Tucked away in the back streets of Chippendale it is easy to miss Ester and what a shame that would be. Entering into what appears to be a converted warehouse you are met by the soft warm smells emanating from their open planned kitchen. Designed by Anthony Gill Architects, it has received a lot of attention for its minimalist and urbanist layout in architecture circles.
But this is of little consequence to me, what I care much more about is the food. Once you have been seated, by their lovely Maitre D, you are brought some delicious (and gratis) roasted chickpeas with salt and rosemary. I'm normally not a big fan of chickpeas, but these were delicious and moreish. Looking into the kitchen I can see the large brick wood fire oven in which they bake their own dark sourdough.
I couldn't resist ordering some of this with a generous pat of butter and a sprinkle of salt, it is everything you could possibly hope for. But I would warn you not to fill up on the bread. The whole menu is designed for sharing, so get a few friends together who have compatible dietary requirements. We started with the roasted oysters with a horseradish sauce. Usually, I am a puritan when it comes to oysters, the fresher and the simpler the better. But these little flavour bombs, served in the shell, are just scrumptious.
Next, we had the prawns, grilled perfectly, slathered in brown burnt with these little fried capers on top giving them a little salty crunch. The next dish was the highlight of the meal, leeks. Somehow they had created these perfectly cooked leeks, with an almost burn crumb and a tart goats cheese sauce that cut through the rich butteryness of the leeks perfectly; a fantastic combination of flavours and textures.
We also had the flank with bagna cauda, which is a Mediterranean sauce made from garlic, anchovies, olive oil and butter that each Mediterranean country does its own version of. The steak was perfectly rare and the bagna cauda, whilst being rich, wasn't overpowering and complemented the meat perfectly. The other main was a roasted cauliflower, which is surprisingly spicy and acidic and a perfect main on its own. I usually like some spice so this was a pleasant surprise.
Their desserts are unique and very tasty, I would recommend getting a couple and sharing them. The Three Milks is milk three different ways and is simply indescribable, each one different, but complementing or contrasting the others perfectly. The salted caramel semi-freddo is likewise delicious and you can have a hot cold drip coffee to go with it.
What is so lovely about the food here is that you could quite happily come here and have a vegetarian meal without even realising it was vegetarian. I am very pleased to see restaurants following the likes of Yottam Ottolenghi and making the most of fresh, local produce and making vegetables shine.
The wine list is lovely, with good pairing by the staff. There are some interesting varietals and some very light rosés or pink whites, where they have just left the skins in to add another dimension to the wine.
The staff are attentive and friendly without being intrusive or detached. I am forever grateful that the days of snotty silver service are gone and what is left is places where you get silver service waiting without the attitude that goes with it. I personally would much rather eat in a causal setting, being served correctly and politely by someone who doesn't have a complex.
The cost ends up being around $60 - $80 per head depending on your choice of wine. They have a set $72pp menu. Ester is a great find and I will definitely be going back.