Back in the 30s the gangsters of Kings Cross used to slash each others body parts with cut throat razors until Roslyn street run with blood, or so the legend goes. Later it was known as the home of ‘Baron’s’, an infamous dive where you could go for that final night-cap long after everywhere else had refused stragglers entry. Locals bemoaned the passing of the old neighbourhood when they pulled down that musty landmark and erected a shiny white Gaudiesque flat-iron building in which a restaurant called ‘Blanco’ initially operated. But for those who could afford it, the prow-like dining room provided a privileged porthole onto the same irrespressible street life outside, thrumming with people hell-bent on getting their slice of this seedy sexy city centre.
The venue is now called Gastro Park and the current dining experience provided by ex Pier chef Grant King is nothing short of sensational. Naturally opting for the degustation, we were handed heaven on a plate beginning with carpaccio of crystal bay prawns followed by a crazy ‘putanesca wafter’ sculpted from parmesan cheese and other delectable ingredients. The liquid butternut gnocchi was a knockout, melting in our mouths like the most delicate egg yolks imaginable all floating in a mushroom consomme. We were also presented with slow cooked jurassic quail breast which sent us swooning – how could this sort of food exist?
But it was King’s signature dish of crispy scaled snapper that sealed his reputation as one of the most imaginative chef’s working in our gastronomically obsessed city today. The scales of said poisson were drawn back and, according to our friendly young waiter, hand-held over the pan until they were heated just enough to be crunchy. It’s a novel and delicious way to cook fish and it was accompanied by smoked potato puree and calamari crackling all painted with squid ink sauce. This wonder from the deep is one of the few dishes that King brought with him from Pier and will deservedly stay on the menu for a long time to come.
Another catch from Pier is M’aitre de Martijn de Boer who works the floor like a pro, making sure that everything cruises along smoothly even when anxious customers like myself insist on popping out every few hours to check the dreaded parking meters. But all such pedestrian cares soon dissolve in the face of the eye-popping deserts which include a ‘nitro pavlova’ with mango, pineapple and coconut, and a delicate sphere of white chocolate topped encrusted with mandarin and honeycomb which when cracked reveals the inner workings of cookies and cream ice cream. Mirroring the full moon rising behind the crusted on 1940s apartment buildings flanking the nearby laneways, this sphere of joy seems to encapsulate all the fabulous feats of gastronomy that emerge from King’s kitchen.
Many have criticised the name of this remarkable restaurant but to my mind, their witty logo with a swing hanging fro the ‘A’ and ‘S’ conjurs up exactly the right playful experience of dining here. A more egocentric chef might have gone for the obvious ‘King’s Cross’ but not Grant. While the vision from the prow reveals the same urgent mix of pulsating humanity outside, the cuisine in here now is something altogether superior. The team proudly proclaim the venue to be ‘the playground of good food’ and their uninhibited, confident approach to busting down the doors of the establishment gives us gastronauts an experience that’s very hard to come down from.
Gastro Park, 5-9 Roslyn Street, Kings Cross Sydney
(02) 8068 1017