A few years ago, going to eat at a pub meant a steak and chips, schnitty and chips, bangers and mash, etc etc etc.
The Drink’n’Dine group has really turned this philosophy on its head. The popularity of pubs such as The Carrington, The Norfolk, Santa Barbara, Abercrombie and Forresters is unrivalled in Sydney. And in the case of the Jamaican restaurant Queenies (probably my favourite restaurant in Sydney) inside the Forresters, the group has turned its sights to Madame Mofongo at the Carrington, which will follow a Guatemalan theme.
Heading across the city into the inner west, the group has acquired the Oxford Tavern, a strip joint which I pass on the way to Newtown that has looked like it has seen better days. In a few months, this place will transform into an American BBQ-style hangout. And to top it all off, House of Crabs will be opening above the Norfolk, which will be an ode to American seafood.
The group, lead by Jaime Wirth, has recently opened up The Californian inside of Santa Barbara, under the Coke sign in the heart of Kings Cross. I was invited to try The Californian’s food by gung-ho chef and all-round good bloke Jamie Thomas, the group’s executive chef. How would I describe it? American, a dash of Mexican and Korean.
Like all of their other ventures, The Californian is a whole lot of fun. There’s a real energy in the place: from the food, the staff, the drinks, the music and the crazy interior. Nearly everything on the menu is good. And affordable. The priciest main, Asado beef fillet, will only set you back $24 and calamari and short rib sliders start from $4 each.
Must-try dishes include the Coca-Cola chicken ($20), salt-roasted prawns ($20) and Korean fried chicken ($14).
I’m yet to try the acclaimed fried chicken at NaruOne in Little Korea in the CBD, but The Californian’s version is fantastic. It’s sticky with a firm outer coating but very tender chicken on the inside. And the daikon cubes act as a sort of cleanser before you dive into the flavour explosion of the chicken.
I loved the roasted prawns. They are huge and conveniently butterflied so you can just get your fork and pull out the meat in one go.
The Californian is what you’ve come to expect from Drink’n’Dine. A unique theme, brilliant food, energetic service and an awesome night out.
– I had a free dinner here and at least four mojitos courtesy of The Californian. All pictures from Drink’n’Dine.