PONY DINING is a venue I have visited twice now, once years ago with bestie Brookie for an annual catch up feast and most recently a few months back for our “Best Steak” Category for the Where’s The Food? Series. Both times I have been impressed beyond belief at how divine the food is. Perhaps it’s the woodfired element of their Argentinian Wood Fired Grill where most of the food is cooked, or maybe it’s due to the location, being on one of the oldest cobblestoned laneways in Australia. Whatever it is I have a lot of love for this wonderful restaurant.
PONY DINING VENUE:
I’ll let the venue’s website set the scene for you – it covered everything more succinctly than I would……..
Pony Dining is located in Sydney’s oldest laneway within the historic and bustling dining precinct of The Rocks. Situated on the corner of Argyle Street and Kendall Lane, Pony Dining was originally a former bond warehouse. Restaurant designer, Michael McCann, transformed the historic building into the stunning dining space it is today. The restaurant features a large open kitchen with a pony hide clad counter, 10 meter long dining table on the outdoor deck, an intimate lounge for pre-dinner drinks, heritage brick walls, and commissioned woven art hangings – making this space a truly unique dining destination.
PONY DINING MENU:
Widely regarded as the pioneers of the wood fire grill in Sydney, Pony offers an honest flavour driven menu showcasing Australian produce and a carefully crafted boutique selection of wines with a cheeky cocktail list. At the heart of the kitchen is a signature Argentinean wood fire grill and a contemporary modern Australian menu featuring the finest cuts of meat, freshest seafood and an array of shared and larger plates.
We got to spend some time with the maestro Head Chef, Neil Nolan. The man is a kitchen master who lives for his kitchen and the quality of his food. Nolan sources the best of everything from the best of all the suppliers. If the brisket is the best from Farmer Joe then he only orders the brisket from farmer joe and the rump from Farmer Sally because she has the single best rumps on the market. It’s impressive and it comes across in all the dishes.
The menu is quite large and seasonal. The kitchen serves what is called Modern Australian Cuisine but Nolan is Irish, the Sous Chef is Chinese and there are a few other influences in the kitchen. As such there are some unique flavours. The kangaroo sauce is made from pepperberries and oyster sauce, combining the best ingredients to make the best sauce. I think this is what Australian cuisine is, multicultural fusion.
WHAT WE FEASTED ON:
Octopus with rocket, whipped roe, green olive tapenade, chilli and lemon
Seared Kangaroo with pepperberry dressing, raspberries and muntri
Blackmore’s Brisket (300gm BMS 9+) with stout, turnip, swede and onion soubise
Grain fed Ribeye (500gm) with crumbed bone marrow
WHAT WE THOUGHT:
Before I start this section I must explain that NOTHING WE ATE IS CURRENTLY ON THE MENU IN THE FORM WE ATE IT. There are links below to the current menu. Originally I wasn’t going to review this venue on my own website, this was for a WHERE’S THE FOOD? episode. But the food was so good I had to get it on the website because it did make three of my favourites for the year. Best Steak, Best Entree and Best Brisket – I am still compiling my Top 20 Restaurants and this epic venue requires a place in the list.
I should also mention – we tried no drinks but the wine list and the cocktail list has PONY DINING up near the top of venues I will be returning to ASAP.
We started with the Octopus and it ticked all the boxes. The tapenade was very summery, even though we ate at the end of winter and the octopus had a nice, slightly crispy outer, with a delightfully tender inner. I love how the tentacles go to the smaller point, the ends were crispy and a little charred – LOVE.
Then my mind and taste buds were blown – the kangaroo was my favourite entree of the year. Chef lightly seared the extra fine, almost sashimi-ginger thickness roo over the woodfired grill. You could taste the earthy/ wood flavours as though it was cooked in the bush on an open fire. This dish is on the menu at the moment but no muntries – it is made with quandongs instead – it would taste very similar. The sauce of pepperberry and oyster sauce was a mildly Asian influenced spiced BBQ sauce and the raspberry sweetness was perfect to break up the gaminess of the roo. Now – what the hell are muntries you ask? Muntries are also known as emu apples, native cranberries, munthari, muntaberry or monterry. They have a flavour of a spicy apple. Crunchy in texture, muntries contain up to four times more antioxidants than blueberries. Basically an unknown superfood.
Next up were the mains and they were both just outstanding. The brisket was smoked for over 12hrs and fell apart like warm butter. Up there as one of the single best briskets I have eaten. And following that was the 6 Week Dry Aged 500gm Ribeye. Cooked to a masterful perfection from Chefs that have to cook by intuition and skill because woodfired cooking has no temperature controls. This was the single best steak I ate in 2018 and it wasn’t even the best thing on the plate. If you have read my reviews over the last few years you may appreciate my level of worship for bone marrow. It and Truffle – my culinary heroin. It was the close to the thickest bone marrow I have eaten and it tasted better than I had dreamed.
PONY DINING is a marvellous Australian Restaurant in Sydney’s The Rocks that embraces the influences of the kitchen staff offering multicultural flavours to compliment their Argentinian Wood Fired Grilled meats. If you visit ensure you get that Kangaroo – will change your life, as will the steaks.
SCORE BREAKDOWN: 3/3 food, 2/2 service, 1/1 drinks, 1/1 venue & ambience, 1/1 cost, 1/1 toilets & 0/1 bonus
PONY DINING DEETS:
PH: 02 9252 7797
Cnr Argyle Street and Kendall Lane, The Rocks NSW 2000 Australia
BOOKINGS: HIGHLY Recommended
PRICING: Medium to High – two most expensive dishes are a 600gm pork belly for $82- and a 800gm rump cap for $88-. At that size you could easily share it however.
SUN – MON 12 – 3pm & 530 – 930pm
TUE – THU 12 – 3pm & 530 – 10pm
FRI – SAT 12 – 3pm & 530 – 1030pm
VEGETARIAN OPTIONS: Yes
LOCAL DELIVERY: NO
GLUTEN FREE OPTIONS: Yes
KID FRIENDLY: Yes
*** Spooning Australia dined as a guest the venue with the Where’s The Food? Crew while filming an Episode ***
For more reviews of Sydney Venues – check them out HERE