Should you need a reason to go out to dinner? While it's always good to celebrate the likes of birthdays and anniversaries with a special meal, I've been wondering of late whether we should restrict ourselves to only eating for events.
I kind of remember the days before children, when I actually had a partner to whom I could turn and say, "Honey, it's Tuesday, should we head out to [insert favourite restaurant from the years between 1995 and 2001 here]*." It was a pretty small window when you think about it.
Now, as a single woman living the high life, ha, you would think I might be eating out every other night of the week. But I'm not. I actually prefer eating in. I'm not a bad cook. True, the main reason is that I get tired far more easily now. The idea of eating out after about 8pm just seems ridiculous. And sometimes it's actually hard to find a dinner companion at short notice. Even more ridiculous.
Which is why I'm at Rebel Rebel at 5pm on a work night, by myself. I am worth it. I don't need an excuse to be here. I love it that I can order what I want, not having to think about the food envy that comes when a different plate lands on the table across from you. I don't have to order courses. I can order share plates and just share them with myself.
I can order wine by the glass. There's no better place in town to do this. Here there are a dozen wines by the glass, exciting wines. I'm spoilt for choice. The Jo Landron Atmospheres folle blanche is the perfect start, dry and fresh. I toast myself.
Rebel Rebel picked up its first hat in the Good Food Guide Awards this month and it's easy to see why. One would suspect Sean McConnell would have had one already had he not opened in 2019 right before the pandemic hit and the awarding of hats stalled. He laughed, at the height of lockdown, that he bought a supermarket, turned it into a restaurant and then back into a supermarket in the space of a year as the team resorted to selling housemade pasta sauces and the ever popular cacao pops for a fancy-at-home breakfast.
But the restaurant is definitely back.
Zeljka Seselja has the floor under control. She manages a large group with maturity when they come in with a different booking, pulling tables together and getting the wine list in front of them in seconds. It's great to see floor staff with maturity and she obviously has the youngsters trained up as well. Service is definitely on point.
McConnell himself pops over to say hello. It has been too long. But I'm not special. He floats between tables, in and out of the kitchen. He looks happy.
I start with the Appellation Sydney Rock oysters from Merimbula ($5 each), going half natural, half with a pomelo and pink peppercorn dressing. The oysters are plump and ocean fresh. The pomelo dressing is sharp and bitey, there's a little texture to it too. They're perfect with the bubbles.
Sticking with the ocean theme, next are a couple of grilled prawns with bay leaf butter ($10 per prawn). One good thing about eating alone is that I don't need to worry about what my companion might think of me eating these with my fingers. Served in the shell, they've been perfectly cooked, the meat is tender and white as I pull them apart and get every last bit out. The sauce is a revelation. Buttery and full of flavour from the prawns. Seselja offers me some charred bread to mop up the sauce. This could have been a meal in itself, such was the freshness of the bread, a little char. I hope I saved them some washing up.
And I eat the fried quail with harissa and lemon ($22) with my fingers too. A couple of fancy wings, more like marylands really, crispy with a surprisingly good amount of meat on the bones. It gets a little messy with the harissa sauce I've dribbled over them but who's watching?
Just when I think this meal can't get any better the chocolate, hazelnut, mint and Fernet-Branca ($22) dessert arrives. It's a perfectly balanced dessert, with a thin layer of chocolate mousse topped by a rough hazelnut crumb and a quenelle of ice cream featuring the Fernet-Branca, which is an aperitif popular in Argentina, known for its bitter taste and combination of spices. It makes a great ice cream, it is a little bitter which offsets the sweetness of the chocolate. A dish so late in the piece has shot straight to number one of the best dishes I've had all year.
I've had such a good time I've decided I should eat like this at home. Forget about meals as such. Just look for quality produce and treat it simply but with care and love. Dinner, even for one, could be some oysters, a plate of prawns, some meat I can eat without cutlery and not feel awkward about licking my own fingers, something a little decadent for dessert.
Or I could come here more often. That's probably the smarter option. Because I am worth it.
Rebel Rebel Dining
Address: 23 Marcus Clarke St, Acton
Phone: 6248 8548
Hours: Wednesday to Friday, noon til late; Saturday to Sunday, 8am til late.
Chef: Sean McConnell
Vegetarian: A few good options
Noise: Not a problem
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