At the revamped Social at Verandah, executive chef Brad Sloane takes a whole five-kilogram pig and debones, stuffs and rubs it with herbs and fennel seeds before it’s rolled, tied and roasted in the oven for three hours. The porchetta is carved at the table and served with Paris mash, cider jus and apple sauce. The kitchen needs 24 hours’ notice, and it sets diners back a cool $750.
This is a variation of the whole suckling pig offered at Balmain's Riverview Hotel, Sloane’s former stomping ground. Like its predecessor, the Social’s version is served with the pig’s head attached. “I used to have customers who love picking the ears off; picking the cheeks off ... some people don’t want to go near it, but other people do,” says Sloane.
Social at Verandah is Sloane’s fifth menu shake-up, having redesigned the food at the Riverview, North Sydney’s Greenwood Hotel, Balmain’s Town Hall Hotel and the now-closed Swanson Hotel in Erskineville.
The restaurant arm of Sydney CBD’s Verandah Bar has been spruced as a “garden oasis” created by design team Luchetti Krelle (which is also behind Pyrmont’s Terminus Hotel and Momofuku Seiobo), complete with hanging plants, timber furniture, rattan finishes and natural light from the open terrace. And it’s not a bad description – this is a good-looking space.
Diners can grab a seat at the handsome bar or lounge in the olive-green leather booths, and sip from the decent wine and cocktail list, which features 30 local and international gins.
Flexibility is the hallmark of the new Social. “[Diners] used to see this as a restaurant where they’d come and have to eat two courses, minimum,” says Sloane. “Now it’s a place where they do that if they wish, or they can come for a drink ... [or] sit at the bar and have a few nibbles.”
Food-wise, Sloane has played to his British-Italian cooking strengths. He gained his early training at London’s The Belvedere, where revered chef Marco Pierre White would dump freshly hunted guinea fowl on the doorstep for kitchen staff to pluck and gut. There’s no guinea fowl here, just an approachable menu that suits a white-collar crowd. There are small plates of kangaroo tartare and yabby-tail tortellini; and mains include striped trumpeter fish with Jerusalem artichokes and dry-aged T-bone minute steak.
Though the venue has yet to open completely (they’re waiting on renovations at the adjacent Verandah Bar to finish; it should be completed by the end of May), it’s already attracted some faithful diners. “I had a guy who came and ate the exact same thing [the parmesan-crusted veal cutlet] four days in a row,” says Sloane.
Other diners have found solace in Sloane’s favourite dish, the nettle gnocchi. It’s a great example of Sloane’s cooking style, melding classic Italian potato dumplings with the “quite English” stinging nettles – though sourcing the nettles has proved tricky. “They’re just weeds, really, and most farmers just ... throw them away. You’ve got to actually say, ‘Can you pick them for me, please? I want to pay you for them’.”
Social at Verandah
55–65 Elizabeth Street, Sydney
(02) 9239 5888
Mon to Fri 12pm–10.30pm