Dry aged controfiletto, La Rosa The Strand, Sydney, New South Wales
The restaurants making headlines around Australia this month.
By Anthony Huckstep
Published: 15 September, 2017
As spring descends on Australia this month, the nation’s love affair with Italian cuisine continues, most notably with the opening of Rosetta Sydney. Meanwhile, two of the year’s biggest trends – themed eateries and upmarket bistro dining – show no signs of slowing down.
Sydney and surrounds
La Rosa The Strand
After six years running La Rosa The Strand as a casual pizza and wine bar, the owners took a trip to Italy and returned with a new plan: to champion Australia’s extraordinary produce using the techniques of the Italian capital. The restaurant’s evolution is a welcome return to classicism, where genuine old-school hospitality sees smartly dressed waiters wheeling antique trolleys to the table to reveal dishes such as spit-roasted porchetta beneath the cloche.
La Rosa maintains a touch of the smart wine bar sensibility it’s always been known for in its menu. The Roman-style Margherita pizzas are light, malleable, slightly charred on the bottom. Walnut puree adds roundness to grilled Spencer Gulf king prawns. Pillowy ravioli filled with ricotta and pecorino are simply stunning, while sage, cavalo nero, pine nuts and lemon burnt butter provide the foundation for fillets of Eyre Peninsula leather jacket wrapped in lardo. This is where Australia meets Italy in delicious harmony.
Rosetta Sydney is the latest opening by Australian culinary icon Neil Perry, and it’s an exercise in style, substance and sophistication. Australia’s second incarnation of the brand (Rosetta Melbourne has been a darling of the dining scene since it first opened in 2012) is located at the base of one of Sydney’s most famous office buildings, the Harry Seidler-designed Grosvenor Place. The dining space is nothing short of breathtaking. Step into a large area seating 200 that’s been cleverly segregated into smaller pockets — including a bar, mezzanine and terrace, and dining room. Light streams through floor-to-ceiling windows by day, while gold-trimmed wood-and-marble tables, and emerald and sapphire velvet chairs gleam like gems in the mood-filled intimacy of night. Proficient, smartly-dressed waitstaff deliver culinary lessons in Italian simplicity. New-season broad beans add earthy nuttiness to silky house-made ricotta. Smoked garlic salsicce shines on charred pizzette. Sweet spanner crab and tarragon entwine with tagliolini, garlic and chilli. Simply gorgeous.
Perth and surrounds
Tucked behind a swag of heritage-listed buildings, the multi-venue Print Hall has drawn big crowds as Perth’s favourite night out since opening a few years back. Now the precinct has added a casual-contemporary Italian experience to its mix. So-named for the site’s historical residents, Perth Gazette and Western Australian Journal, Gazette is yet another Perth pub with a quality restaurant attached: here relying on big, hearty and homely Italian fare using premium Australian produce – and, for the most part, West Australian produce, too. Eat at the huge central bar or sit beneath neon signage along the banquettes and let the affable servers guide you through the share plate menu. Exmouth tiger prawns get a spicy slap from nduja (spice-infused spreadable salami) and salsa verde. A big, rich shellfish broth underpins plump tortellini filled with West Australian Bay bugs, and an apple and pea salad adds a refreshing edge to a huge crumbed veal cotoletta. Hold the press: this is a great night out.
Adelaide and surrounds
Upstairs, chef and restaurateur Jock Zonfrillo celebrates Australian native foods at one of the country’s best restaurants, Orana. Downstairs, at the newly launched Bistro Blackwood, things are a little more relaxed, but the Zonfrillo trademark attention to detail is everywhere. This is an Australian bistro where the tunes are rocking, the vibe is happening, but the food relies on classic technique to celebrate unique Australian ingredients. Beach succulents and crème fraîche provide a bed for smoked Goolwa pippies. A broad bean chilli plays a supporting role to softly smoked octopus, and pressed eucalyptus potatoes add starch to giant 450g rib eye on the bone. An open kitchen provides theatre as you sit on leather banquettes at marble tables and let smart service take you on a journey of what it means to eat in Australia circa 2017. It’s bang-on.
Melbourne and surrounds
The Mayfair Restaurant
For a nostalgic night out, Melbourne’s The Mayfair at the Sofitel in Collins Street has all the fanciful flair of the Golden Age. The cocktail bar, restaurant and late-night supper club is a throwback to 1920s swagger, reminiscent of a time when live jazz coloured the airwaves and nights on the town were candle-lit and sultry. A whisky trolley and the magnificent cocktails might tempt you to skip dinner, but don’t: the food takes its cues from classic French and contemporary Australian cuisine in equal measure — and it’s very special, indeed. Caviar and foie gras take their place on the menu alongside native Australian ingredients such as marron (served with a memorable kombu butter kick); there are steaks and late-night omelets, too.
Brisbane and surrounds
Hummingbird Restaurant and Bar
The evolution of Brisbane’s food scene continues with the emergence of a high-end diner that would be at home in any big city. Hummingbird Restaurant and Bar is a smart, serious offering that adds polish to the casual dining experience. The industrial-chic space features polished concrete floors, sleek dark-wood tables and chairs, a big bar and glimpses into an open kitchen where the chefs add elegant touches to a contemporary menu. Nasturtium underpins salmon tartare crowned by salmon roe. Scorched onion decorates an alluring pumpkin soufflé, while smoked pea puree and salt-baked celeriac lets a pan-seared John Dory find its home on the plate. With a great local wine list and some of the best cocktails in town, Hummingbird is making quite the nest for itself.
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