With the arrival of Mister Jennings on the city-side end of Bridge Road, it seems a new breath of life might be coming to the once busy shopping street with it’s numerous factory outlets, which more recently are now found vacated with brightly coloured ’For Lease’ signs on the windows.
It was only a matter of time really, but Mister Jennings comes in with guns blazing; head chef Ryan Flaherty had just left Estelle, and had some experience in Europe in establishments such as The Fat Duck and El Bulli. However there’s none of the pomp you may expect either, and is quite an unexpected, and welcome, addition to Bridge Road.
I had originally booked for a table for four, but in the end, it was just Allan and I, as our friends had to pull out. I arrived early, and settled in with my book and a carafe of wine. I certainly appreciate restaurants that do carafe’s, as they’re perfect for sharing, but allow you to change wines throughout the night so suit the meal or on a whimsy.
Mister Jennings is sharp and clean cut, white walls, dark bar, light woods and mirrors. There’s hints of the future, with an abstract robot man on the wall, and touches of playfulness with little artist mannequins found doing tai chi on top of the bar, or precariously dangling from a light fixture.
Although the option for 5 courses for $80 sounded pretty good, there were some particular things that Allan and I were eyeing off, so we opted to put our menu together instead. And honestly, we calculated it up later, and I think it ended up a little cheaper…(typical Asians).
The puffed veal tendons were simply to die for and a simply moreish way to start the meal. Lighter and crisper than crackling or any other form of pig skin, this little bowl was very swiftly demolished.
I know that everyone has talked about this, but I really must tell you about it too. The frozen kangaroo dish is just sublime. A pretty picture of dark pink hues, you must eat it quickly, or you lose the effect. When frozen, the sliver thin slices of kangaroo are almost crispy, the delicate icicles crunching in the mouth, that melt away to reveal the delectably tender meat that’s encased inside. It’s almost like a science experiment, mixed in with a little bit of theatre. Let’s not forget the sweet fruits, that also lend their crunchy texture, and the smooth avocado cream that adds just another complexity level to the dish.
Totally not everyone’s thing, but I was definitely feeling it.
The crab, salmorejo, chilli and black peppers is not the easiest dish to share, but it’s just lovely. Intense in colour, light, sweet, spicy. Can I have some more please sir?
Allan and I were unanimous in our decision to order the leeks and brown butter béchamel sauce, and this dish spoke to both our sensibilities and palates. Hitting you in the face with rich buttery and cheesy aromas, it’s a sensory delight before it even touches the tastebuds. But once it does, it’s pure comfort, gorgeously sweet, rich and creamy; this is the sort of thing I could eat entirely through the whole of winter.
The duck dish comes blanketed by thin sheets of turnips, topped with peanuts and just the right amount of vibrant satay sauce. Whilst not heavy, the satay sauce is still full of flavour; not what I would expect to pair with duck, but it does work quite well.
Mister Jennings seems to like to hide his proteins, as the next dish, pork, lime pickle and kale, also came veiled underneath vivaciously green kale leaves. When pulled back, revealed carrots, and sumptuous pork jowl that melted int he mouth. Although probably the simplest dish in flavours, the addition of the lime pickle kicked it up into another gear.
To finish our meal, chocolate, cardamon, crunch. Of course it has to be chocolate. In a bout of theatre, the mountain of chocolate is placed on the table, before a thick and dark chocolate sauce is poured over the top. Is there anything more sensual to a chocaholic?
Whilst I really liked this, I honestly didn’t love it. Yes, plenty of chocolate in there, and lots of playful textures, but perhaps it was the cardamon that I wasn’t quite feeling, as when I go all chocolate, I just want it to be rich and bursting to the brim with cocoa, which I think the cardamon cut through a bit for me.
Overall though, Mister Jennings was a delight of a meal. A little bit whimsical, definitely playful, full of colour and flavour and lots of new things, which is always welcome when done well.
I could certainly see someone like my dad not being into a restaurant like this, and I felt a little bit sorry for the kids that were at a table across from us with their family, as they pushed things around their plates and waited for the chips to arrive to the table. However, for those who are a bit more adventurous, Mister Jennings will be just the thing for you.
142 Bridge Road