If you hear anyone mention Flinders Lane in Stamford, it’s not a street they’re talking about, it’s a restaurant. More specifically, it’s an Australian-influenced restaurant. If you’re as bewildered as I was when I found out this type of cuisine had arrived in Downtown Stamford—and as curious too—keep reading.
I sought out more info. The common-sense thing to-do was to check out Flinders Lane's website, where “Modern Australian” is described as “We take inspiration from the cuisines of nearby Southeast Asia and subtle influence from the food of British settlers mixed with that of Greek and Italian immigrants.” I still found myself scratching my head, wondering if this was accurate. I have a few Australian friends so I fact checked with them and both said that this sounded right, and one added, “We don’t have much ‘real’ Aussie food. Meat pies and tomato sauce, maybe.”
Hopefully that helps clear up the whole “What is Australian food?” conundrum.
Where were we? Oh, yeah…back to restaurant details.
Flinders Lane is located on Summer Street, next to the Bow Tie Cinemas. Before you make the parking complaint, let’s shut that down; there’s a garage around the corner and street parking if you keep going straight. It’s owned by Chris McPherson and Chef Chris Rendell who are both from Melbourne, and opened their first Flinders Lane in NYC’s East Village in early 2014. The restaurant’s name is an ode to a lively street in their hometown that’s loaded with galleries, street art, cafés, watering holes, and highly acclaimed restaurants.
They’re going for that very vibe in the dining room. It’s NYC chic with hardwood floors and some white tiling where there aren’t massive windows. The live plants, the giant upside-down bowl-like lights, and splashes of red—like the word art in the very back of the space—really stand out. There’s a small bar for your drinking pleasure—I’d advise you to get a cocktail (or three), try an Australian wine, or a Cooper’s draft beer— and another counter with stools in front of the kitchen. It’s classy but unpretentious. It’s grown-up.
If you’re still on the fence about it, don’t be. It’s different and there are some good things here. Start with a guilty pleasure like the sausage roll; homemade pork sausage that’s wrapped in buttery puff pastry, served with spicy sambal mayo for dipping. Raw oysters are a popular snack at Flinders too, but I opted for Oysters Kilpatrick, a common English preparation where the oysters are grilled, then topped with a mixture of Worcestershire sauce/vinegar/butter, and crumbled bacon. The steamed BBQ brisket buns are popular here, as I saw them being delivered to almost every table. They were just OK when compared to other bao in the area, however, the homemade hot sauce they come with could be bottled and sold.
Did I mention they serve kangaroo here? No, I’m not kidding. It’s available for lunch in burger form and for dinner as a grilled loin with root veggies and smoked yogurt. Because I was invited, I asked if they could make an exception and cook up a burger for dinner. The ground kangaroo is mixed with beef to add much needed fat content to the very lean kangaroo meat. The burger’s toppings included sweet elements of caramelized onions and sliced beets to counteract the roo’s gaminess. If you’re into trying exotic burgers, you’ll chomp at the bit to try this one. For me it was a little too sweet, more so than savory. I’m not sure beets on a burger will ever appeal to me, but it’s an Aussie staple, apparently.
One of the focal points of the menu is seafood. The barramundi (Australian sea bass), is cooked skin-on, and it’s crispy. The filets flake apart, and it doesn’t have that strong fishy taste thing going on. It’s served on top a shallow pool of soy-ginger broth, with bok choy, pickled ginger, and steamed rice on the side, perfect for sopping everything up. A classic you need is their fish & chips, that was hyped up by the Flinders Lane staff. Light crispy batter? Check. Juicy, glistening white cod? Check. Hype fulfilled! The thick fresh cut fries were solid, but I preferred the ones that came with the burger that tasted like they were seasoned with Old Bay, but it turned out to be a ground thyme seasoning.
Also available for dinner are gnocchi (wild mushrooms, peas, pecorino), handmade tagliatelle with braised lamb shoulder Bolognese, and coconut curry laska (shrimp, crab, bean sprouts, rice noodles, tofu, Thai basil), and the old school Steak Diane. Whatever you do, stay for a certain family recipe dessert. The sticky date pudding—served warm—is accompanied by a rich toffee sauce, and a scoop of slowly melting vanilla ice cream.
Additionally, Flinders Lane offers happy hours specials every day from 5 -7 p.m., a five-course tasting for $60/person, and two-courses with wine from Monday-Thursday for $35. They’re open for lunch and weekend brunch too.
I’d love to say something corny like, “I’ll see you down under,” but I’ll see you on Flinders La--, I mean, Summer Street, at Flinders Lane.
184 Summer Street; Stamford