Firstly I need to apologies in advance with this article, it is going to be long, Tammi Kwok (Tea for Tammi) and I had a lengthy meal of fine food and abundant cocktail art at the newly cheffed THE POWDER KEG in Potts Point and we took a LOT of pics that were too good to leave out. Tammi was invited to attend a bit over a year ago now and she kindly asked me along as her guest, a new year, a new chef, a new vision and she invited me to come back with her, it also helps she doesn’t drink so I am her liquor connoisseur, or more the only alcoholic she knows :). Here is my article from a year ago so you can compare – HERE, but let me put it this way, in 2015 THE POWDER KEG was my number 1 restaurant in Sydney.
THE POWDER KEG is another era of cocktail bar/ fine dining restaurant time warped to the current timeline, it occupies an old terrace in the back of the Cross, or Potts Point for the postcodes, besides fine food and cocktail art it is the gin the place is famous for, housing one of the largest gin collections in the Southern Hemisphere and making gin inspired drinks that will blow your mind. It is a venue that suits winter and would also be perfectly located in the Blue Mountains with roaring open fires, and people in their finest, it feels like it needs either a piano and pianist in the corner with a quartet on Sundays and it needs a back outdoor terrace area where pipes and cigars are the pleasure du jour. The venue is darkly mood lit with faded white at the front and bold yellows at the back end where the bar and gin cabinets are located. It makes the photography a nightmare but Tammi and I make a good pair with self lighting and culinary indulgence.
As far as drinking goes THE POWDER KEG is my unparalleled favourite place in Australia, both times I have been there the cocktails, the gin and the experience has knocked my socks off, I have been saving my pennies and am taking the parental units there over the long weekend, they need to experience this. Our entire evening of food and drink was selected for us. We started with the Plymouth Gin (above), Plymouth Gin + Tonic + Orange + Candied Orange Wheel + Mint. Divine and foamy and bordering on dessert-like. 4/5. We then had a Fords + Tonic + Lemon Peel + 3 Juniper + Edible Flower (unpictured), this was also nice but I was not a fan of eating the flower, it reminded me of stuffing a carnation in my mouth and chewing, perfectly fine but not a flavour I am used to, as for the drink, I somehow managed to drink both mine and Tammi’s.
We were then given the Oysters with Gin+ tonic sorbet as they had the same sorbet as the drinks we were having and complimented each other. I enjoyed the oysters but it was here the comparisons in chefs started, while these oysters were enjoyable we could immediately tell they weren’t from Elijah Holland, THE POWDER KEG’S previous chef. Fine oysters but lacking the nuance of a master. 3/5.
Elijah is what you would call a professional forager, he traipses all up and down the coast to locate the perfect seafood accompaniments and he travels inland in search of the perfect herbs, yabbies, fungi and whatever he can forage. He sadly left THE POWDER KEG to pursue full-time foraging and he also did some cooking at a little place known as NOMA, his foraging paired with his cooking and his passion made dishes that were next level stuff – I would compare Elijah’s cooking to a mix of René Redzepi and my cheffing idol Francis Mallmann (if you haven’t seen CHEF’S KITCHEN TV show you must – the Mallmann episode will leave your jaw on the floor).
But I digress, the current chef is still producing great meals that are better than half of Sydney but the nuance in Elijah’s cooking was like Picasso for the palate. The new menu at THE POWDER KEG is more affordable, leaning towards casual fine dining with no mains over $30- and weekly “special” nights, local’s nights and occasional pop-ups, more affordable fun in the same venue. I like it.
Our next alcoholic concoction came out and this one was a sublime negroni, and I must add, the first negroni I have not only liked, I have loved. The bar staff at THE POWDER KEG are really alchemists that would make Merlin embarrassed, these glass balls are filled with negroni are then infused with the smoke of herbs and selected woods to enhance the flavour and experience, it was a tastebud delight of subtlety and decadence, just be careful you don’t tip it backwards when you get near the bottom or you will inhale some amazing smoke, albeit organic and harmless, but it reminded me of smoking (2yrs smoke free) and I liked it :). 4.7/5.
It was here we were invited to take our seat at a table as opposed to the cocktail area, THE POWDER KEG kindly saved us the best table in the house, the same one we sat at last year but as the venue was quite busy in the front room and we were going to be using lights we asked if we could take a booth away from people, it was nice where we were but that front table is delightful, if only I was courting Tammi, it would have been a great place to propose haha.
While we waited for food we were given a Hendricks Cucumber Cooler, a new drink coming in a few weeks when they start their partnership activation with Hendricks. This cooler was the most refreshing light drink that would be ideal for summer and tennis outdoors with some cucumber sandwiches on the side. I loved it so much I bumped an entire one off the table and it was here I am certain the maître d’ was grateful we moved away from the public haha. Thank Gin for napkins! 4.5/5.
Our first dish for mains was Seared Scallops with truffle & nori seaweed puree, witlof salad + nigella seed film – it is the article photo up the very top. It actually encompassed the nuance of a meal I would expect with Elijah back in the kitchen and it was here that I could also see that while the new chef has a different style his food also has marvels and nuance. 4.6/5.
Second for our main meals was a Quail Scotch egg with smoke potato + crispy pancetta + mushrooms. As a whole the dish was nice, not awesome, but nice, it worked well with a bit of all the sum of ingredients in the one mouthful with the crunch of the pancetta nicely complimenting the scotch egg. Personally for me it lacked a flavour punch, it is a subtle dish but I wanted more. 3/5.
Then came one of the best dishes of the meal, a new dish coming to the menu (this week I believe), a Scallop Risotto + crispy pancetta + broccolini + black plum. We both loved this dish, the stock was sublime and I will order this again, possibly the best risotto I have eaten in my many years. As more dishes came out the waiter asked if we were finished with this one and he got a resounding unified “NO.” I would have licked the plate if I wasn’t in such a refined venue. 4.7/5.
Following this was another new meal about to release – Jewfish with cepe (porcini) custard and a macadamia and orange condiment. The jewfish was cooked perfectly and it had very subtle flavours, the plating was fancy but somewhat odd, artistic yes, but I didn’t see the purpose of it – everything on one side and a dollop of a sort of crushed macadamia orange butter on the other. I found that everything mostly worked on the dish, I enjoyed the mild crunch from the macadamia but for me it wasn’t a perfect pairing, it was nice, Tammi really enjoyed this one, but for me, too subtle and not balanced for my mouth. 3.6/5.
And odd, I know, but a side was my favourite dish of the night, Charred Brocollini + crispy kale salad with burnt butter + orange and fried shallot, it was a mouth orgasm that we both loved, I could eat this by the bowlful. Perfecto and bravo. 4.9/5.
We also ate a lovely Raw beetroot + cottage cheese with horseradish, toasted caraway seeds + house made apple cider vinegar salad of sorts that was a striking purple and looked like a mound of purple fungi, it was delicious but it did not photograph well enough to make the cut. 4/5.
Above was our dessert gin cocktail, my favourite drink of the evening, it was basically a Jaffa gin cocktail, subtle and orange flavoursome topped with foam and chocolate, pretty sure my toes curled under and my body shuddered – I shall have this again!! 5/5.
And just when you thought your belly couldn’t fill with anymore joy you bring out the hollow leg for dessert. First sweet joy off the mark was the Milk Sponge Cake with caramelised condensed milk + ice cream, lemon & thyme meringue. It was a sponge cake take on the Eaton mess, subtle and impressive but no Eaton mess, give me BERRIES! However, that meringue was amazing and once Tammi asked me if I could taste the thyme it hit me and it was glorious. 3.9/5
And our final meal for the evening before the wheelbarrow rolled the stomach to the van was 88% Cacao Dark Chocolate Mousse with Juniper Berry Crumble + Lemon & Chilli Sorbet, it was perfecto. I am not a huge fan of chilli and sweets but that the combination of lemon and chilli was a nice balance and that dark chocolate mousse was so nice it needs a sonnet written for it, spoon them all together for a joint tasting and it was like a symphony of sublime sweets. Loved this dish! 4.8/5.
The biggest thing I was judging while at THE POWDER KEG was wether it was still going to be as sublime a venue now that Elijah has left (you should follow him on insta (@chefelijahholland)). Firstly, take into consideration that this is foremost a gin mecca with drinks I consider unparalleled, this has not changed, is the food as good as when Elijah was there? honestly no, however this does not in anyway mean it is bad, it still sings on certain dishes and the new chef is finding his groove and filling shoes I previously compared to a Picasso of cooking. Put it this way, I still enjoyed it so much I am taking my parents there for mine and my stepdad’s birthday on the long weekend, that speaks volumes.
Huge thank you to the wonderful people at THE POWDER KEG, who treated us like royalty, be sure to say hi to the owner, Grant, when you are there, you can’t miss him, he looks exactly like George Clooney, behave ladies!! And a special thanks to Tammi for bringing me as her guest. I look forward to seeing where THE POWDER KEG evolves.
The Powder Keg Deets:
7 Kellett Street, Potts Point, Sydney, NSW
Phone: (02) 8354 0980
Mon/ Tue: CLOSED
Wed/Thur: 6pm to 1am
Fri: 1pm to 230am
Sat: 430pm to 1am
Sun: 430pm to 12am
*** JK (and any guests of Spooning Australia) were invited guests of the establishment, however, as always, if it was shite I would happily tell you as such.