Grilled champagne lobsters with confit sambal butter are not necessarily foremost on your mind as you enter the Canterbury-Hurlstone Park RSL.
You might be more tempted by the $10 fish and chips in the bistro, or a cold beer in the bar. But clubs are changing, and the CHPRSL is moving with the times, installing a very flash new Asian restaurant called Nu Bambu and hiring gun Sydney designer Paul Kelly to pull together a moody, modern space.
An equally gun young chef was required. Up stepped former Longrain chef, Sumatran-born Freddie Salim, and I’m glad he did.
The menu is something-for-everyone mod-Asian with an almost tropical twist, from a handful of different baos to coconut-based curries, Sichuan chicken wings, and koji-marinated pork. Thailand, China, Japan, Vietnam and Indonesia all get a look in, as well as Salim’s mum’s egg tart.
It’s a wow of a space, open to the long public lobby, and flanked by a high communal bar down one side and sleek kitchen counter with lots of textural flourishes on walls. A 10-metre silk sculpture by artist Michael Killalea floats overhead like a giant crimson silkworm cocoon.
I’m here early in the week but the room is filled with couples and small groups ordering bao, spring rolls and Shanxi duck with pancakes. Staff are responsive (shout outs to Tiana and Jamil), and tickled pink that Nu Bambu is pulling in punters who are non-members.
Hand-cut Cape Grim beef tartare with crunchy black sesame crackers ($16) is good, packing a real flavour punch with its balanced notes of lemongrass, kaffir lime leaf and quail egg yolk. Salim and his young team do that dramatic free-standing, deep-fried snapper of days of yore, but they do it so well.
And that champagne lobster - sorry, I know you’ve been waiting to hear - is just like eating at a Balinese seafood market. Two small lobsters ($39) are split and brushed with confit sambal butter, and grilled over coconut charcoal. As in Bali, they could have done with less time on the grill. A red curry of slow-cooked Cape Grim brisket and wild ginger jumps with life, finished with crisp eschallots and dobs of coconut cream.
Sorbets ($12) form a dessert of spectacular restraint - just three smooth whorls of charcoal coconut, mango lychee and sharp passionfruit.
Nu Bambu could have been a step too far for the RSL, had it been fancier and more formal, but I think they’ve struck the right tone.
What stands out are the cooking skills, the structured curries, the clean freshness and the sense of detail, all delivered without any pretension whatsoever, by people proud of what they do.
- Details: nubambu.com.au