Family lunch on a Sunday is one of those rare and wholesome activities that can often get overlooked in the hustle and bustle of modern life. It echoes of a bygone era, before we were born, when my Nan would do a roast every Sunday and all the family gathered together. Today, trying to find a time and date that fits in with everyone, where no one has to rush off to other engagements/housework/study can be tricky. So when a special occasion calls for it, you want a spot that’s worth it. Somewhere with a touch of class, where the staff are friendly, the food warming and the service seems effortless. Enter, Woodland Kitchen & Bar
Located in Neutral Bay, Woodland has only been open since February and serves up a delicious and surprising variety of wood-smoked fare. The interior is warm and welcoming on such a sunny, blustery winter’s day. The name is carried through the fit out, with decorative timber on the ceiling, chairs and tables. Much of the meat on the menu is prepared on a woodfire grill, where slow burning charcoal and iron bark logs combine for an authentic, smokey flavour. As an added bonus, the iron bark is from licensed forestry, so you can rest easy knowing your grill is sustainable. I can only imagine how pleasant Woodland would be on a Summer day, sitting at the wooden benches out the front. To combat the winter chill and entice patrons outside, Woodland cheerily provides a basket of blankets near the door. Not being particularly good with the cold, we decline and accept a table inside.
We are the first table to arrive for lunch, and enjoy the ambiance and staff’s undivided attention. When a larger table with young kids arrives and is seated opposite ours, the Manager swiftly moved us to another, quieter table. As gorgeous as the little tykes were, with their tutus and tiaras, I found this attention to detail very impressive indeed. We ordered Grilled Ciabatta, Whipped Fetta and Marinated Olives with our drinks, and the smokiness of the cibatta is beautifully complimented by the wine. I get the feeling this is far from coincidental.
Look at that fetta! It was soft and creamy, but slightly crumbly. Absolutely perfect! When using fetta at home, I always buy the fat-free or low-fat options, so I often forget how decadent the real thing is!
The staff are attentive without being pushy. After much chatter, we settle down to look at the lunch options, promising each other we’ll come back another time as the menu is just too good! People often tell me that I am a clone of my mother, and it’s at times like this that I can’t help but agree with them. Without even discussing it, we both already know we’re going to have the same thing. The Lamb Backstrap with smokey eggplant, quinoa, tomato and herb salad is too good to pass. The lamb is served beautifully pink on the inside and is very tender. The smokiness of the eggplant is subtle enough to compliment the lamb, without being overpowering, and there is a substantial amount of quinoa and cherry tomatoes.
Dad’s a man’s man when it comes to food and was always going to have either steak or a burger. He likes his meals hearty and satisfying, so the Dry Aged Angus Burger suited him perfectly. Served with cheddar, smoked tomato chutney, pickles and chips, this Burger is not for the diet-conscious. Dad’s also very generous when it comes to sharing his chips, so I was quietly very happy with his choice.
Brother dearest is always a bit of a wild card. He’s often unpredictable when it comes to food, sometimes adventurous, sometimes not so much. He chooses the Pork Cutlet, served with sauteed kipflers, peas, speck and crackling. A perfect amount of gravy finishes off this imposing dish, and Broski finishes every bite except the crackling. Neither of us is a fan of pork crackling so this is nothing unusual.
Steamed greens with almond butter rounds off our main course and they’re well worth it. Tender but still crisp and lightly dressed, not swimming, in butter. 10/10!
Dessert is a bit hit and miss in our family. We’re quite health conscious, but as we’re kind of celebrating, Mum and I decide to split the Baked Apple Flan. It’s served with caramel and an incredible vanilla ice cream. I think a good vanilla ice cream is hard to beat, and thankfully my brother is of the same opinion, because when they bring out our flan, they bring him a bowl of ice cream, both with candles. We only once mentioned that we were having family lunch to celebrate our birthday when the wine was poured, but the quick-thinking staff picked up on it. Amazing!
We round off Family Lunch with coffee, and sit, very content and very impressed. I honestly could not fault Woodland, and would very happily go back. The staff were professional but friendly and never skipped a beat. And as I hate making a fuss, I loved that they served us dessert with candles without singing! I do get the feeling though, that had Mum and Dad started, they staff would have joined in. Indeed, I wouldn’t be surprised if the whole restaurant did, such is the friendly, community atmosphere of Woodland.
The Woodland Whimsy Cocktail is also calling my name, so perhaps dinner next time…
Shop 2/ 19-25 Grosvenor Street