & Grill (CLOSED)
Time Out says
"Steel": not exactly evocative of tasty food, is it? Nor does it scream "comfort". It's an odd choice for a name, and an even odder choice of central concept for a restaurant, but here it is nonetheless, a (very) shiny new establishment at Wynyard.
Michael McCann, one of Sydney's name architects and designer of Flying Fish, 360, Pony and now this CBD newbie, has stuck to the brief incredibly well: if there's a restaurant more alloy-covered in Sydney we'd like to see it. The chairs are a problem, though. No one in our group could get comfy - best to sit outside on one of the cushioned communal bench seats or request a banquette. The toilets, however, are a highlight. Wall-to-floor tiling meets heavy doors while gigantic glowing egg lights nest under the sinks, and screens inset above every basin play Pretty Woman (we wonder if Steel Magnolias ever gets a spin; and no, the boys don't get Goodfellas - they get nothing).
Tableside, steel mesh dividers make you feel like you're waiting to be dissected and the mercury blob mobile hanging above our table looks like the remains of the T-1000 from Terminator 2. (But attractively so.)
Start with a cocktail - the list is designed by bon vivant Jason Crawley and in true Crawley style they all have ridiculous names like Tall Ginny Ginger Gin Gin, or the Chrome Clutchbag Quince Cosmopolitan (that one comes in its own little mesh bag). The Lemon Sloe Gin Soda Negroni with a soda splash is a straighter offering, despite the slightly disconcerting steel straw. There's also Kirin on tap and a well-stocked cellar with plenty of reasonably priced wine across the board.
Chef Damien Heads' menu meanders from chilli salted almonds and anchovies on toast to Thai beef salad and duck and apple spring rolls in the tapas section, with a similar vibe hitting the more substantial plates skipping from linguine with vongole to Goan kingfish curry and steak and chips. It's a very large menu, yet we still struggle to find things we really want to eat.
The problem with trying to paint with all the colours at once is that more often than not you end up with brown. Goan fish curry, for instance, has a lovely light tangy sauce but the choice of kingfish instead of something like blue eye or flathead isn't all that appealing; and while the wood fired sirloin is a really tender, flavoursome, well seasoned piece of meat, the Béarnaise sauce needs a little more vinegar and tarragon backbone to cut the fat. Hand-cut chips translate to a Jenga stack of brick-shaped fried potato, rather than a mess of skin-on chips as we'd hoped. There are some nice old-school Aussie touches on the menu - like a mixed grill and an excellent Pavlova with a mixed berry compote - and staff are incredibly friendly and generally well informed. It's the concept of the restaurant itself that's confusing.