Championing Australian produce generally and NSW specifically, degustation restaurant The Blue Door in Surry Hills not only focuses on local, sustainably farmed produce, but its resplendent seven-course menu changes weekly!
It’s hard to know what the most remarkable thing is about The Blue Door, a fascinating 18-seater restaurant in the heart of Sydney’s Surry Hills.
Perhaps it’s the laser focus owner-operators Angelica Nohra and Dylan Cashman have on New South Wales produce or their passion for sustainably and ethically farmed ingredients.
Perhaps it’s the extraordinary 15-page wine list that features almost entirely Aussie wines (barely a dozen are from other countries and three of those are NZ wines), 99% of which are from within NSW.
Maybe it’s the unique way the confoundingly creative dishes are served here—you receive a delectable degustation train of tasting plates throughout the evening, each with its own resonant story.
Or maybe it’s the insane fact that these guys change their menu. Every. Single. Week.
The more you think about it, the more it makes you blink.
How a kitchen can even come up with enough ways of cooking things at that kind of frequency—let alone master the dishes to the point where everything you eat is a soul-moving sensation—is a bomb to the brain.
The Blue Door, Surry Hills
Things kick off at The Blue Door with bread to share. But true to their style Angelica Nohra and Dylan Cashman make even this simple, traditional dining gesture an experience.
Angelica explains that the bread is from their own sourdough starter that’s travelled around the world with their baker. There are also two brown dinner rolls the kitchen makes by grinding up any extra sourdough from the day before.
Also on the table and beneath a ceramic cloche hides a rich puck of unsalted cultured butter. And the unsalted part is important. With the bread, a board arrives loaded with what looks like four different-coloured crystals.
Are we having some faith healing with dinner?
No, these are different types of rock salt from Pakistan, Persia, Bolivia and India. They’re the only part of any dish that Blue Door serves that’s not Australian, but the food theatre is worth it. You grate you own salt for your bread and butter, and we’re told to “be noisy and obnoxious about it” too.
The different salt is amazing—four very different flavour profiles—light and almost citrusy to dark and spicy.
Next is The Blue Door Snack Attack, an exciting spread of five different dishes that range from locally sourced sliced meats to startling ‘fish scales’. These deep-fried strips of fish skin curl up as they cook and the attached flesh goes spiky. They’re crunchy, salty and like nothing we’ve eaten before.
And we haven’t even started the seven courses proper yet!
Dining Done Differently
Make no mistake, this is fine-dining; the quality of the food and creativity of the restaurant’s concept dictate it. But the relaxed nature of The Blue Door puts you at ease.
With over seven dishes coming to your table, you’d expect an arsenal of silverware. But here your cutlery comes stacked in a block and you’re told to ‘create your own adventure’ in terms of what you eat with. It’s not only refreshing, it gives you license to enjoy the experience without feeling watched.
You can choose to have the matching wines with your meal or not—in fact, this is the only decision you have to make during the evening. But you can also share the wine pairing too.
You can bring your own wine if you want, though Angelica, a trained sommelier, will ask for a taste—for purely research purposes of course. The only caveat is that the wine must be good enough that The Blue Door would have it on their menu, so no box wine and no cleanskins!
The Blue Door has two sittings, which isn’t unusual. However, no one arrives at the same time for each sitting. We’re the first people in for the 5.30 service (the second begins at 8.15) and we have the place to ourselves for the first half an hour or so.
Tables progressively fill up as the night draws on and it’s fun to hear each cover receive the same instructions and descriptions we’ve already been through. We hear them make noise, grate that salt, be weirded out by the fish scale snacks, and marvel at the passion and skill that this little restaurant harnesses.
What’s The Food Like At The Blue Door?
Going into detail about every dish we’re served won’t really be helpful; by the time you read this, that menu will be dead and gone. It’ll have changed even before we’ve finished writing.
But here’s a taster, as it were.
Before we’re served our dish, Angelica comes with the first matching wine to explain her choice and how it pairs with the food to come. She paints a picture of why the 2021 Riesling from Jessop Wines in Orange works so well with the sashimi we’re about to have.
Until this point, we didn’t know we’re having fish.
The wine not only works with the sweetness of the reef fish that the fisherman Chris Bolton, who catches each fish one at a time on a hand line (as in not even a fishing rod), but it melds with the nuttiness and oils of the macadamia and sunflower seeds.
Ok, so the sashimi comes with nuts and seeds too, ay?
And as we delve further into the meal, we catch glimpses of each upcoming dish with each wine. We also learn more about the restaurant, buying whole animals, breaking them down and using everything. They also work with no-till regenerative NSW vegetable farmers, who grow their crops naturally. Other details emerge like the chickens that go into the exquisite terrine come from a farm where maremma dogs keep them safe.
It’s a flawless meal—indeed, calling it a meal undersells The Blue Door. It’s an experience, a journey through pastural NSW and the spectacular produce we have at our fingertips here.
It’s also a performance of scintillating cooking skills from the open kitchen that works hard behind us while we relax and embed ourselves in the food narrative of the region.