Sydney needs more neighbourhood joints like Rainford Street Social. That happy place between pub and diner where you can wear what you want, sit at the bar if you’re feeling low-key, but still lap up great service and interesting, seasonal fare.
Taking over the old Bird Cow Fish site on Surry Hills’ buzzing Crown Street, Rainford’s kitchen is headed by Benjamin Orpwood (former Zuma London alumni, and also the executive chef at Toko up the road). Orpwood flits between the two restaurants on any given night, switching from sushi chef to grill master.
“It’s definitely busy,” says the down-to-earth Brit, “but it means I can still practice my formal Japanese training and also be a bit more creative here at Rainford.”
‘Creative’ is a fitting adjective for Rainford Street Social’s menu; it’s bistro fare with a chic modern makeover. Some dishes have been left in their classic virgin state (Fish Pie, Steak Frites); others, like the Pan Fried John Dory ($28) have been given new life with additions like curry sauce (more consommé than the dipping variety) and local mussels.
The dishes are designed to be shared or enjoyed on their own. If you don’t have a hankering for a whole steak, a glass of tap beer and a few ‘bites’ will go down a treat. The pork crackling ($5) could be mistaken for a bowl of French fries; the airy strips are so crisp and tasty they could see you on the way to a crackle habit. The Albacore Tuna Tartare ($18) is dolled up with house-made crisps and a bloody mary granita. The result: a textural explosion made punchier by the choice of Albacore tuna (more white, less meaty).
Onto sweeter pastures, and the same philosophy goes; there’s classics (All American Banana Cream Pie, caramel ice-cream – $14) and versions of (Venezuela Chocolate Tea Cup, herb garden, petite fours – $12). We opted for the dessert special – an adaptation of the classic Turkish Kadaifi, with just a hint of orange blossom. It’s one of many examples of Orpwood’s globetrots making their way to the plate, localised with homegrown ingredients along the way.
You’ll be back to Rainford Street Social, and we have a feeling that was the idea all along.
Rainford Street Social is located at 4-5/500 Crown Street (Cnr Rainford Street) Surry Hills NSW 2010.
(02) 8354 1140; www.rainfordstreetsocial.com.au