“Two men walked into a bar…”

Normally this would descend into a terrible punchline but in this instance the result is a quirky space atop the Flinders Hotel serving a young experimental menu. Billed as “British colonial style joins an all star food crew”, the all stars here are head chefs Thomas Lim (ex-Tetsuya’s) and Mitch Orr (ex-Sepia and 2010 Young Chef Of The Year) who’ve set up a moody and compact dining room peppered with low hanging lanterns, floral upholstery and dark lacquered tables.

This is my second time here for the Duke Tuesday Tasting menu and I’ve managed to sucker in more soon-to-be converts. The boys have been offering a 6 course degustation for only $60, with dishes often changing weekly, providing the kitchen with an opportunity to experiment with new flavours and techniques.

Snacks: Gougère

We start off with a plethora of snacks. First up are the Gougère; the delicious little puffs of warm cheese and buttery choux pastry disappearing so quickly it takes me a moment to register that they’re all gone.

Snacks: Oyster Mushroom Karage

Next, a long slate of fanned out crispy oyster mushroom karage line up next to a speckled pebble of sauce. We debate what the sauce is, however I believe it has black beans blended into it, to give it a salty albiet nutty aftertaste.

Bread and butter

Snacks: Home made maple cured ham and smoked pastrami + Pimms Carafe: Pimms Cointreau, Plymouth, Sprite, Dry Ginger $35 + Rickey Tickey: Absolut, Peach Liquer, Peach, Watermelon, Lime, Soda $17

Hold up! The snacks still haven’t ended; a bowl of home made bread rolls soon arrive with a hard round of hand churned butter and although carbs is probably one of my favourite food groups it’s exponentially improved with a generous serving of shaved home-cured meats.

The Earl: Silver Tequila, Cointreau, Earl Grey Tea, Guava, Lemon $19

It’s at this moment, table about to topple over from the burgeoning weight of Parisian slates that we receive our cocktails. Cathy’s Rickey Tickey turned out to be a light-hearted tumble of flavours whilst my ‘The Earl’ was a more singular affair with tequila and Earl Grey proving natural companions.

The waitress reappeared to surprise us with an extra snack from the kitchen (this is sadly not due to my awesomeness and more so to do with one of our party being a professional chef) in the form of a crispy pork jowel bun.

With compliments from the kitchen: Butter bread, pork jowl, grilled pineapple, curry mayo, snow pea sprouts

These bite sized little sandwiches were a sunny mouthful of mayo, pineapple, butter and the unmistakable firmness of the marinated pork jowel. I was sincerely glad to discover these have made it onto the permanent menu in the form of a DIY ‘pancake party’.

1st Course – Corn: Corn husk salt, chickweed, grilled baby corn, corn stock, corn puree, corn kernels

Corn. Yes that’s what it said on the menu, the one word description gave nothing away and it was quite delightful to spoon through the bowl, musing over the different textures and forms.

2nd Course – Pearl Onion, Leek and Chicken Skin with jalepenos oil and onion pickle liquor

3rd Course – Mushroom Risotto with rice starch, pine ash, powdered black fungi, toasted rice

The onion and chicken skin proved an interesting play on texture albeit overly salty whilst the mushroom risotto was a hit. A risotto made without rice might seem quite existential but the boys have used rice starch to thicken up the sauce and hold the dish together, letting the beautiful fresh flavours of mushroom take the spotlight.

4th Course – Egg, Lapchong, Red Rice: pickled pea sprouts, crispy lap chong, slow-cooked egg

Michelle’s done her research and lights up when we’re finally served the slow-cooked egg. It’s so soft it seems to exist in a permanent state of near-splitting over the bed of lap chong and red rice.

5th Course – Smoked Beef, Gherkin, Mushroom: hickory-smoked beef blade, button mushroom puree, gherkin, sourdough crumble + With compliments from the kitchen: green beans with garlic and butter

Lastly was the crowd pleaser, a trio of beautifully smoked slices of beef served with a dousing of crunchy sourdough crumble which provided a comforting end.

Pre-dessert – Watermelon, White Chocolate, Pink Peppercorn: watermelon granita, watermelon molasses, shaved white chocolate, pink peppercorn praline

To clean our palettes a refreshing bowl of granita, the layer of molasses tastes quite woody and not heeding Fiona’s advice I ambitiously mix all the elements together before realising that the three elements don’t go together quite so well.

With compliments from the kitchen – Milk milk milk: Milk panna cotta, dulce de leche caramel, meringue, burnt milk crumble

We’re sprung another surprise, an extra dessert exploring the different textural incarnations of milk as the seven of us murmured and scraped the last smears of dulce de leche off the plate.

6th Course – Pinenut, Burnt Choc, Blueberry: liquid lemon yoghurt cake, lemon yoghurt cake, burnt chocolate, pine nut praline, blueberry, chocolate puree

The last course is an elegant little garden, with the burnt chocolate created in reminiscence of the scrapings from the edge of a cake tin. One of our party leaned back and with a wide grin declared this dish a perfect ending to his meal.

With compliments from the kitchen: Doughnuts and banana cream puree with strawberry & liquorice salt

But wait there’s more, urging ourselves to digest with greater haste, we make room for this final mouthful of the softest-doughnut-ever. It turns out that these golden orbs were pipped choux pastry, fried and filled with the fragrant banana cream. This was my perfect end to a playful meal full of surprises, youthful exuberance and yes, quirk. Our group waves goodbye to Thomas Lim and Michael Eggert as we happily stomp down the creaky stairs, sure of ourselves that we had a shared a great gastronomical laugh.

The Duke Tuesday Tasting menu $60 for 6 courses is available Tuesdays (duh) only, please book ahead.


The Verdict
In an intense, high pressure industry it’s great to see two young lads leading the way in developing an inventive, witty and evolving menu. Nothing is taken with too much stern seriousness and it’s always a game to delve through the abstractly plated dishes and discover what’s buried beneath. The flip-side to this sense of unburdened creativity is that not all of the dishes are crowd pleasers with some combinations pushing the creative envelope. However if you’re up for something new and want to save a bit of coin, Tuesdays at the Duke is where you’ll score a bit of fun.

Duke Bistro
a. 63 Flinders St Darlinghurst
t. 9332 3180
e. reservations(at)

Duke Bistro on Urbanspoon


[Warning: photo overload below]

I don’t know what your day job is, but I’m sure whatever you do somehow shaped your world view. Maybe you believe in structure, meaningful discussions, the purity of an idea, risk aversion, absolute justice or absolute liberty; I believe in fun.

Just a skip and hop away, almost close enough to fall in the infamous Coke sign’s long dusk shadow is Tomislav: the large balcony of this cosy restaurant a rusty freighter’s hull run aground on Kirkton Road’s footpath. Our little trio hesitate for a moment before pushing through the glass door and walking into Tomislav Martinovic’s intimate dining room (it seats a tiny 36 heads). A large portion of the restaurant is the open kitchen where Martinovic is working away with his small team of cooks whilst the rest of the room is filled with wooden tables and country-chic cross-back chairs. Despite our late booking we’ve managed to score one of the best seats in the house next to the northern window (the two photo nerds of the group beamed).

Ponte di Piave Prosecco, Treviso Italy (Normally $12)

We were here for a one night only Entertainment book promotion whereby we can opt for a Fish or Game set menu with matching wines for $105. As we settle in and fan our faces from the heat, our waiter sails over and pours us each a glass of cool sparkling.

Rice Crackers: sea salt & vinegar (Normally $10)

The Maitre d’ soon brought us something to start: Martinovic’s play on the traditional salt and vinegar chips. The thin bubbling sheets of fried rice crackers were feather light and almost dissolved on the tongue. We were instructed to spray about three pumps from the vinegar bottle before eating, but we took turns completely dousing our crackers (and ourselves) in the sour mist.

Sour Potato: lime and honey

Our first course arrived in a exquisite multifaceted glass bowl, the dish a simplistic new take on the humble mash: any doubts regarding the flavours were silenced as we delved into each sweet spoonful.

Complimentary sourdough

Hand churned butter

Perhaps more than any other element, the complimentary bread and butter were a beautiful reflection of Tomislav’s dedication and style. The perfect quenelle of butter is hand churned each morning on the premise and given a small creative injection. It was proudly displayed on a tall granite block and appeared like it belonged at the MCA, our waiter challenged us to guess what they’ve added and after much speculation (“hazelnut?” “no it’s so sweet”) Cathy pinpointed the nutty aroma of coffee.

Test tube of gazpacho

The fish-course entree arrived first, with a flourish the waiter produced two thin orange test tubes and proceeded to pour the soup around the plate of cured John Dory.

Clear pumpkin gazpacho: cured John dory, wasabi, sour cream, caperberries, chives with garlic bread (Normally $24) Served with a glass of 2010 Thomas ‘Braemore’ semillion, Hunter NSW

The three word title of this dish gave nothing away, I side stepped the fish menu because I’ve never been a big fan of gazpacho but this was no ordinary gazpacho: the thin slices of John Dory and sour cream slipping down the tongue in a tumble of mellow and sweet.

Roast Red Gate Farm Quail: foie gras, watercress, poached rhubarb with a pine nut puree and red wine reduction (Normally $24) Served with a glass of 2010 Stoney Rise Pinot Noir, Tamar Valley, Tasmania

Four pieces of tender quail plated in a tumble of watercress and foie gras crumbles was superb. The cellophane square of rhubarb shavings appeared painted on the plate and the gloss of the sauce coating could only be described as Cover Girl perfect.

Signature chips $10

The Maitre d’ had urged us to order their famous chips, thrice cooked following Heston Bluemental’s method (boiled, cooled, fried, chilled, fried) but crinkle cut as a nostalgic reminder of Martinovic’s suburban Sydney childhood.

Roast Murray Cod: tomato, salt caramel, grilled baby leeks with asparagus puree and baby coriander (Normally $40) Served with 2011 Port Phillip ‘Salasso’ rose, Mornington Victoria (Normally $11)

The skin was crackling crisp and decorated with a few simple flakes of salt, the main surprise were the small lumps of porous salted caramel scattered along the asparagus puree.

Pasture fed Burrawong duck breast: Thai style with coconut, chilli, grilled pineapple and baby coriander (Normally $42)
Served with a glass of 2008 Longview ‘Yakka’ shiraz, Adelaide Hills SA (Normally $12)

I was a bit skeptical about the prospect of some “Thai style” duck but I shouldn’t have worried. A titan warm slate arrived bearing a playful garden of slightly dehydrated prawns, baby herbs and peas interrupted with a few stepping stones of coconut pudding. Although picturesque these were all just compliments for the best duck I’ve ever had, the gorgeously juicy and plump meat rounding off a cheeky dish dedicated  to Sydney’s Thai obsession.

The open kitchen with Tomislav Martinovic (far right)

Juniper Estate ‘Cane Cut’ riesling, Margaret River WA (Normally $14)
Monichino Botrytis semillion, Geelong Vic

Our glasses of dessert wine were poured first, the Riesling pear sweet and fruity whilst the Monichino was honey sweet, syrupy with a butterscotch finish.

Vanilla Cheesecake: basil ice, grilled strawberries, rhubarb sorbet (Normally $18)

We were hit with another name-not-matching-face moment when the cheesecake arrived and if I was an alien I’d be questioning why this in no way resembles the picture on my flash card, but this is what dining here is all about. The speckled orb of cheesecake is light and soft hiding a pile of cookie crumbs underneath and retains a light sour taste.

Compressed Fig: apples, popcorn milk, caramel ice cream (Normally $18)

Last to arrive was my fig dessert, a splat on my dark plate with ice cream and popcorn milk beginning to puddle over it.

This style is the food I love: a strong playful concept made real through dedication and flawless execution. Surprises, theatricality and a sense of place are built into the presentation of each dish, and as many noted such strengths must be lasting remnants of Martinovic’s time at The Fat Duck. The atmosphere is anything but stuffy as we trade laughs with our neighbouring table and waiters alike before eventually rolling out back into the windy Kings Cross night.

The Verdict
A surprisingly casual atmosphere serving whimsical and creative food which invites diners to marvel and explore what’s on the plate. Execution is polished and consistent with ingredients respectfully plated to look their very best. Although we dined here as part of a special offer, the prices for the a la carte options are a bit steep having jumped up 25% since last year with the mains now hitting $40 a plate. Having said that Tomislav is definitely worth visiting if only at least just once; no one can say it’s too high a price to pay for such fun.

a. 2/13 Kirketon Road Darlinghurst
t. 9356 4535
e. info(at)

Tomislav on Urbanspoon

There’s something sexy about corruption – perhaps it’s the hedonistic boozing, politics & favours behind closed doors, beaded silk french dresses, violence in a tailored three-piece suit or the pungent pheromones from a stack of Benjamins. It may also be because I’ve been watching too much Boardwalk Empire and have a thing for Buscemi’s shrew 1920’s gangster politician and the lobster and scotch the debauched seem to be downing as they dance the night away at Babette’s Supper Club.

If it all sounds pretty dandy and you’re lamenting that time travel doesn’t seem to be a viable option how about you pay a visit to Hinky Dinks instead? The (almost) three-month old 50’s themed small bar is named after Michael ‘Hinky Dink’ Kenna a corrupt Chicago politician who, during the turn of the 20th century gave out meals in exchange for votes and kept close ties with gamblers, gangsters, prostitutes and pimps alike. His namesake bar though seems to share none of the shadiness but reflects the same cheeky attitude  (after all their motto is “Cocktails first. Questions later…”) and middle America pastel, wood and linoleum sheen.

Jenny and I turn up early on a Friday evening ready for some high end (i.e delicious cocktails) boozing, co-owner Dan Knight (ex Longrain) rushes to the door, flashes us a dazzling smile and welcomes us inside…that is as soon has he poses for a photo first.

We’re lucky and manage to snag the last corner spot in the lounge area and immediately start perusing the menu booklet whilst snacking on our complimentary popcorn.

We start off with something fresh: Jenny’s drawn to the idea of basil and honey in a cocktail whilst I instantly prick up at the sight of some potential elderflower liqueur.

HinkyDinks_03Romolo 42: 42 Below Manuka Honey, fresh basil, organic apple, fresh lemon, egg whites $16

The cocktail arrives with a lone basil leaf floating on some foamy egg white, it’s light but still quite sweet with the basil lending the drink some depth.

Elderfashioned (House-aged cocktail rested in American oak barrels): Kentucky bourbon, elderflower liqueur, aromatic bitters with citrus garnish over block ice $18

I envisaged the combination of flower liqueur and American oak would provide a nuanced mild drink however I didn’t read the description thoroughly and only later realised that the Kentucky bourbon (which I dislike) makes up a large portion of the drink which turned out to be quite stiff. The scotch drinker of our group approved though and ordered another.

Pan-fried olive and Parmesan sandwich $8

The infamous sandwich arrived and the oil from pan and cheese seems to seep through the three golden triangles with the smear of tapenade and Parmesan holding it all together. It was heart-palpitating delicious and we savoured the beautiful marriage of Parmesan and olive until the last bite.

Chicken liver parfait with cornichons & sourdough toast $16

We’re also renown lovers of a good poultry liver pate and order the chicken liver pate. It arrives in a fair sized ramekin with a thick layer of butter and some pre-buttered toasty hot sourdough. We take turns slathering on a small mound of parfait onto the bread before downing it with gusto.

Hinky Fizz: In-house strawberry and prosecco sorbet, Bombay Sapphire, elderflower liqueur, peach bitters, grapefruit fizz $16

The squeal-worthy Hinky Fizz arrives in an ice cream cup with a generous scoop of sweet prosecco sorbet paddling around in a pool of sweet summery fizz.

Zombie: Silver, aged and OP rums, Luxardo, cinnamon syrup, fresh lime, passionfruit, grapefruit juice, absinthe flame $19 + Castaway Collins: Sailor Jerry Spiced, fresh pineapple, fresh lemon, pineapple juice, in-house pomegranate and cinnamon syrup, bitters, soda $17

I urged someone to order the Zombie since it’s meant to be killer potent (orders capped at two per person!) but it turned out to be quite sweet and fruity with the alcohol largely masked by the grapefruit juice. The Castaway Collins is also an easy one to down with the pineapple juice dominating.

(Left to right, top to bottom) Dinky Five-O: Pisco, fresh lemon, in-house Five-O syrup, fresh berries, ginger beer $16 + The mint green bar + Gin ‘n’ Jam: Bombay Sapphire, Aperol, in-house rose-petal jam, fresh lemon, cranberry bitters, egg whites $17 + Extra popcorn $5

The Dinky Five-O was a happy drink with little seeds from the fresh blackberries levitating within the ginger beer but the Gin ‘n’ Jam though was amazing: the floral notes of the home-made rose petal jam providing a touch of sweet elegance.

Fried squid with aioli $16

I’ve read complaints that the squid would be too pale but found I really enjoyed them this way. The thinness of the batter allowed the taste of the squid to shine through and the addition of parsley and basil was a stroke of genius. I would seriously like to request all fried items from now on in to include a toss of fresh herbs to lighten the grease load.

Chocolate mousse $10

One of the team has an insatiable sweet tooth and couldn’t resist finishing off with some chocolate mousse which arrived in a wide-brimmed tea cup. All of a sudden everyone started making googly eyes at each other so I dipped my spoon in as well…my, who’d have thought a chocolate mousse could be this good! Little specks of chocolate hiding at the bottom amongst a thick swathe of rich chocolate cream which tastes so luxurious without being overly milky.

The well-considered cocktails of co-owner and award-winning bar tender Jeremy Shipley (ex Longrain, Guillaume at Bennelong) coupled with some seriously indulgent nibbles designed by Laif Etournaud of ONDE means we found it hard to leave. Languishing on the couches and watching the Kings Cross locals stagger by we saw groups come and go however we couldn’t part until we finished every last morsel. To leave something so good unfinished would be criminal.

The Verdict
A blend of cute, quirk and cool Hinky Dinks is a downright cosy spot to while away the evening. I’ll definitely be back to try more of Shipley’s cocktails with some meatballs and croquettes. The one downer might be that so much deliciousness can come at a price however since our last visit they’ve launched a live site and published some good value specials. They now have a happy hour which runs from 5-7pm daily with a selection of cocktails going for only $10 a pop and the must-try Parmesan & olive sandwich going for only $6. Uh oh, now you’ve got no excuse.

Hinky Dinks
a. 185 Darlinghurst Road, Darlinghurst
t. 8084 6379
e. info(at)

Hinky Dinks on Urbanspoon

It’s pretty handy having good friends living in the city. It becomes infinitely convenient to have a cold beer while waiting for your appointment, parking becomes a non issue and it’s a kind comfort to know you have a place to sleep off the booze when you miss the last train home. For those not blessed with this golden goose of friendship you’ll at least always have Darlie Laundromatic. While they probably can’t offer you a soft spot to rest your head, they’ll certainly make you feel at home as you sip your $5 Tsing Tao tinnie in the courtyard and line your stomach with some fine morsels while you wait for the afternoon to pass.

Just a jig away from Shady Pines, the Darlie has been open since July and they’ve built up a quiet circle of friends: the teetering blue and green laundromat themed small bar attracts an easy going local crowd. We bump elbows and share friendly jibes with our neighbours whilst waiting for the other half of our party to arrive.

Raspberry and Ginger cordial with Vodka soda $7.50

The terrace bar is decorated as a kitschy style hangout, so what’s more quaint than home made cordial? We tried the raspberry with ginger and was surprised to find it had that lingering ginger warmth without being too sweet (although I would have welcomed a heavier hand with the vodka). They also offered pear & maple cordial which was a bit disappointing as it erred on the bland side.

Danish Dog: lightly toasted bun with remoulade, crunchy onions, pickled cucumber and relish  $4.50

The food menu includes bar snacks, salads and steak sandwiches but most people are here for the food item of 2011: hot dogs (mini ones no less just to up the hip factor). I opted for the Danish dog and tried my best to savour this cutie but it was difficult not to cram it down in one go.

Laundry Dog: lightly toasted bun with mustard, caramelised onion, cheese, grated dill pickles and harissa aioli $5

Agatha opted for the dog of the house, made all the more tasty with the addition of caramelised onions and slight burn from the Harissa. We both nodded with agreement: these were easily some of the best hot dogs we’ve had.

The tiny bar counter

At this point more people started floating in so we all wiggled along the communal table to make room for each other.

Cordial with soda $4

If you happen to be driving fear not, you can always try the cordial sans vodka. It’s an extra large serving of cordial arriving in a tall milkshake glass (of course).

Mini Laundry Burger: with mustard, caramelised onion, cheese, grated dill pickles and Harissa aioli $5 + Sour Apple cordial with Vodka soda $7.50

We flirted with the idea of ordering the rustic ploughmans platter or the BBQ pork & mango salad but settled on the mini burgers featured on the specials board. If the hot dogs were good these burgers were amazing: the mini patty deliciously juicy, we finished the sliders in record time with the residual kick of Harissa aioli lingering on our tongues.

Mini Cheese Burger $5

Since we’re running late for a gig, the four of us regretfully had to skip the prospect of some ice cream sandwiches and strawberries with cream. As we rush out the door another couple wandered in, holding the door for us whilst we fumbled with our jackets and handbags. Whoever said community was dead obviously just needed an afternoon with the laundry.

Three out of five

The Verdict
A perfect haunt for lazy evenings or a great pit stop to meetup with friends before a night out, you won’t have to feel out of place at this casual home away from home. The folks have also saved any need for deliberation before bringing your friends via providing options for vegetarians, vegans and the gluten intolerant alike. If you find yourself at the Laundromatic make sure you order a glass of the home made cordial with your hot dog sliders, we’d easily down a score of these again.

Darlie Laundromatic
a. 304 Palmer Street Darlinghurst
t. 8095 0129
e. darlielaundromatic(at)

Darlie Laundromatic on Urbanspoon

I’m a food research fanatic: if I know we’re heading out I’ve got all the best nearby dining options mapped out ahead of time in case I find myself in a food emergency (you never know when it’ll strike). The new Honeycomb however is situated on a quaint albeit slightly awkward corner away from the shops, bars and cinemas of Paddington and Kings Cross, so it’s been on my radar for a while now (since I spotted it on Lee Tran Lam’s blog) but I was lying in wait for a good excuse to go.

Auspiciously, my momentarily benevolent sister offered to take me out for lunch to celebrate my old age and so the two of us ladies rock up at Andy Bunn’s newest venture one late Saturday arvo and nestle in at a table along the cushioned window bay.

San Pellegrino Limonata $5 + Cappuccino $3.5

I expected the traditional black board menu to take pride of place on the wall but maybe in a small move away from drawing one too many parallels with Cafe Sopra it’s been taken down and replaced with a slim folded paper menu. The clientele so far seems to be mostly locals dropping by for a coffee and panini with their Herald or a glass of wine with pasta during their weekend catchup. The service is simple and friendly and our chirpy Smartie-blue shod waitress is quick to greet us, seat us and recite the daily specials.

Wagyu bresaola with pear, parmesan, watercress $23

It was a really hot afternoon so we opted for the easy simplicity of the bresaola dish; the sweetness of the thick balsamic and pear slices a classic match for the rich marbled sheets of beef.

Orrechetti with prawn, chilli, garlic & lemon $24

While we’re here we couldn’t miss out on the pasta. The chunks of prawns were fantastically fresh and a perfectly sized pairing to the orrechetti.

Cabbage salad with reggiano and aged balsamic $16

Tossing up between the plethora of salads and sides we left the choice up to our waitress who suggested the cabbage salad. We didn’t expect much from cabbage (who does) but little did we realise this was a famous Bunn creation: boldly peppered and served with a generous dousing of grated reggiano, the first mouthful was a pleasant punch to the palate.

Banoffee pie $14

Dessert time rolled round and we thought to ask our waitress which was her favourite (turns out it was a tie between the banoffee pie and the semifreddo). We tried to nudge her into declaring which was best but it was probably easier to ask the parents strolling by which of their children was the favourite.

In my experience a small serving of banoffee pie can fill you up quickly, the culmination of digestive biscuits, cream and condensed milk can weigh down the most avid sweet-tooth. Bunn’s baby however is really light, with no single element overpowering the other; the sweetness of the banana shines and the telling specks of vanilla bean in the cream has been said to bring a tear to a young girl’s eye.

The Verdict 
It’s now over a month old and this little hive is getting busy. Located on a quiet corner of Darlinghurst most of the fans are (still) locals just taking it easy. The menu is simple but varied and can cater to your desire for a bowl of muesli or a three course meal including lamb ragu, field mushrooms and honeycomb parfait. Completely without pretension, this is a idyllic place to visit if you’re keen to try Bunn’s Italian in a quiet nook of town without a queue in sight.

a. 354 Liverpool Street Darlinghurst
t. 9331 3387

Honeycomb on Urbanspoon

Monday Night Supper, a meal unlikely to be realised in Sydney unless it involves chicken salt (oh yeah) and palm oil but thankfully after an intimate half hour with Google and a phone call later we dodged the potential heart attack and had managed to lock in a rendezvous at A Tavola.

Sonia and I arrived well after 9, stepping inside we peeled off our outer layers and admired the intimate setting. A Tavola is Italian for ‘to the table’ and the iconic 10 metre long communal table stretched the length of the front room with intricate veins of the Indian marble forming a meandering amber landscape towards the drying curtain of pasta draping the kitchen window. Two large blackboards dominate the northern wall with the daily specials (utilising chef Eugenio Maiale’s fresh pasta) scrawled in Italian. A curt paper menu hidden within our napkins listed the perennials which averaged $10 cheaper by using dried pasta instead.

Taking our spots opposite a young couple we ordered our wines and continued to reflect upon Tran Anh Hung’s cinematic translation of Norwegian wood, musing over the themes of escape, nostalgia and loss (and who was the hottest) as well as expressing reverence for cinematographer Mark Lee Ping Bin’s (of ‘In the Mood for Love’ fame) masterful compositions.

Complimentary bread with chilli infused olive oil

The complimentary bread arrived: two fingers of home-made focaccia sprinkled with fennel and rosemary was accompanied by a small dish of chilli infused olive oil.

Polipo con patate e olive (Octopus with potatoes and olives) $20

Knowing the servings can err on the large side we opted to share everything and all the dishes came out at once. First was the octopus, the beautifully cooked tentacle nested within a garden of green beans, watercress, kipfler potato and olives.

Triangoli con ripieno di anatra (Triangle ravioli stuffed with duck) $34

All of a sudden the room was awash with an unassailable nutty aroma and then we spotted our waiter floating towards us with a warm plate of the ravioli. Six large poppy freckled triangles stuffed with tender shreds of duck wallowed in a pool of burnt butter, sage and slivers of mustard fruit. The elements combined to form a nuanced mouthful of pasta, gamey meat and at times a surprising murmur of sweetness.

Swiss brown mushrooms, green peas, mint, ricotta salata $16

Last was our side of juicy mushrooms and peas, a simple combination enhanced by the shavings of salty ricotta and whispers of mint.

Before we knew it our plates were spotless. Having read that the desserts here weren’t as rave worthy as the pasta, I decided to have ice cream at Gelato Messina across the road instead. As we prepared to leave the woman across from us loudly declared her dessert the best she’s had in her entire life. Suddenly hit by a pang of regret I started wondering if we made the right choice, but A Tavola has endured the ebbs and flows of the Sydney dining scene for half a decade and with such refined Abruzzese fare we’re sure to have ample opportunities to return to the table.


The Verdict
A warm interior and a table laden with basins of beans and pots of parmesan serve as a homely-chic backdrop to pastas inspired by Maiale’s childhood. We were intrigued by the sound of the gnocchi and seared hare with risotto and will be back to try more of the elegant fresh pasta. Although the special dishes do verge a touch on the exxy side, the servings are fair and it’s well worth at least an initial visit to see for yourself what the fuss is all about. 

A Tavola
a. 348 Victoria Street Darlinghurst
t. 9331 7871
e. reservations(at)

A Tavola on Urbanspoon

There’s something special about bars in lane ways and alleys, it seems that the difficulty in locating the bar is inversely proportional to the quality of the food & drinks served within. Lucky for me then, I got lost. Despite my best efforts I found myself standing in a crowd of yellow wheelie bins before I heard it…the familiar murmur, the clink of cutlery and bursts of laughter coming from a side alley. I made it!

As I rush inside to meet the early birds, the waitress plonks down a small saucer of olives. The menu itself is limited and changes day by day according to what seasonal produce the chef Tim Webber (ex Sean’s Panorama) can source, most of the dishes are light and refreshing, designed to pair well with their extensive wine list. Inside, the space itself is very small and split into two sections with a collection of metal stools arranged near the front window and a clutter of oranges, bread sticks and lilies lined along the bar. The interior & service are both warm and endearing, akin to gathering for nibbles at a friend’s place.

Burrawong duck’s liver pate with onions agro dolce $14 and extra Bread $2

First to arrive was the pate (who can say no to pate)? It’s taken many a pate for me to have developed a refined understanding of the perfect pate to bread ratio. None of this scraping-it-across-the-sourdough-like-a-smear-of-Vegemite business, the aim of the game is to heap it on as generously as possible. Having said that we were lucky to have already ordered more bread, so nothing was wasted.

Spanner crab bruschetta, fennel, chilli, parsley, lemon $14

The crab bruschetta was addictive, the crab meat was beautifully soft in contrast to the crunch of fresh fennel and fragrance of torn parsley.

Kingfish carpaccio, fresh horseradish, mint, new season olive oil $15

Kingfish & ocean trout are my favourites when it comes to raw fish, the mellow flavour and delicate sweetness of these fish seem more lady-like compared to the big flavours of salmon and tuna. So it’s no surprise that the standout was easily the carpaccio, accentuated by the greeness of the new season olive oil and the freshness of mint.

Pears baked with cinnamon, blood orange, Riesling and creme fraiche $7

Since we were sitting in front of the menu board, dessert had been beckoning us all night long so we side stepped common sense and placed our order. The lone baked pear arrived, our spoons slid easily into the soft cheeks, scraping away bits of creme fraiche and blood orange syrup along the way.

It’s unfortunate we missed out trying the buffalo mozzarella, served with a heap of new green beans, mint and olives as well as the white anchovies with fennel, but fortunately for us it’s the perfect excuse
to come back for another drink with Tilly.

Vibrant and warm this place definitely ticks the “must try” box. Worth coming
back to explore the evolving wine list and daily menu, just come early.

Love Tilly Devine // Sly wine bar
a. 91 Crown Lane, Darlinghurst
t. (02) 9326 9297
e. tilly(at)

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