Woodland Kitchen & Bar sits among several places to eat, drink and be merry on busy Grosvenor Street in Neutral Bay, a short walk from Military Road.
The restaurant, formerly known as Pony Dining, is brought to you by local husband and wife team Damien and Jenni Heads. Damien has a strong background, having headed up the kitchen at several well known Sydney restaurants, including Garfish and Steel Bar & Grill. He’s also appeared on the TV series Ready Steady Cook. So, you can be sure that your feast here is in safe and experienced hands.
The restaurant interior is modern and sleek – with angular features, stunning timber and an open kitchen. It’s almost New York-esk. There’s a small but cosy bar and long wrap around leather banquette seating encompasses the dining area.
The modern Australian menu is designed to be “no fuss food with honest flavours”. Many mains, including the salmon, pork cutlet and lamb backstrap are cooked on the wood fire grill. Slow burning charcoal and logs of ironbark provide an intense heat and a unique smoky aroma.
Share plates and starters range from $4 to $22, main plates from $28 to $38 and desserts from $8 to $14. These prices really do allow for Woodland to be a local favourite.
New Year’s Eve 2014 – set menu
I dined at Woodland on New Year’s Eve – a glass of French sparkling on arrival and a choice of options across a three course set menu was $85. Although there’s a full list of cocktails on offer I quickly moved onto the wine list. It’s refreshing to know that Damien, the head chef, oversees the entire wine selection – ensuring that each dish on the menu can be accompanied by complementary wine. The wines are priced very reasonably, with bottles starting at $29. What’s even better is that you can order many by the half bottle.
It didn’t take long to choose a Barossa Shiraz at under $50 – a 2010 SK Old Vine Shiraz made by Shawn Kelleske. It paired perfectly with the ‘starters for the table’:
The selection of starters included:
Sourdough and extra virgin olive oil
Sydney rock oysters, eschallot dressing
Goats cheese tartlet, asparagus, onion jam, cress
Grilled calamari filled with chorizo, couscous and herbs
Dry aged beef slider, brioche, smoked relish, manchego
The stand-outs were the tartlet, with light and fluffy pastry, and the perfectly cooked calamari.
Wood grilled calamari, filled with chorizo, couscous & herbs
Although not usually a steak ‘go-to’ person I couldn’t resist the black angus rib-eye on the bone. The accompanying polenta chips and truffled pecorino won me over. The dish didn’t disappoint – the steak was carefully cooked medium rare and the presentation on par with a fine dining restaurant. The only disappointment was the number of chunky chips – I could’ve easily managed six instead of three!
Black angus rib-eye – wood fire grilled, with polenta chips, truffle pecorino & cress
The dark chocolate and caramel tart with double cream and honeycomb for dessert was divine. It was rich but not too rich. And the home-made honeycomb was good enough to eat on it’s own.
Dark chocolate & caramel tart, with double cream & house made honeycomb.
The service you ask? It was excellent – and that was on a busy night with a set menu and lots of diners working their dinner around the NYE fireworks. The staff were polite and attentive but not overly so. If this level of service is consistently provided then you’ll have no complaints.
What interested me when chatting to Jenni, who works front of house, was their plans for Woodland. They want it to be casual, accessible and affordable – a place where locals go time and time again, whether for breakfast with friends, a long lunch or dinner date. As a local myself I’m sure I’ll be back again soon.
By Feast Wisely
Go for a weekend breakfast (Saturday and Sunday, 10am-12pm) and add a sparkle to your eggs with the Pimms Royale (pimms no.1, sparkling wine, strawberry) or the Bucks Fizz.
Woodland offers set menus for groups of eight or more – it’s a limited choice a la carte menu for $65 – makes splitting the bill so much easier!
Visit The Oaks Hotel for a pre-dinner drink – it’s a north shore institution that’s only a few minutes walk from Woodland.
- Shop 2 / 19-25 Grosvenor Street, Neutral Bay, NSW 2089
- 02 9904 3400
- Dinner bookings recommended