“Stray away from the city streets and into The Woods” proclaims the website. They do know they are on George Street, right? I half expected to step into a quiet haven, a mass of tree trunks and forest style foliage. But actually its just an open space in the foyer of the Four Seasons with a lot of wood. The Wooden rather than The Woods, perhaps. And a massive woodfire oven.
The Woods is the next venture of Hamish Ingham, who was once the chef at Billy Kwong and then moved onto his own digs, Bar H, at Surry Hills. Thank goodness he didn’t bring any of those uncomfortable stools with him. I booked online and it was smooth and oh so easy (Momofuku – please take note). I did expect an Asian influence here given his pedigree but its your ‘mod Oz’ with a small selection of woodfire (there’s that word wood again) pizzas for the lunchtime crowd. Word gets out quickly in Sydney town, the place had been open 5 minutes and was already packed.
Having eaten way too much in the lead up to Christmas, I opted for some of the lighter choices and to begin my friend and I both started with the chilled green tomato soup. Its always interesting when a plate arrives on your table and its not what you expect. Sometimes its a really good surprise. And sometimes its baaaaaaad. This time, it was a winner – a light, refreshing soup with sweet tomatoes and chunks of bread that had been – no prizes for guessing here – cooked in the woodfired oven. I would have liked a bit more of the actual soup though, there wasn’t quite enough.
We then moved onto the wood grilled calamari, pork cheek bacon and pickled muntries (never eaten muntries before, but apparently they are the Australian native version of cranberries for the uninitiated). The aroma was wonderful. But it didn’t mention in the menu description that there were hazelnuts – and there were a lot of them – a few too many in my view, as much as I love hazelnuts, and they could have been cut slightly smaller. But overall a great dish.
We were told before we ordered that Berkshire pork sausage had already sold out. The gentleman on the table to my left must have got the last one; the gentlemen on my right was having the O’Connor Scotch. I have to say, the meat dishes smelled fantastic on both sides. However the waitress had told us the meat dishes don’t come with anything, so by the time you order a couple of side dishes it really does end up being a very expensive main course. By the way at these prices I think its cheeky charging for bread.
As I’d had a relatively light couple of courses, I figured a little dessert wouldn’t go astray. I opted for the Rose geranium ice cream, toasted brioche & white peach caramel. The caramel was intense, and combined with the rose flavour of the ice cream and the simple and relatively unsugared brioche it really was a lovely combination.
If you go the ‘whole hog’ with an entrée, a woodfired meat main, the requisite sides, and a dessert, this is a fairly pricey meal. But at least the standard is there and I’m sure the place will bag a hat or two in the next round of awards. Tweak your choices a little and you can make it fit within a certain budget and experience the “woodiness”. The service was also smooth which is a good start, as there are often a few kinks in places not long opened.
Nice touch – that evening I received an “Appreciation Email” thanking me for visiting the restaurant and looking forward to welcoming me back.
How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood………
The Woods, 199 George St Sydney, Ph (02) 9250 3160