Since it opened late in 2014 at the site previously occupied by Christine Manfield’s Universal, Civilian Bar & Kitchen has become a favourite with Darlinghurst locals.
Civilian Bar & Kitchen, Darlinghurst
Located in Republic 2 Courtyard in Darlinghurst, Civilian is an indoor/outdoor venue with views across the courtyard. The interior was designed by Studio Gram whose work includes Africola (Adelaide) and Cranky Fins Holidae Inn (Palm Beach, NSW). The ambience is casual and buzzy and even on a cold, wet night, it packs a crowd with patrons sharing a long communal table or more intimate tables for two or four.
Civilian Bar & Kitchen
The cocktail menu has been designed by Max Cristao, former Bar Manager of Mr Moustache in Bondi. You’ll find a solid list of 17 cocktails ($17 each), with a penchant for the sweeter side.
The Big Apple, Civilian Club
The Big Apple is a refreshing aperitif style of drink made with Jalapeno infused Espolon Blanco Tequila, ginger syrup, lime agave, topped with crushed ice and garnished with an apple fan and mint. The fruity Civilian Club combines Beefeater Gin with orange bitters, Lillet Blanc, pink grapefruit, lemon and honey juice. Both are light and easy drinking should you wish to start the evening with a cocktail or two.
Civilian has recently introduced a new winter menu by new Head Chef Aaron Mihelic previously of Fish Face, Guillaume at Bennelong and Becasse. In tune with Civilian’s vibe, the focus is on share plates and the menu is contemporary Australian with subtle Asian influences that give the dishes a point of difference.
Oysters with Celery, Apple & Lime Granita
Oysters ($4 each) come natural or dressed with a celery, apple and lime granita giving the briny molluscs a delightfully savoury note along with a little zing.
Hiramasa Kingfish Carpaccio
Beneath the sliced radishes and micro herbs lies Hiramasa Kingfish Carpaccio ($16), delicately flavoured with orange soy imparting a little sweetness while the finger lime adds sour and balance. There’s a certain creaminess to the dressing and the dish bursts with citrus and freshness while the puffed wild rice adds a welcome crunch.
Herb Crumbed Hens Egg, Enzo Salami, Asparagus, Truffle
Next comes the first standout of the menu, the Herb Crumbed Hens Egg with Enzo Salami, Asparagus and Truffle ($12). The crumbed egg has a soft, oozing centre, the salami is semi crisp, flash-fried to concentrate the flavours, and the dusting of truffle adds a hint of earthiness to the dish. A potato shard crowns the dish. Here you have a medley of winter and autumn flavours in harmony on a plate. The dish goes well with a glass of 2013 Nick O’Leary Riesling.
We’re told that the Broccoli Orecchiette with Persian Fetta and Lemon & Rosemary Octopus ($17) is fast becoming Civilian’s signature dish. The pasta is cooked al dente and served with a pureed broccoli sauce made with anchovies, garlic, dried chilli, butter and Parmesan cheese. A tender octopus tentacle cooked sous vide with rosemary is an optional extra ($9) and somehow it complements the pasta. We’re still undecided if the combination of flavours works to our palate and seems that in this case, we’re amongst the minority so it is a dish worth trying.
Confit Pork Belly Apple
From the mains comes the Confit Pork Belly ($27.50) with an apple wasabi sauce, apple puree, celery and lemon balm. The tender pork belly has a crispy crackling that you just want to save till last then pick up with your fingers. The combination of the celery, wasabi and lemon balm cuts through some of the fat of the porkand is a delightful combination to eat on its own.
Braised Lamb Shoulder
The Braised Lamb Shoulder ($26.50) is the other standout dish. The lamb is tender and sweet, sitting on a bed of creamy polenta with minted edamame, braised kale, beetroot and polenta chips. This hearty winter dish is substantial in size and has all the elements to bring you back.
The sides at Civilian are not an after thought. The Roasted Pumpkin ($13) is sweet and soft with the goats cheese cutting through some of that sweetness and gives balance to the dish. A scattering of pepitas add a little texture.
The Fried Cauliflower ($10.50) is another side dish well worth ordering. It’s crisp and full on flavour and comes with red cabbage on a bed of smashed chick peas and sheep’s yoghurt.
Caramel Chocolate Tart
When it comes to dessert, treat your sweet tooth to a Caramel Chocolate Tart ($15) with mascarpone custard, caramelised banana and hazelnut praline. Every component is delicious on its own especially the tart crust.
Acai Berry Souffle
It’s great to see souffle back on the menus of Sydney restaurants and with its impressive height, the Acai Berry Souffle ($15) brings the wow factor to the table. Light, airy and with just the right amount of berry flavour and sweetness, it comes with a honeycomb ice cream and praline. Drop the ice cream into the centre of the souffle for a taste sensation.
Civilian succeeds in combining the casual share plate concept with fine dining elements and well-executed dishes at an affordable price in relaxed and convivial surrounds. The dishes, particularly the substantial mains such as the Braised Lamb Shoulder offer great value for money. Drop in for a drink, stay for dinner and come back with your friends. Whether you’re looking for a casual intimate dining experience for two, catching up with friends, or a cool events venue, Civilian delivers on all levels. It’s no surprise it has become a local favourite.
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Civilian Bar & Kitchen
248 Palmer Street, Darlinghurst NSW 2010
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