Gowings Bar and Grill, Town Hall

Hidden upstairs in the building next door to the newly opened Topshop is a bustling restaurant called Gowings Bar and Grill which brings alive the history of the original building with its name and rejuvenates it with a European brasserie concept.

I had no idea such a restaurant existed in a part of the city I frequent all the time, so I was clueless about where we were going when I heard we were meeting a friend for dinner there. But judging by the crowds at the restaurant when we arrived, it’s not as much of a secret as I had first thought.  There’s an old school looking lighted sign pointing up the stairs to guide you to the restaurant and upon walking in, I was pleasantly surprised by the energetic vibe of the place. It is decked out in contemporary wooden décor, which remind me of a more fashionable version of Meat and Wine Co, but in a more convenient location.

There is a lively bar area in the restaurant which was packed when we arrived, but tonight we had booked ahead for dinner and we were promptly shown to our table. The menu here is very extensive, ranging from various steak dishes, stews and seafood and it takes us awhile to settle on our orders.

We got the Hot Spanner Crab Cakes to share between 3 of us and they were glorious little crumbed delights filled with piping hot shredded crab meat. I wish the servings were bigger because I could have easily chowed down a few more.

Hot Spanner Crab Cakes with salad of heart of palms, aioli, hot sauce, $19

After that very satisfying start to the meal, we didn’t have to wait too long for our mains. Since we were at a grill restaurant, it made sense for me to order their Minute Rib Eye Black Angus Steak which was specifically cooked “no less than pink” according to the menu and came with anchovy butter, watercress, shallots, fresh horseradish salad and shoestring fries.

Minute Rib Eye cooked no less than pink  100% Black Angus, Darling Downs NSW 180g, $31

The steak was actually quite sizeable, and covered most of the plate to my surprise but that is because it was fairly thinly cut. As promised, it was pink on the inside which allowed for the meat to retain its juiciness and tenderness. The sides were all done well too, the fries were decently crispy but could have done with some sauce and the leafy salad was a bit messy to eat.

Beef Bourguignon – pearl onions, mushrooms, celery roots, gratin of Paris mash potatoes $34

The boy ordered the Beef Bourguignon as he had never had it before and was pleasantly surprised by the hearty, chunky stew which was served up in a rustic looking dish. It was quite tasty, as expected since it was flavoured with pearl onions, mushrooms and celery. The gratin of Paris Mash potatoes were served in a separate little ceramic pot with lid and was amazingly creamy and soft, one of the highlights of the meal.

Steamed Kinkawooka Mussels – shallots, garlic, creme fraiche and sea parsley in a Riesling sauce, shoestring fries $38

Our friend got a big pot of juicy Kinkawooka mussels which were well flavoured thanks to the Riesling sauce and she was quite happy with her choice.

Double Baked Dark Chocolate Creme Brulee with last seasons sweet marinated cherries  $14

Onto the highlight of the meal – the desserts! We couldn’t pick between the Apple Crumble or the Dark Chocolate Crème Brulee so we got both. On paper, I thought that I would prefer the crème brulee and while it was a decadent choice and made a satisfying crack when tapped with the back of a spoon, I actually preferred the many layers of flavour and textures in the Apple Crumble.

Apple Crumble flavours – sweet and sour apple empanada, peanut brittle, salted caramel ice cream, apple pickle, caramel cider, $19

The Apple Crumble was a deconstructed masterpiece with all sorts of innovative twists on the elements of this traditional dessert. There was a divine salted caramel ice cream which melted too quickly for us to savour much of it, as well as an interesting sweet and sour apple filling wrapped in the crumbly empanada with the caramel cider sauce drizzled on top for a flavour explosion. Even the apple pickles were well done, and I’m generally not a fan of pickles  either.

Gowings Bar and Grill is truly a hidden gem of a place and one of the better steakhouses around in Sydney, with its pulsing atmosphere and wide ranging menu. It won’t be a cheap night out, but it does feel worth it because the decor and vibe of the place feels reminiscent of a restaurant in a more sophisticated city. Except when you glimpse a view of the QVB through the windows to bring you back to reality.

Gowings Bar and Grill
49 Market Street
Sydney, NSW 2000
Phone: (02) 8262 0062

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