Arthur is one of the few – if not the only – Sydney fine dining establishments to be named after an animated aardvark. Located within what looks to be a converted house on a street corner Surry Hills, Arthur offers an ever changing and reasonably priced tasting menu with a focus on fresh domestic produce.
We dined in mid-December 2020 and took the liberty of adding on a few of the essential options to make a full menu at around $138 per head.
Arthur’s Sydney Rock Oysters with grape granita ($5.50 supplement) are on the pricier side for the Sydney restaurant scene. They were fresh, delicate, and of good quality, but we would usually not expect to pay more than $4 per oyster of this size. The grape granita added a new sweet and sour taste that I’ve not had with oysters elsewhere.
Both the bread and butter in Arthur’s sourdough and cultured butter are made in house. The bread had a nice solid crust but was light and fluffy on the inside. The cultured butter was a bit saltier than I expected, but still nice. One of my friends in particular was very keen on this butter, though in general I am more partial to unsalted or more lightly salted butters.
This kangaroo, tendon, and bush tomato tartare was quite good. I enjoyed the strong tomato flavours, and while one of my colleagues had initial misgivings about the gaminess of the kangaroo he too grew to like it. Kangaroo, for those not familiar, is quite a lean and somewhat gamey meat that can be had at very low prices. While the produce itself is not considered gourmet in Australia, it is certainly rare to have it served as a tartare.
The zucchini flower, scallop, shallot was a delicate dish of scallop and shallot stuffed inside a steamed zucchini flower. The flavours were very subtle, so much so that one of my colleagues did not realise there was scallop within his zucchini flower, even after he had eaten it. I think this was quite wholesome and healthy, though agree that the scallop was a bit hard to find.
I didn’t really like the calamari, macadamia, and daikon radish. The calamari was raw, fresh, and creamy, and all of the flavours worked well, except for the fact that certain mouthfuls had an unexplained bitterness that I could not reconcile. I don’t know what the bitter elements of the dish were, but they really hurt its quality for me. My partner who ate from a separate serving did not taste any bitterness at all. I wonder if it was an intentionally included flavour or rather a problem with quality.
The Moreton Bay Bug in carrot and saffron ($32 supplement per bug) is one of Arthur’s house specialties – a dish that persists throughout multiple iterations of the menu. The bug was large and generous, with all non-edible arms and other bits picked off and the cavity opened for convenience of eating. Another slight complaint with Arthur’s QA again here – the quality of meat was a little inconsistent, with some bugs more meaty and others a bit too soft. The sauce had a delicious strong seafood taste, quite similar to the prawn head sauce at Moxhe. We fell into the trap of only ordering three bugs between five diners as suggested by our waiter, but I think we really could’ve gone for one each. They are a high value add-on.
This is a little deep fried dough ball which comes with the Moreton Bay Bug to help soak up the sauce. The dough ball is very tasty, a little bit sweet, and very fresh on its own. I wish we could have had more of these. They’re little donuts.
We returned to the base set menu with the Grilled kingfish, nasturtium, green tomato. The kingfish was really delicious, with a tasty crispy skin and soft flesh with a delicate internal taste and texture. The natrutium, green tomato, and green sauce I thought was a bit unnecessary but in no way offensive. My one complaint with this dish is the miniature size of the serving we got to share between two. It was around one third of the serving our other colleagues received between three. Kingfish is really not an expensive fish and I think a bit more (or even a bit more care in portioning) would’ve gone a long way.
The third “bread” of the night was a potato scroll with silverbeet and black garlic sauce. I liked this. It had a nice savoury taste. The sauce which looked like chocolate was not.
The dry aged borrowdale pork loin was really good. The pork had a little bit of crispy fattiness around the edges, and was otherwise tender throughout. The sauce it was served in was full of umami flavours.
The plum and cherry with cultured cream was a tart little side dish served with the pork. Not super memorable.
Lettuce was even less memorable.
The tart of bruny island “tom” (apparently a sheep’s milk), apricot, and cultured cream ($7 supplement per tart) was really good. The cheesiness and the sweet and sour flavours of the apricot really melded together well. The pastry of the tart was thin and light, yet held its structural rigidity well.
The dessert of mango, raspbery, yoghurt was phenomenal. The mango and raspberry, with different crumbs dried to different degrees, provided a broad spectrum of sweet and tangy tastes to the yoghurt base. This was widely enjoyed by all colleagues around the table. Really special.
The final course was this housemade wagon wheel. It was a bit darker and less sweet than the wagon wheels from the supermarket but apart from that not really something to write home about.
We shared a bottle of Ngeringa Uncultured Cider ($50) around the table. It was pretty good, quite dry without much sweetness, but refreshing.
VERDICT I think that reading through this blog post I’ve indicated a few hits and a few misses, but ultimately the dining experience at Arthur was very good and cohesive with all aspects taken into account. It’s probably been one of our top meals of the year. I would definitely recommend splurging for the Moreton Bay Bug as it is one of the shining stars of the meal.
We paid $138 per person including drinks and it was money well spent. The base price for the meal is $90 per person but doesn’t include oysters, the bug, or the cheese tart.
Last night was one of the worst nights I’ve ever spent a lot of money on. It was not one of worst nights of my life.
On the strong recommendation of one of my partner’s gaseous friends we dined at Moxhe, a Modern Australian Seafood restaurant. Moxhe offers a four-course and an eight-course tasting menu for dinner, based on whatever the guy finds at the fish market that day.
We settled down nicely in a suburb we can’t afford to live in for a nice meal and a completely missable glass of $25 chardonnay each (oops! check the price before you order next time!).
This is the bread. It has the noteable distinction of being one of the only things I got to eat last night. I found the bread to be quite middling. It was a sourdough of “heritage flour”, whatever that means. There were some black dots in it but I don’t think it made it as premium as black dots normally make vanilla ice cream. In all seriousness, the bread was non-special, and paled in comparison to other breads we’ve had – for example at Ester and Lumi – in the past. The cultured butter this bread was served with was limited and not refilled, though my partner continually edged the sad, empty butter dish further and further away in the hopes that someone would notice.
These are the Pickled Mussels Tartelettes, of which we had one each. The tartelettes were a fun and strange mouthful of zesty weirdness. I did enjoy them, although it was not clear at the time what I was eating.
Before we started dining we were treated to an extensive list of oysters to choose from. Words like “rustiness” and “mineralness” were used to describe what was essentially an list of Bateman’s Bay oysters that increased in size and price. We had the two petite claire oysters (one each) that came with our tasting menu, and supplemented them with two label rouge oysters ($6 each), of which I ate both. While initially scoffing at the varied descriptions of differently sized but identically sourced oysters, I do think I enjoyed the flavour of the smaller Petite Claire oysters more. I wasn’t able to gain a consensus however as my partner doesn’t really enjoy seafood and didn’t want to eat a second oyster.
This is some unknown nigri. Unknown because the published menu for the night said that we would be getting an octopus skewer and instead we were given this. It was entirely missable, not at all better than any $3.50 nigri from Sushi Rio or $3.80 nigri from Sushi Hotaru.
I really enjoyed this Smoked & Aged Ocean Trout Blini. I thought the blini was really well toasted, and had nice crispiness to it. The ocean trout had a delicate flavour, and we both appreciated that it was not too heavily smoked. My partner was particularly excited that it came served on a warm bowl. “Wow,” she said, “this bowl is hot”. This was one of the stars of the meal for me, and you will soon find out why.
This beautifully presented raw sashimi platter was where everything fell apart for me. We were served a plate of snapper, bight red fish, alfonsino, trevally, royal red prawn, scallop, and ikura ikura with bonito paste and curry leaf garnish, as well as a smoked and unsmoked soy sauce.
I dutifully made my way through the dish, eating my allotted fishies in the order that was prescribed. Unfortunately I encourted three scales in three of the fishes, which didn’t reflect the care or the skill of the chef and hurt the experience. We both enjoyed the red scarlet prawn’s delicate sweet taste, as well as the very small but quite enjoyable scallops.
Whilst having this dish however I felt a sad and scary tingle at the back of my throat. I know that I am kind of allergic to scampi, however there is no scampi here and I thought I would be safe. I was wrong. I can’t really pinpoint which of these sea animals was the culprit, however I suspect it was the deliciously sweet scarlet prawn, which has a close relationship to the scampi. I managed to finish my portion of this dish, and the tingling in my throat settled, howver this was quickly replaced by spasmodic retrosternal and epigastric pain, lasting for up to 20 seconds at a time, and coming in minutely intervals. As you can imagine, this was a very bad time for me. I sought the opinion of my gastroenterology colleagues, who were really not that concerned, however it felt very bad. I suspect it was the continuation of the allergic reaction that I had, but of course have no proof. It felt like how a corkscrew oesophagus looks on chest X-Ray.
This is the Capellini pasta, Pesto, Ricotta, Olives. I wish I could tell you about this dish, however the severe abdominal and retrosternal pain I was in meant that I only had a small bite of it before I decided it was safest not to tempt fate. I felt really bad! This is where my partner will have to take over the review, as I have no idea what anything after and including this dish tastes like. The restaurant was gracious enough to charge me only $65 for the entrees as I just could not continue. A point of humour for the waitress was that just the previous night a husband sitting in the same chair that I was also felt very unwell during his meal and had to leave for fresh air many times whilst his wife enjoyed wining and dining. This was basically me, however I remained seated and watched longingly at all of the seafood that my seafood-phobic girlfriend got to eat alone.
My partner actually enjoyed this pasta, which was surprising as it mixed several of her least favourite ingredients – being pesto and olives. She is someone who will readily rip out the olives from any given pizza, but she tells me that the finely minced nature of the olives made it less offensive to her.
I actually laughed to myself when they described this dish to us. My partner hates prawn, and Large Clarence River Prawn, Prawn head sauce, Tomato, Burnt Eggplant , sounded like her worst nightmare. Little did I know that she would be having the last laugh.
I was really sad to miss out on eating this giant prawn. The photo doesn’t really capture the largeness of the prawn, but just trust that it is. I have been seeing people on Instagram chowing down on their giant scarlet prawns for some time, and I longed for a large prawn myself. While I didn’t get to eat this dish, I did get to watch my partner slowly eat her prawn with her knife and fork, unsure whether to like it or not. They actually served me a prawn too, but I didn’t eat it. My partner must not have liked the prawn that much as my prawn was returned to the kitchen uneaten.
This is the Murry Cod with rosemary, broccolini, asparagus. Again this is a deviation from the printed menu. Whilst I didn’t get to taste this dish, my partner thought that the fish is a bit tough. Perhaps she has been spoiled by all the toothfish we’ve been having.
This is the Marigold and yoghurt sorbet. My partner enjoyed it but she thinks it was just a palate cleanser, not a proper dish. The yoghurt paired well with the marigold, and I’m told it was fresh. I secretly nommed on a leaf and it was quite leafy. As an aside, I’d really like to get a pacojet one day but I think that day will be far far far into the future.
This aged gruyere tart looked absolutely delicious. Watching my partner eat it gave me strong FOMO feels. She told me it was just a normal cheese tart but I think she was trying to make me not feel sad. She had some cheese today in a different setting and let slip that it paled in comparison to this here pictured cheese tart.
Making good use of the pacojet or whatever sorbet machine they have going on in the back, the Strawberry & rhubarb pavlova, black pepper ice-cream was the next dessert offered. The pavlova I’m told was light and fluffy. I did sneak a taste of black pepper ice-cream as I was feeling a little better by this time, however I decided not to tempt fate as not only was I having a gastroenterological problem but I am also lactose intolerant.
The last dish which I didn’t get to enjoy were the Mignardises. This consisted of four desserts, at least two of which was chocolate or chocolate t ruffle, and one of which was a cookie. I cannot identify the third item in the photo, but I think they were probably good as I was sending a quick message to a group chat and by the time I looked up all four elements were gone.
Overall I had a pretty bad time at MOXHE. It was not their fault, but it was also not my fault. I don’t know how to avoid this in the future. I’m very sad that I didn’t get to eat all of these yummy foods but I don’t think we will go back. What a shame.