Here’s an excellent way to jumpstart your Sunday – try the new brunch menu at Bar H in Surry Hills. Bring a supersized appetite, because the extensive menu is designed to ruin strict diets and make you want to order enthusiastically.
There’s none of the standard-issue eggs/toast/muesli cliches – in fact, Bar H has taken its high-velocity dining approach and translated it to the first meal of the day in a hyper-vibrant way. Earlier this year, chef Hamish Ingham reinvigorated his dinner menu, tapping into a unique root system of influences: his ideas drew from Chinese, Japanese and native Australian origins. The Sunday menu takes this cross-breed of cuisines and expresses it in a way that’s unlike any other brunch on offer.
Pancakes are on offer, but they’re the Osaka staple that is Okonomiyaki ($22), given an early morning twist with crispy bacon and saltbush; Yes, there are Fried Eggs ($18), but they’re dusted with shichimi, topped with ruffled ribbons of tororo konbu, and served with oyster sauce and bonito. Sure, you can get porridge, but it will be Congee, Shallots and Mustard Greens ($8), and instead of working through it, spoonful by plain spoonful, you are given an arsenal of ingredients to dip through – deep-fried wonton wrappers, kimchi, and a confetti-like mix of flavour-intense pickles, lively herbs, and other elements that radically perk up the dish. It’s an awesome way to kick off your brunch – but to really max out enjoyment levels, pair this with the Chinese Bread with Seaweed Salt ($8) – the savoury donuts that really are the sole point of ever getting congee. Bar H’s version of the deep-fried sticks of dough are so much fun to dunk and steer figure eights through your porridge – they’re essentially a life raft for consuming all those soggy grains. For a vegetarian-friendly version, you can get the XO sauce on the side, too.
And if you like your eggs soft-poached, then ask for the Mushroom and Buckwheat ($21), where you get to break open the yolk across a bank of those ingredients, shio koji, and sea banana (which Bar H’s co-owner Rebecca Lines vividly describes as “looking like a banana and tasting like the sea”).
There’s no Western breakfast equivalent of this, but definitely order the Tempura Corn with Smoked Corn and Black Salt ($14), which is an addictive cluster of deep-fried kernels and feathery carrot-tops. Will also endorses the Steamed Pork and Saltbush Dumplings ($16).
And you’ll see some of Bar H’s dinner favourites sneak into this daytime menu, too. Like the Japanese Fried Chicken ($27), Rice Noodles Sweet Soy, Peanuts & Bonito ($16), and Crisp Saltbush ($14), the latter dish being the best entry point into understanding Bar H’s cross-referencing on native and Asian ingredients. And in a shameless example of recycling of something I wrote in my zine, I also called the saltbush tempura “the most compelling (and interactive) way you can eat your greens”, especially as “the stalks look like a deep-fried bouquet, which you then strip and christen with chilli mayo”.
Bar H’s brunch menu is so extensive that you want to unfold it, like architectural plans, and plot the different things you can try over multiple visits. Also, the restaurant is really great with catering for vegetarian versions of dishes and offers plenty of gluten-free choices, too.
In the same way that Bar H’s breaks from usual brunch expectations, so does its drinks list, which spans everything from Fresh Watermelon & Ginger Juice ($7), Pandan Lemonade ($7), Native River Mint Tea ($7) and cocktails such as Shochu Sangria ($30 for a litre) and Umeshu Spritz ($16).
And if its savoury offerings weren’t seams-busting enough, you can try some ever-tempting sweets. Like the brilliant Rice Porridge, Yuzu Caramel, Fresh berries ($9), which Will calls, “the best dessert I’ve had in ages”. (I second his huge endorsement of it.) And if you’re looking for something hangover-friendly, you may be game enough to take on the Maple Pancakes with Asahi Black Ice-cream and Bacon ($19). You may need a whole week to recover from your overenthusiastic attempt to conquer brunch here, but there’s no downside to that. After all, that’s enough pause time before you’ll be ready take it on again. This is a menu that definitely encourages – and deserves – multiple visits.
Sunday brunch at Bar H, 80 Campbell St, Surry Hills NSW (02) 9280 1980, barhsurryhills.com.