In waiting for the right opportunity, patience was not only a virtue, but also a perfect opportunity for the immense collective talent and vision of Chef’s James Parry and Daniel Puskas to slowly evolve and mature. Instead of spruiking their promise, they wisely chose to explore, refine, and ultimately craft their styles in benchmark restaurants since their last gig together at Oscillate Wildly. The culmination is Sixpenny, a thoughtful, humble and unique dining journey of far wider significance than one typically expected in a suburban context. Supported by a well chosen and polished team, that has enabled them to open expansively, there is genuine anticipation surrounding what they can achieve.
The feature use of quality timbers is not only striking in appearance, but the natural scent and finish makes touching the surfaces, at least for me, compulsory. Elegant botanical art and measured use of lighting balances out the room’s ambience perfectly, with generous seats and commendable spacing of tables around the stylish centrepiece for drinks service. A gossamer thin curtain softens the large windows that wrap the main room, and the filtered serenity of a neighbourhood village is a perfect fit for the intelligent dining experience that slowly unfolds with care and purpose. The stylish PDR, sectioned off by an impressive glass wine wall, also doubles as a Chef’s table, slightly raised above the kitchen with unimpeded sight lines through a large glass window that also serves to dampen the sound. However, don’t expect too much drama, given the calibre and temperament of this brigade.
Served with ‘house-made’ mascarpone butter, the James Parry inspired sourdough, using a starter he cultivated at Oscillate, is simply exceptional. Snacks quickly follow with a bowl of vinegar and malt chips and a plate of micro rye breads, topped with lightly worked ‘virgin butter’, pretty day lily petals, delectable baby melons, pickled vegetables and a yoghurt sauce. Then the very cute, rich and moreish brioche pork knuckle sandwiches with apple jelly, haunting scampi essence day lily buds, and punchy flavoured duck tongues on cos. The first course per se is deceptively simple and very elegantly presented cheddar cheese and poached onions with cheese oil that has an astonishing concentration of flavour which totally belies its appearance.
Swoon time for a beautifully balanced dish of crab with silky macadamia and camomile milk style sauce. Subtle, yet with clean and clearly defined flavours that sing through the very skillful use of nuance and texture. The superbly roasted and caramelised sweet potato, with John Dory roe and whey foam, wrapped in sweet potato leaves, is a likely metaphor for the core philosophy of Sixpenny. A freshly sourced humble vegetable is elevated and showcased as the primary element, through the optimum extraction and conveyance of its essence, reconnecting us with the humility of nature. The fact they cultivate a significant component of their vegetables in their own Southern Highlands allotment, further demonstrates the level of commitment to provenance, sustainability and seasonality. Delicately cooked snapper with pumpkin seed cream and soft leeks provide yet another example of the deftness of touch and interpretive plating at play here.
The proficiency and knowledge of ‘front of house’ so early is very impressive, and clearly they have been hand-picked to embrace and enhance both the journey of the restaurant and the diner. Chefs in an uncontrived and ego-less manner present and discuss their dishes, without any disruption to the quality or flow of the service, making for a genuinely shared experience. The accessibly priced wine list under Sommelier Nick David unapologetically supports NSW Wines. It works primarily on the basis of precision matching, and on the premise that you are predominately drinking wines from regions where your produce is sourced, giving the experience an undeniable synergy. The back vintage component adds gravitas, with a small well chosen selection of craft beers, fortified and digestifs. A bottomless glass of carbonated water is provided without charge, hopefully a goodwill gesture that others in the industry will follow.
The yoghurt fed suckling pig has a texture so dreamy with the yoghurt whey sauce, it is almost like pork butter, with only the sound of the textbook crackling breaking the silent reverence the dish invoked at my table. Nothing is overworked with Richard Gunner’s brilliant Coorong hanger steak, which once again is symbolic of the low intervention approach applied in extracting and representing the inherit flavour of well sourced produce. The absence of heavy saucing makes both dishes not only more honest, but far more approachable, avoiding the usual escalation during the savoury phase that often catches less experienced diners out.
The immensely talented pastry skills of Julie Niland start with a visually stunning re-constructed Meyer lemon with laser-like sour sorbet and sweet candied peel, elegantly garnished with citrus leaves. The simplicity of slightly warm day lilies with Stringy Bark honey follow as a segway to the contrasting sweet honey mead sorbet and bitter cocoa. A very intelligent and well balanced dessert, especially given the excess of the sexy and pure evil rich Jersey milk ice cream with cookie dough, whey crisps and burnt butter poured tableside, that follow. This may well be a heart attack in a bowl, but who really cares, when sighs are tangibly accessible by the spoonful! We try an experimental rose geranium brioche with fig-leaf ice-cream that in reality is complete as is. What better way to finish off then to raid the “cookie jar”, with a refined and playful take on Monte Carlos, Kingstons, Ginger Nuts, baby lamingtons and decadent tonka chocolates thrown in for good measure. An excellent extracted coffee in a funky Bendigo Pottery cup is a small but nice detail on which to end.
Sixpenny is an incomparable restaurant of refreshing and compelling substance that makes the six ($105) or eight course ($125) degustation a journey for both the mind and senses that resonates long afterwards, with evocative recollections that inevitably imprint on your food consciousness. I have not been as moved or challenged in recent times, and the maturity of conception and execution on display is simply breathtaking in a city too often fuelled by fads, trends and poorly conceived imitations. The dining landscape is shaped by defining moments, and in my opinion we may well have arrived at one that may ultimately receive wider global recognition if the early promise of its potential is fully realised. One thing’s for sure, I’ll be tagging along for every step of their journey…
83 Percival Road, Stanmore
Sat-Sun from 12pm, Wed-Sat from 6pm
Licensed / (matched wines at $55 for 6 courses and $75 for 8 courses)