THE POWDER KEG or TPG is the epitome of a dining experience in Sydney. I have to say it, it is my favourite restaurant in Sydney, a title held for over ten years by THE BOATHOUSE ON BLACKWATTLE BAY, said title now handed over to this fine establishment. I was invited as a guest of Tammi from Insatiable Munchies knowing I would also be reviewing the place and it is the most active, involved, delightful place for food art and artisan level gin indulgence I have ever experienced. I was mind blown and food-gasmed into the next realm of delectable food and I will be returning with my parental units as they need to experience this gem of a place.
THE POWDER KEG name derives from the early origins of gin, this era was the same as the infamous Guy Fawkes Gunpowder Plot where he was actually betrayed and arrested sitting on a Powder Keg. The Powder Keg is also a euphemism for a “Potent Mix or Blend”. And this is basically THE POWDER KEG’S mission statement, you will receive a potent mix and blend of food and alcohol, namely gin.
The menu of food and alcohol is put together by artisans of the highest levels. The food is curated, created and a lot of it foraged by Head Chef, Elijah Holland, we know he is a genius, we went to the same school, although he looks a lot younger than I. Elijah’s meals are nuanced creations to the finest detail and will alter slightly based on what he has foraged. For example, he does not serve you an Oyster, he serves you an oyster with a gin and tonic sorbet, cucumber and served with foraged violets and sea lettuce. Every mouthful is a taste sensation into a new world, or it was for me, I have never experienced someone so dedicated to nuanced delicacies. You need to follow his Instagram @chefelijahholland – it is a personal instagram but he covers all his foraging in there – they need to organise foraging lessons with him, it was mind blowing just listening to his tales. The sea lettuce I was eating was off the beach I spent most of my youth on, not even knowing I was walking on a delicacy.
The venue houses one of the largest boutique gin collections in the Southern Hemisphere and their bespoke handcrafted cocktails will melt your mind and are curated and all staff are trained by Grant Collins. Our first cocktail arrived for the evening and Tammi doesn’t drink – I entered a land of bliss and everything doubled haha. But our first drink that arrived was a giant smoke-filled cloche, how can this be healthy? But immediately the theatrics of the place wins you over and then the gin sommelier (is there a term?) or should we call him the maître d’ lifted the cloche and we were pleasantly assaulted by an aromatic smoke and a GUNPOWDER PLOT: Gunpowder tea spiked gin + fernet branca + gunpowder syrup + dandelion & burdoch bitters + fresh citrus. Served in a smoking cloche with gunpowder twigs and maple leaves. The creamy top to the cocktail was unique to the smoke from the cloche and I started my experience with the nicest cocktail I have ever had. It was subtle and nuanced and demanded I drink both mine and Tammi’s before moving on.
Our evening never stopped after this, we were there for a food and drink tasting and we were treated like royalty. We were given a gin and apricot liqueur sphere to cleanse the palette, then our next cocktail: VOLCANO PUNCH: Dark rum + apricot liqueur + bitters + fresh passionfruit + OP Rum float. Served smoking – it literally was volcanic as it oozed and bubbled over the side of the glass. Our other drinks of the evening consisted of a STRAWBERRY SMACK: Gin + aperol + crème de fraise + balsalmic reduction + house made lemon curd. Served straight up with a garnish of dehydrated strawberries. Then a NETTLE GIMLET: (my second favourite cocktail from the night and all time) Nettle fused gin + housemade lime cordial & nettle sorbet + fresh citrus. Served straight up with a sprig of tyme. There are no words to the alcohol game this place has!!!
As for the food, it is near perfection, mixing levels of skill and creativity the likes I have only ever seen on TV (Chef’s Kitchen FTW) but never tasted. Elijah’s delicate balance of fresh produce, foraged delicacies, textures, contrasts and flavours is astounding. He forages, he spearfishes, he pickles everything and the food area of the restaurant is covered in the jars of his fermenting or pickling wonders, to hear him talk about it comes across as more of a passion and calling and something he cannot stop doing. It is nice to hear his influence for his cooking and his pickling stems from his mother (if my gin cocktail addled memory serves me well). We indulged in Duck schnitzel lolipops with pickled kohlrabi + tarragon mayo, Quail Scotch egg with Smoke potato + crispy pancetta + foraged pickled shimeji mushrooms. We were already foodgasming at this stage and we had only begun. Next up we scored a special dish – a dish not yet on the menu but made to make us groan in ecstasy. Sauteed Foraged Pine and Wild Slippery Jack Mushrooms in a garlic herbed butter. I mean I do my garlic mushrooms in butter for breakfast regularly but this dish made mine taste like bland cooked bland cardboard on a bland plate of blandness – flavours and intricacies here just melted in my mouth.
Next up we hit the mains for our samplings and I immediately fell in love with Roast Snapper with horseradish + lemon + buttermilk + silver beet (I believe this one is off the menu at present). This one was delicate and bold at the same time with a perfectly cooked snapper that matched the boldness of the sauce and its accompaniments beautifully. This is the one my mum would worship!! But the new Barramundi dish looks even better :).
At this stage I was feeling full and I mean bursting at the seems, where is Hannibal Lecter to remove my intestines and stomach full. It was my only disappointment for the evening; we had been treated to so many small delicacies I would nearly say to you all to skip the mains and just order every entree as more of a tapas discovery into Elijah’s culinary mind. Our next dish was the with Pastrami pork fillet with crackling + barley + apricot + black garlic and while pork is my all time favourite thing to eat on this planet this was my least loved dish, not because it lacked anything, the flavours were sublime but because I was force feeding myself to get it in, I needed a purge!! (Disclaimer: purging is bad and this is a joke!). After everything so amazing we had experienced this dish was too filling to be served at this stage. I would order it as a main though if I was ordering an entree and then a main.
So after the pork main and my subsequent purge (again see disclaimer) somehow our appetite came back with a flourish when we were served two meal desserts and one drink dessert. The drink dessert came in the form of a G&T ON TAP!!!!!!!! It is the superb looking cocktail below that was just wicked and lovely all in one! No G&T has ever come this refined.
Our meal desserts were incredible, and somehow they came with an added hollow leg/ hunger for more food :). We got a Negroni Ice Cream Sandwich drizzled in flower petals, it was subtle and sublime on every level with a nice crunch on the bottom layer for texture. And then the dessert pièce de résistance: Lilly pilly jam with Sponge, Marscopone, Rhubarb sorbet, Blueberries and a freaking blueberry dust made from finely grated freeze dried blueberries!! This dish was insane! Flavours and textures were off the chart!!
I do apologise for the length of this review and more so for the lateness in it, we visited back in early May and I just knew this needed some time in writing and I was just never in the mind to give the review the time it needed but I knew this afternoon was the right time, with the passing of a legend today in the death of composer James Horner, my favourite composer on the planet, a man who gave us soundtracks for pretty much everything James Cameron made plus so much more. I put on the entire collected works of Horner’s and I had the soundtrack for this review.
This is the venue I will now judge all others in Sydney; not pretentious, not overwhelming but filled with food and alcohol game that is paramount. Visiting this place alone for the G&T is worth it, the rest is a reward I will cherish in my belly and taste bud memories. I am coming back for more, and more, and more :).
It should be noted we were invited guests for this meal and our meal was selected and prepared for us. Address, details and menu can be accessed from the little tomato box below.