In Short: Hunter & Barrel is located in the very popular dining district of Cockle Bay Wharf. The name Hunter & Barrel suggests that the bar and restaurant features moreishly good food and excellent wines and spirits from the barrels. It definitely lives up to its name and is one of those places to bring your overseas guests, a corporate get together, or even just a special treat meal.
My first visit to Cockle Bay was in its formative years as it took over Darling Harbour as the city’s go-to dining and entertainment spot by the water. At that time the Hunter & Barrel building was Chinta Ria. Today the external structure remains the same and is the first restaurant you encounter as you walk down from the QVB.
It features indoor and outdoor seating spaces and is one of the premier spots to be as Sydney transitions from winter to summer. The interior is highlighted by a massive indoor forest fixture that descends from the ceiling. Large oak barrels towards the kitchen stand out as well. Comfortable circular booths allows for an intimate and social experience, and makes sharing the food so much easier.
Besides being famous for its delectably good food, Hunter & Barrel is also known for its barrel aged-spirits that are aged in-house. There is the Bulldog Gin, House Whisky Blend, House Rested Tequila and House Rum Blend. From these four spirits, the team have created five fun cocktails featured in the “A Barrel of Punch” section of the menu which showcases the spirits in different ways.
My favourite spirit is Gin, hence I had to go with the Mama’s Juice, which comprises of Hunter and Barrel’s house barrel-aged Bulldog Gin, Campari, Riesling and Capi grapefruit soda, finished with a splash of lime juice. The flavours were perfectly balanced, and you get the fruitiness from the grapefruit soda and lime juice, together with the lightly sweet, aromatic flavours from the Riesling, and cirtrus freshness from the Campari. All these flavours complement the Bulldog Gin where you can taste and smell the hint of oak and floral notes of gin. The drink is also served in a glass barrel tap dispenser, sitting on a wooden stand, which makes for a really delicious and fun cocktail.
For the non-alcoholics, you will not be neglected at Hunter & Barrel. They have four amazing mocktails that are guaranteed to ensure you have no FOMO. I love my lychee flavours, so its no surprise that I chose The Love of Lychee mocktail right from the start. It is a refreshing drink made with apple juice, passionfruit, lychee and soda to liven things up. The sweet and tart apple juice, paired with the sweet fragrant passionfruit and exotic lychee flavours made this the perfect mocktail for me to go with the amazing food here.
Hunter & Barrel has a good selection of entrée items from their Start Over Here section of the menu. We tried their Calamari which has a crunchy coating seasoned with Szechuan peppers and finished with a spicy honey glaze and lemon. It is Italian Fried Calamari meets Asian flavour and when you combine fried food with spices, the combination becomes really addictive, especially when the calamari is cooked just right.
Hunter & Barrel features food that is roasted over coals and grill. It is moorishly good food at its best and there are so many good meat items on the menu, like the Beef and Bone Marrow Burgers, Portuguese Chicken Thigh and Pork Belly. But if you can’t decide or like us, just want to try a little of everything, the Land Feast is the way to go. This completely lives up to the Hunter portion of the restaurant name. For $49 a person, you get to try four of Hunter & Barrel’s signature meat dishes, in portions that is just right for the one person. The four meats you get are the Honey Glazed Pork Belly, Portugese Chicken, Slow Cooked Beef Short Ribs and 200gm Rump Eye, served on a wooden board, with two types of sauce, Chilli Sauce and Chimichurri,to go with the meats.
The Honey Glazed Pork Belly is tender and the fat perfectly rendered. It is sweet and sticky, just as the name suggests, and finger licking good.
The Portuguese Chicken is marinated in spices and basted with lemon and yoghurt, then grilled over charcoal to give it a smoky, spicy, tender flavour. It is best eaten with the chilli sauce.
The Slow Cooked beef short ribs are rich, decadent and bold with smoky barbeque flavours from the sauce. It was fall-off-the-bone tender and well marinated.
Finally, the Rump Eye Fillet Steak was perfectly cooked, tender and has all the qualities of a good piece of meat cooked just right. All the items on the Land Feast platter is portions based on the number of servings ordered, so while it sounds like quite a few items on the platter, the portions are just right.
For the kids, there is the Young Hunters section of the menu. Little Coco and Viner Sammi chose a Cheese Burger, served with a side of thick cut chips. The burger is made with brioche buns and has a generous juicy beef patty with cheese melting on the edge. It could have passed for an adult meal, but there was no prying away that burger from this kid once she sunk her teeth into it.
With all that meat, you would need some vegetables as a reprieve. One of the best veggie dishes from Hunter & Barrel is their Roasted Pumpkin, slow roasted with smoked honey, chilli and harissa till tender, then served on a bed of almond cream, with a side of apple, nut and herb salad. The pumpkin is not mushy but is tender enough to be eaten with a fork. Its sweet creamy flavour is heavenly and super delicious. Smoky flavours running through pumpkin elevates this dish to a delicious new level. Definitely add to this to your order when you visit!
Hunter & Barrel is one of those places where the dining experience is memorable, not just because of its excellent service, food and drinks, but also because of its moose heads and fur rugs decorations scattered around the restaurant. It really makes you feel like you are in a hunter’s hut and having a drink with mates and tasting food that he has just gathered and cooked for you.
*Coco and Vine dined as guests of Hunter & Barrel. However, all opinions and photos are our own.