34Bia is not striving to do anything radical. And that’s what makes it different. Adam Davis and Brendan Nolan’s restaurant is the kind of straightforward venue few people open anymore. The fit-out is basic and comfortable; the wine menu has a tasting cheat sheet; and the food is saucy, filling, rich and, if you’re Irish, nostalgic.
Nolan and Davis are Irish (Davis Aus-Irish). The menu they’ve crafted is partly a journey back to their childhood and partly a twist on the cuisine they found in Ireland’s nondescript rural pubs and diners. “After we sold [Twenty 8 Acres] we went to Ireland for two weeks. We went to fine dining restaurants; we went to pubs. The really small, intimate venues were some of the best,” says Nolan.
It was typically a lot of heavy, stodgy food, they say, but here they’ve freshened things up. Homemade Irish-style black pudding is offset by a topping of lightly fried crab and dollops of apple-and-ginger puree; trout is cured in whiskey and dotted with caviar and horseradish blancmange (like a savoury pannacotta, Davis says). Anyone who doesn’t want to wait for weightier winter dishes, try the brined, thick-cut bacon on the bone with a savoy cabbage and potato cake. It’s swimming in parsley béchamel and is satisfying hearty.
Then there’s the brownie. “Only the two of us know this recipe. It's our Coca-Cola; no-one will ever find out,” says Davis. It’s almost soft enough to classify as a mousse but in sheer chocolate intensity it’s up there with the densest mudcake. By the time you eat it, or their mum’s trifle recipe, you will probably have met one of the two chefs. They visit every table, simply because they want 34Bia to feel as hospitable (also see the pictures of Irish countryside and simple furnishings) as what they experienced back in Ireland. “We've worked at various faceless venues just there to churn out money but we're here with a more holistic approach to hospitality,” says Davis.
34b Redfern Street, Redfern
(02) 9008 8025
Tue to Wed 5.30pm–11pm
Thu to Fri 12pm–3pm, 5.30pm–11pm