One of the things I love about working for myself is being able to do the odd restaurant review during the middle of the day. The lovely folks at Papaya PR invited us to dine at a place called Gweilo in Surry Hills. A Japanese inspired modern restaurant that was part of the Evening Star Hotel. So off, good mate Steve, and I headed with little knowledge and no expectations.
EVENING STAR AKA GWEILO VENUE:
OLD EVENING STAR:
I need to start by explaining that the new venue appears to have undergone a name change since I visited a couple of months back. It was named Gweilo when I visited, the Japanese (slightly derogatory) nickname for Westerners. Think Gaijin from Japan, Grigo from Spain or just old Whitey McWhitey translated into whatever more-cultured country you are visiting. Some people took offence to the name and some, like myself, thought it was funny and clever.
But Gweilo was located in the Evening Star Hotel, better explained would be Gweilo was the Evening Star Hotel. For locals and people who are enamoured by the history of the pub perhaps calling it Whitey McWhitey in Cantonese wasn’t their best move.
The history of the old pub dates back to 1873 – it’s old and falls under heritage listing for Sydney. It once housed a pool game between Kurt Cobain and Dave Grohl and back in the day it was next door to the News Limited building and the staff there dubbed it the “Evil Star,” I think this has a lot to do with the fact most of their wages and story ideas ended up being born or dying there. As far back as I can remember it was one of those old pubs in Sydney that I walk straight past. Older in style, basically only locals and older generations and a venue that if the walls could talk the crime, local corruption and drug deals would make an epic TV show ala Underbelly.
TRANSFORMATIVE EVENING STAR:
It’s a completely new Evening Star now – I think “Gweilo” suited it more. It is an Asian restaurant but the venue appears more science fiction Blade Runner meets modern future-aspiring Japan. The huge neon logo is a welcoming nod to Astro Boy and the wallpaper murals look like Japanese cityscapes. There is cute robots, pop art and Pokemon soft drinks. It is so bloody cool I immediately fell in love with the place. It’s like harajuku on acid and the only thing out of place that lets the venue down is a few TVs playing sports when they should be playing Asian pop music videos.
Will the venue work? I hope so, I love it but will the locals? It is like the new owners went to town on what they wanted but ignored the venue’s 145yr history and patronage. It is just a tiny bit too far from Chinatown to attract that crowd and I fear the location for this epic venue could hurt it in the long run. Was this the reason for the name change? To remind people the Evening Star is still there?
With the modernisation of the venue comes the modernisation of both food and drinks. I was asked what kind of drinks we would like and I said “the most instagram porn worthy visual awesomeness you’ve got.” And they delivered.
We started with the Dragon’s Breath and the Hadouken and ended with Kirby’s Dreamland to share with dessert. The Dragon’s Breath is a smoking cloche delight. A provocative concoction of coriander tequila, mezcal, amaretto, palm sugar and applewood smoke. This blew my mind!! A flavour sensation with an extra sensory overload from the smoke – I want one of these every day thanks!
The Hadouken was my drink and I preferred The Dragon’s Breath but being a gin lover this was easily ingested. Roku gin (I got two bottles for Christmas woot woot), Rosemary Aperol, grapefruit, yuzu and an absinthe flame. The torching of this was a spectacle and one that I am sure would entice a lot of sales. I could go broke drinking cocktails in this place.
And lastly, for our dessert drink, Steve and I shared this pink cute fluffy cocktail. As a gay man it is definitely one of the gayest drinks I have ever had and I would happily drink more of them haha. Lychee, rose sherbet, coconut and bitter cream. Delightful!
THE MENU AND WHAT WE ORDERED:
The menu is quasi-Chinese with influence from Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Greece and more. The venue describes it as “Inspired Pan Asian and Hong Kong street food. Evening Star is a contemporary take on traditional Chinese with a Western twist.”
Headed by Chef Sebastian Gee (ex China Diner, China Lane & Sailors Thai) you know the food is going to be good. A lot better than you would ever consider from an old historic Surry Hills Hotel. The food was so good this venue will make my Top 20 Venues of 2018, if I lived locally I would be here weekly.
Halloumi with Hot and Sour Peppers
Kung Pao Chicken Skewers
Pho Ball Beef Dumplings with Hoisin and ‘Pho Flavours’ ** currently off menu **
Steamed Chinese Broccoli
Drunken Pork Belly with Chilli Caramel and Apple
Watermelon and Vodka Granita, Coconut and Liquorice Meringue
WHAT WE THOUGHT:
We started on the halloumi and it is one of the most flavoursome halloumi dishes I have had. They are nice thick slices of halloumi, but still not as thick as the giant wedges from Aristotle’s in Neutral Bay. They’re topped with a crunchy mix of the hot and sour peppers, dried black olives and sliced betel leaves. There is a lot of flavour punch to these to make them stand out from the standard halloumi dishes people serve.
The kung pao inspired chicken skewers are another flavour sensation and their only letdown was only two on the plate. I was hoping Steve came down with an immediate allergy to chicken, selfish bastard. And then my dish-of-the-day came out. A genius Pho Ball inspired beef dumpling. It was seriously like having pho as a bite-sized morsel. For some reason this epic dish is currently off-menu unless it is a special. If they have them you MUST eat them.
Next was the KFC bao. These are served with konbu fried chicken fillets, bulldog sauce, mayonnaise and pickled cucumber. Konbu is basically kelp if you were wondering. It added a little flavouring to the chicken but most of the flavouring comes from the bulldog sauce, mayo and cucumber. The chicken was generous and juicy with a nice crunch and the bao was a soft cloud, as one expects.
Mains and Dessert:
Finally we shared one main with a side of steamed Chinese broccoli. The broccoli was that perfect green we needed to make everything else guilt-free. It was beautifully cooked in soy and sesame. But the Drunken Pork Belly nearly stole the show. If it wasn’t for the creativity of the Pho Ball Dumplings this baby would have been dish of the day. This was a sticky gooey pork belly delight. Wonderfully cooked the chilli caramel gives a sweet heavy heat but then the apple and the mint settle it down into flavour heaven. I will order this on every subsequent visit.
And to end the meal it was Pokemon soft drinks imported from overseas and Watermelon and Vodka Granita with Coconut and a Liquorice Meringue. It was sweet, pink and a wonderful refreshing dessert to pair with the Kirby’s Dreamland.
I fell head over heels in love with Gweilo, now EVENING STAR HOTEL. It deserves respect for the pseudo dystopian Asian design and the mouth-watering innovative Hong Kong street food fusion from Chef Gee. I cannot wait to return.
SCORE BREAKDOWN: 3/3 food, 2/2 service, 1/1 drinks, 1/1 venue & ambience, 1/1 cost, 1/1 toilets & 0/1 bonus
EVENING STAR DEETS:
PH: 02 9281 8177
On the corner of 360 Elizabeth Street & Cooper Street, Surry Hills, Sydney NSW 2010
BOOKINGS: I would recommend
PRICING: The most expensive single dish is Drunken Pork Belly for $20- or $49- for the “Family Feed Banquet Styled” Menu
Sun – Thurs: 10am – 4am
Fri & Sat: 9am – 6am (NO LOCKOUTS)
Kitchen Open: Tues – Sun – 12- 3pm & 5pm till late
TAKEAWAY: I don’t think so – check with venue
LOCAL DELIVERY: Unsure – check with venue
VEGETARIAN OPTIONS: Yes – minimal
GLUTEN FREE OPTIONS: Yes – minimal
KID FRIENDLY: No
*** Spooning Australia dined as guests of Gweilo and Papaya PR ***
For more reviews of Sydney Restaurants – check them out HERE