Epping isn’t known for having restaurants like Rawson’s. There are great venues in the area (Besicho, BCD Tofu House), and a cult bakery (Sweetness the Patisserie), but nothing like Epping Club’s new bistro. “The idea was to have a restaurant in a club that was breaking new ground in the club industry,” says head chef Nick Whitehouse.
When you walk into Rawson’s you’ll recognise the lights and sounds of a pokie machine. Turn the corner and you’ll see white tablecloths, a plush lounge, two private dining rooms, a glass cabinet of premium aged meat and a bar serving sashimi.
There’s a lot going on with the fit-out (French cafe vibes are mixed with the décor of an ’80s hotel waiting room). And there are so many different ideas on the menu it’s hard to know what the restaurant hopes to be. Whitehouse describes it as a simple but modern fine-diner. Imagine meat and three veg, but improved.
In-house smoked salmon is served with sour cream with capers, mini rye croutons and dill. Whipped goat’s curd and torched tomatoes are artfully strewn across a bowl. Roast salmon is swimming in a pot-au-feu-styled seafood broth.
The star of the menu is the steak and chips. Whitehouse uses an unpopular cut (rump cap) to great effect, first aging it and then smoking it so it’s juicy, tender and rich. The chips, served as a side, are triple-fried and perfectly crisp. In the future Whitehouse says he’ll introduce wood-fired meats. “We’ll be doing ducklings, wood-roasted meats and whole fish,” he says.
The bar has a completely different menu, which consists mostly of raw seafood and simple dishes prepared with a quick blowtorching, or seared in the pan. The bar opens up onto the kitchen with the whole operation on view. “If you're on your own it's quite nice, you get a bit of theatre, possibly a bit of language. It's real kitchen life,” says Whitehouse.