Sunday, 27 May 2012

Restaurant Review: Spencer Guthrie, Newtown

I got the distinct impression that the crew at Spencer Guthrie don't like being compared with Newtown's other smart diner Bloodwood

Comparisons are inevitable. They both occupy the same section of King St (the restaurants are practically opposite each other), serve similar Modern Australian fayre and are in approximately the same price bracket. 

However, I can also see that they are different beasts and comparisons are a little unfair. Spencer Guthrie is smaller, doesn't have a bar (in fact currently doesn't have a licence) and has an air of formality, trying to serve (almost) hatted food. Bloodwood is the cheeky younger brother.

Service was impeccable during the evening. The waiting staff were incredibly knowledgeable about the food and efficient in their service. At the end of the meal we sat around chatting for an hour finishing our wine. We were the last table to leave the restaurant and the kitchen had virtually packed up for the evening, but they never once tried to usher us out of the door.

I enjoy it when the kitchen is on show. Although we didn't a fantastic view from our table, it adds a certain theatre to the restaurant.  I think the kitchen should also be lauded for seeking to use sustainable produce.

The first of many run club + friends farewell diners

Sadly, my list of grumbles is pretty long. They obviously don't like taking group bookings. We were slapped with a minimum spend which got inflated when we added a couple of extra people to the table. Having now visited the restaurant I can see that it lends itself much better to smaller tables, but if that is the case why take group bookings at all?

I also found the $75 minimum spend off putting from the start. They weren't even full on a Wednesday night so I didn't really see the point.

The food certainly demonstrated a lot of technique, quality ingredients and great presentation. However, for my palate it just missed the mark. There wasn't enough of the roasted chilli or lime in the ceviche to give it the necessary zing. And the beef cheeks could have used more of the wonderful jus. We're only talking small margins, but unfortunately they count. All of the men at the table left hungry too. Not a great sign when you've each had three courses.

The final nail in the coffin for me was the value for money. We spent $90 a head and it was BYO! A service charge slapped on top of the minimum spend didn't help. At Bloodwood (there is the comparison again) a similar sized group spend $90 per head, left royally stuffed and we'd drunk seven bottles of wine.

For me there is no comparison between Spencer Guthrie and Bloodwood. Not because you shouldn't make one, but because in my experience, Bloodwood is so much better.

Ceviche of kingfish with pickled cauliflower, lime and roasted chilli - $20

I would have preferred the ceviche to be more like the Kinfish I had at Deli Bottega in Bondi. The roasted cauliflower, chilli and lime didn't do enough to excite me palate.

Braised beef cheeks, white bean puree, caramelised fennel & olives - $30

The braised beef cheeks were meltingly tender. For me the star of the dish was the intense jus around the plate. It helped bring everything together and give the flavour a lift. It is just a shame there wasn't more of it!

Soft apple cream, poached rhubarb, butter crumbs & malt ice cream - $15

I'm not sure if it was the wine or the dessert itself, but I have to admit I don't have any memories on the twist of a rhubarb crumble.

Some food porn of dishes not tasted by me:
Seasonal betroot, goats cheese, walnuts and fresh horseraddish - $19

Lamb leg, parsnip puree, roasted eggplant and potatoes - $31

Chewy meringue, glazed figs and coffee chantilly - $15

Spencer Guthrie
399 King Street
Spencer Guthrie on Urbanspoon


  1. I've heard mixed things about this place - and some negatives about the HUGE corkage fees. The food does look nice though; and the interior of the place also looks lovely.

  2. I'm sorry it didn't meet your expectations, thanks for sharing... I won't bother.