A detour for food
Was it worth the trip?
I skid to a halt causing an eruption of dust clouds. The feminine voice of my car’s sat nav is rock-solidly sure even as she takes me off Canterbury Road past industrial estates and huge, dusty hardware stores. Is this really the way to one of the better Chinese restaurants in Sydney’s south west?
The Doubting Thomas in me says “This is one of those cases of a sat nav possessed by the devil. It’s going to take you of a cliff. You’re going to die”.
Thankfully, I see the discreet Canterbury Bankstown Tennis and Bowls Club sign to the right of Moxon road and after a short winding drive I arrive at the car park.
Now D Thomas is positively screaming “So you didn’t die. But it’s closed, idiot!”.
At 12.30pm on a Saturday and the carpark is kinda empty, the two-toned entrance shows no signs of life, no lights, no people, no opening and closing of the automatic sliding door. I’m about to reach for the phone when Simon, today’s luncheon companion positively sprints from inside.
“Hey!” Simon says.
I get out of the car, feeling a tad guilty I ever doubted my lady sat nav (the car’s Korean, see they’re never wrong).
Inside it’s classic clubland, neat and ordered; easy clean carpet with deep ocean motifs, foldable melamine tables, vinyl chairs and lots and lots of notices in frames, stuck on walls and columns. On the right is the lawn bowl greens and straight ahead are the tennis courts. Radio 2WS is pipped through the club in AM style clarity, appropriately, they’re playing Dragon’s Are You Old Enough – an Aussie 70’s classic and one of my all time favs as we enter.
Eric’s BBQ counter takes up an economical section to the left of the entrance amongst the TAB and modest bank of pokies. The east-west menu is plastered everywhere, known standards in written form, while picture menus are used to entice and inform the predominantly retiree club members. Against the ordered, easy-clean club surrounds, the counter is instantly attractive because of its warmth and homeliness.
The chef is kinda famous, you know…
Eric’s BBQ comes highly recommended, Eric Wong was the head chef at BBQ King, a bbq and Cantonese food Sydney institution. Eric and wife Chakky obviously wanted a humble place they can run on their own that’s close to home.
We pick up the DL menu, red letters on white paper and soon realise most of the dishes aren’t on this menu. Chakky explains later this menu is for club members, hence the potato wedges, Greek salad, rump steak and Aussie-Chinese standards like honey/lemon chicken, beef in black bean sauce… you get the idea.
Is this watered down clubland Aussie-Chinese?
To dismiss Eric’s BBQ would be wrong. Completely wrong.
The sieu mai (not on printed menu), a yum cha favourite is lively, almost crunchy, the meat is distinguishable. Made on the premises, they look pretty, elegant.
San choy bao is a classy execution, generous, flavoursome – each mouthful is a burst of different flavours that combine beautifully.
Shandong chicken (not on the printed menu) is thing of beauty and a steal at $12.50. Wafer-thin crispy skin and thickly cut, well-cooked chicken that absorb the chilli and soy sauce – it’s a little on the sweet side. Chopped chilli is sprinkled liberally but it’s not fire engine hot, rather it leaves a nice tingling after taste.
The honey bbq pork is actually char siu that’s made on the premises – the BBQ King days too evident, day glow outer and tender-soft on the inside. It’s a lip lickingly good dish that leaves you with a sugar high.
This Buddhist vegetable dish is as good as it gets, free from garlic and onions, lightly cooked to allow you to taste each ingredient, their flavours and textures – the mushrooms are incredible.
Salt and pepper fish is another dish that’s not on the printed menu. It’s a beautiful thing to behold, delicate and attractive in the simple. white clubland plate. It’s classic Cantonese – a balance of subtle tastes that leaves you wanting more.
Critics including Simon Thompson when he was at the Daily Telegraph raved about this place, it’s also been in the previous SMH Good Food Under $30 guide. But noodlies reckons this place is still undiscovered. Sure it’s not near public transport, is in the middle of an industrial area and the decor is well, clubland chic. But it’s quality Cantonese fare at clubland prices – we ate until we could eat no more for less than $30 a head.
This is good, humble, honest food brought to you by a migrant couple who have a dream to own their own business – to do things their way.
Ignore your Doubting Thomas – make sure you get to Eric’s BBQ.
Canterbury Bankstown Tennis & Bowls Club
61 Moxon Rd, Punchbowl
Ph: (02) 9708 1340 or 0404 566 238
Note: the latest they open is 9pm on Friday and Saturdays, due to the club opening hours.