Pony Bar and Dining in Neutral Bay quietly vanished late last year. In its place, Woodland Kitchen & Bar has opened, softly adjusting its tone for locals hungry for accessible dining that will entice them on a regular basis and not just on special occasions. Woodland is run by chef Damian Heads, who was originally with the Pony group while it was in control of the venue. But after some interstate travel (heading the kitchens of Fuel Bistro and Steel Bar & Grill) Heads decided it was time to open a venue of his own and was pleased to take over a kitchen and space that he loved.

Keeping it in the family, the venue is now the solo venture of Heads and his wife Jenni, who is managing front of house (and has previously been head of operations at the Garfish group).

Other than a loving brush-up, the interior has not changed much. It is still full of warm, wood tones, muted lighting and a comfortably intimate layout. What has changed is the menu. Heads has responded to the desire for dishes that are simple, real and comfortable. The wood-fired grill is a solid contributor to the style of the food (dishes are cooked over slow-burning charcoal and ironbark timber) and dishes are kept uncomplicated and pared back.

“Being locals to the area, Jenni and I wanted to create a dining experience that can be enjoyed by everyone,” says Heads. “The food is no fuss, with honest flavours. It is refreshingly simple.”

There’s a selection of raw and cooked seafood, including a Yellowfin tuna spring roll with a crunchy shell around fresh, raw tuna, a variety of steaks, mains including salmon grilled over wood with house-pickled beetroot, orange, mint and feta, and the deadly chocolate tart with caramel and double cream to finish it all off. The weekend brunch menu is also a drawcard, offering breakfast rolls with wood-grilled bacon, three-egg omelettes and Bloody Marys.

Woodland Kitchen & Bar
Shop 2/ 19–29 Grosvenor Street, Neutral Bay
(02) 9904 3400

Breakfast Sat & Sun 10am–noon
Lunch daily noon–3pm
Dinner Mon to Sat 6pm–10pm