Tipsy Bull is not an immediately obvious place to head for dinner. It’s on Lonsdale Street, which is absolutely where people are at dinner time, but it’s also in a row where I imagined that the venues were more pub than diner.
Tipsy Bill does encourage this thought that you might meet your friends here for a drink or many, with the focus on gin. The gin list is longer than I’ve seen anywhere, maybe close to 100 of them, there’s a “three-martini lunch”, which surely is not a thing any more, and there’s an exhortation to “let our cocktails wash over you and the good times roll in”.
Which is all quite irrelevant in our partially teetotal state, and we choose a glass of wine from the limited but perfectly reasonably wine list, which looks to have almost every option by the glass. It can be a challenge to keep wine fresh with this many bottles potentially open unless you have a big turnover, and our first glass of bubbly is flat. But in a mark of the enormously willingness and focus on keeping you happy that marks Tipsy Bull they quickly notice something awry and replace the glass.
This place has the feel of an owner-operator at work, with an obvious determination to get things right; they work hard at service.
The food is designed to be crowd-pleasing – lots of flavour and use of the fryer, in a good way. The croquettes ($4.50 each) will give you the idea. They’re light, crisp, delicious in their fried outside and fat with plenty of gruyere cheese, like fancy versions of cheese rolls. What an excellent idea.
Betel bites ($4.50 each) are a similarly happy start, little cubes of pork belly scattered with herbs, chunks of lime, nuts and sweetness, served on betel leaves so you can wrap them for eating.
Crispy eggplant with cashews and black sesame mayo ($13) is pretty well handled – long pieces of eggplant, fried in a chunky, likeable batter. There’s lots of frying here, but when it’s done well, frying can be a good thing.
Perhaps we overdid it in also ordering the yakatori spring chicken, which is big chunks of fried chicken in the same chunky batter. The chicken is with kewpie mayo and ‘sashimi pepper’ ($28). Not completely sure what is meant by sashimi pepper, but it’s a pile of red seasoning with plenty of heat for dipping your chicken. It’s a little greasy, but then it’s fried chicken.
The beef cheeks ($30) are a surprising dish. We order them expecting rich chunks of braised beef cheek but the meat is served in a surprisingly orderly way, in thin slices. It’s a funky dish, as you expect with beef cheeks, which are a slightly edgy cut, and they have an unusual floral taste that we can’t pick. We love the big couscous pearls underneath which are very sticky with their meaty stock. And alongside is broccolini. This is a brave and unusual dish.
Pork belly ($25) is back to the familiar and the crowd-pleasing. Four squares of belly, a meaty more than simply fatty version, the squares crisped again on the outside, with a sweet and slightly vinegary sauce. Enjoyable, and typical of the food we have been served tonight.
The one dish we don’t like is a dessert, smoked chocolate parfait with matcha powder ($14). It’s pretty to look at with the green-tea powder and a flower on top but the taste of the smoker is really not appealing to us at all. Given an antipathy to overt smoked flavour we probably should have thought better than to order it, but chocolate parfait is hard to go past.
Our other dessert is better, a warm blueberry and white chocolate bread pudding with ice cream ($14). It’s sweet, perhaps too sweet, and sticky and tastes of cinnamon and muffins.
When we pay the bill, the guy quizzes us about what we liked and didn’t, so we fess up to not being fond of the dessert. Instantly, it’s off the bill with apologies. Which is the kind of place Tipsy Bull has been all night – caring, agreeable service, a simple but pleasant set-up with nice lighting and candles. The music is less than relaxing, with an insistent beat and volume. But we really have no complaints. This is a decent place to pop in for a meal, especially if you’re in the mood for some experimentation with gin.
Address: 2/5 Lonsdale St, Braddon
Phone: 6248 7999
Owner: Joe Beltrame
Chef: Dean Han
Hours: Midday-late, Tuesday to Sunday
Wheelchair access: Yes
Vegetarian: Plenty of small plates, limited in mains
Noise: No problem for us on a week night although the music feels set to party