It’s been just over a year since Howard’s Cantina first launched their bar and fine dining space on the upper levels of the Rose of Australia. There has been a few changes to the menu since then, but the charm we remember is still there.
Howard’s Cantina is a cool spot named after the patriarch of the Leach family who have been at the helm of the Rose for over 20 years. It’s now under the leadership of son, Scott. Tactful accentuation with art pieces and minimal work has been done to the space allowing the brickwork and fireplace to emanate the 86 year old history this art deco building has with the community. Greenery creates a whimsical setting reserved for the fine dining area which is cleverly sectioned within the main relaxed areas of the cocktail bar. Long share tables, casual stools and outdoor settees fill the main area that were entertaining a number of large group functions at the time of our visit.
The culinary prowess of Executive Chef Chris Bell shines through with some elegant deconstructed desserts and modern fusion flavor bombs that have creeped in from the fancy dining side of Howard’s menu. It’s quite interesting as there are two very different experiences on offer here with very distinct menus.
Their grill items are very reasonably priced. Ranging from $15 (T-Bone Steak) to $28 (Rump & Sirloin), add-ons start from $4, mac & cheese ($5) or 3 prawns to surf your turf ($8). For families the kids menu per dish ranges from $6-$8.
Soft Shell Tacos are packed with filling (2 for $10 / 3 for $15). With 5 options to choose from the assembly of Japanese / asian ingredients piqued our interest. The tuna filling is cured in sesame oil adding a soft nuttiness to the fish. This base allows for quite an interesting flavour symphony with red onion pickling offset by the iceberg crunch. A wasabi aioli binds it all together evoking a sense of freshness which will appeal over the coming summer.
The house ribs are still there thank goodness (Half Rack $20). Nothing unnecessarily over the top, just simple seasoning and fall off the bone smoking, having absorbed the simple flavors of lemon olive oil, chill and oregano win us over every time.
The Rajun Cajun Burger ($17) consists of a 100% angus beef patty, pickled jalapenos, house smoked jalapeños, cheddar cheese, tomato, cheese, lettuce, chipotle aioli. Serious burger lovers should instead aim for the Tripple Bypass ($22) – Three 100% angus beef patties, three rashers of bacon, swiss cheese, cheddar cheese, stuffed with onion rings, pickled zucchini, cheese goo, rose secret sauce.
The Meringue Dessert ($13) is an art sculpture of whipped vanilla cream, anise poached pear and fresh mint. Such a delicate sweetness that’s put together here.
The great thing about their menu is the versatility in design. The hero protein or vegetable is easily accessorised with a wide range of add-ons to suit your personal taste and a strong selection of share plates are very generously portioned. It’s also worth noting that there is no minimum spend or function room hire fee for their private spaces for groups smaller than 40.
Vineyard: 32 people
Rose Garden: 36 people
Terrace: 30 people
Howards Bar: 34 people
Semi Private Dining: 14 people
1 Swanson Street, Erskineville NSW 2043
Phone: (02) 9565 1441
Contributor: Joseph Lloyd