Essen Restaurant & Beer Cafe in Ultimo Sydney
Giving further confidence, Essen Restaurant still oozes that trademark historic Austrian/European atmosphere of festive indulgence which has resonated around their sandstone walls for the past few years. Naturally enough, with the addition of the phrase "beer cafe" to their title, they're upping the profile of what regular diners such as myself have known from 'bitter' experience - that they have the best German beers available in Sydney - think (and drink) Schofferhofer Hefe or Kristall, Franziskaner Dunkel or Hefe, Dreher, Urquell, Hofbrau and Becks ... or Grolsch for Dutch beer fans and, for the stay-at-home types, they do have VB, Crown and Cascade. But surely, when in Essen, drink as the Essen-burghers drink ...
But this writer must confess a bias which overlooks the German beers, despite their delicious flavours, and also overlooks their quality wines, spirits and liqueurs. For Essen Restaurant is a harbinger of a most luxurious range of schnapps - they don't promote them much, but they will lift your night into the stratosphere, if you dare. For those still with me, who love a secret foodie (or drinkie) adventure, start with the honey schnapps, progress after entree to the "Goldwasser" (sublimely clear liquid with gold flakes), and between mains and dessert, push yourself all the way with their Glacier Ice - a mystifying blue liquid (pictured above left) which you will never forget ... if ... you ... dare.
Chatting recently with the owner, Geert Elzinga, I asked him whether there were any improvements that Essen Restaurant had brought about beyond the cheerful home-style cuisine that defined the Una's Broadway experience. "Everything we do now is on-premise," he replied. "We're still doing an honest good value meal, but we've gone up a notch, there's a little bit more love." Indeed for my last meal there, I discovered the walk in Geert's talk. On the specials board was a Pork Rib with Cheesy Parmesan Polenta & Roasted Fennel (pictured above-right). I floated off their newfound "gourmet edge" and into delectable heaven - now I know what can be done with polenta, as that was the most superlative version ever by a country mile. The pork, cooked to perfection, was perfectly jussed-up by this accompaniment, and the roasted fennel is right up there in vegie nirvana.
Adding to my renewed appreciation of Essen-nee-Una's, they have a fabulous new dessert - the Creme de Couer, which in Geert's native Holland is known as the "Hang-op" because it's ricotta and egg-white and sour cream hung in muslin for 24 hours, then served with a blueberry compote (pictured below-right). Divine and delicate, this is far beyond the Una's sweets of old, which were usually apple pie and ice-cream with a few strawberries. Due to the size of the savoury dishes I've rarely ever had dessert at this place, from now on I'll be leaving room for them - if I can anyway.
Restaurant also possesses a very spacious upstairs bar
/ function area - and it's also a bar space which you can enjoy
without having to dine - truly a "bar" in its own right. If
you want to hire this upstairs space for a personal function, it can
comfortably fit 70 people - but for smaller numbers eg up to 20 people
the downstairs area can usually accomodate. And for all those people
like myself who used to bemoan this place being closed on Monday nights,
the latest news is, they're now open seven days and nights - so I'll
see you there on a Monday night real soon!!
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