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On Everybody's Lips: Bloodwood

Everyone’s talking about this new restaurant, Bloodwood, on Newtown’s King Street. That’s because they ain’t no fools.

Stumbling across Bloodwood is better than a finding out your dad knows the CEO of Hermés, who’s kindly offering you a cost-price handbag. Bloodwood is exciting, beautiful and relaxed, and most importantly, it’s just the right amount of refined. After all, Newtown has more cheap eats coming out of its dreadlocks than dust mites during spring, and while sometimes you just want a quick $10 bowl of pasta, there are those nights when you want a high-flying dining experience. Bloodwood is not a student restaurant; it’s an aperitif and tasting plate kind of joint. Dinner for two will set you back roughly $100, depending on how greedy you are and/or whether you are a lush.

By no means is Bloodwood fussy or stuffy; this is Newtown after all. Young chefs, Claire van Vuuren, Mitchell Grady and Jo Ward have departed the more uppity shores of the North (Claudes) and headed west. They’ve taken the best of what they have experienced during their fine-dining years and thrown away the dross. Expect classic cocktails that have been given a bit of down & dirty and a vast wine list that is more interested in flavour and fun than “nose”, whatever that means. The menu can be shared or not, but frankly, you’ll want to share. And you’ll want to taste.

To the food then… the meal begins with the very naughty polenta chips and Gorgonzola sauce. Exactly as you dream when you read the menu, a warm and crunchy crust surrounds a barely oozing creamy polenta. The sauce is tangy and bold. The combination is perfection, and a great way to kick things off. Next a fried bean curd roll, filled with minced crab & pork and shitake mushroom, is demolished in about 3 seconds flat, and that’s not because it’s a small serve. The crispy skin is a perfect foil to the luscious filling. The crown jewel however, is the baked kingfish in miso with a radish and seaweed salad. Truly, it’s a religious experience, with every mouthful conversation stopped mid-sentence so we can savour the punchy sweetness of that big bursting fillet of almost slurpable fish.

The service is friendly, relaxed and chatty without being intrusive. Bang on, in other words. The food could come out of the kitchen a tad quicker but it isn’t so slow as to be irritating. The building, a former conservatory, has been converted into an industrial-style space with beautiful exposed pipes and modern art installation pieces. Random battered doors hang artfully (horizontally) from the roof. The front quarter of the building is a bar area, which frankly doesn’t look like the sort of spot to linger, however their Dirty Martini is particularly good and the White Rabbit ale (from Victoria) is brilliant, so a little persuasion is all it would take to settle in. A surprisingly quiet kitchen bustles in the centre of the space – behind is an indoor dining room with warm brick walls and striking light features. At the rear is an outdoor dining area, which is buzzy but not annoyingly noisy, and downstairs is a private dining room, or as they prefer to call it, the communal table.

Bloodwood don’t take bookings so don’t hope to get a table on the weekend unless you are prepared to wait. My first attempt, at 7pm Saturday with a small cadre of pals, resulted in a two-hour wait. Suffice to say, we declined the table when the call finally came in and made do with lesser fare down the road. Success was had on attempt number two; a Monday at 7pm which saw a mostly empty restaurant full by 8.30. On a MONDAY! Somebody’s popular.

This is a place destined for repeat visits. The chickpea pancake with pumpkin, zucchini and Persian fetta, the lamb croquettes with silken eggplant and capsicum sauce and the baked mushrooms are calling!

Bloodwood is open from 5pm weekdays (closed Tuesdays) and from midday on the weekend. They don’t close up until late so there’s plenty of time to relax. You’ll find them at 416 King Street, Newtown.

words: Kristen Hodges
photos: Matt Hodges


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