For years Pompei’s was considered the place to grab an authentic gelati in Sydney. Whilst a plethora of new guns have popped up in Bondi: notably an on-rush of speakeasys, beach-side bars and a new Miss Chu canteen, Pompei’s is still as busy as ever.

Spritz: Aperol, prosecco and soda $11

We’ve made a booking and arrived at this North Italian restaurant to be ushered to our table. It’s a cramped spot even for three girls and we awkwardly mid-sit side-step into the cranny (lots of table and chair shuffling were required) and mini-hop our chairs right up to the table edge. Our contortion activity for the day now over, we turn to the menu: a traditional mix of pizzas, pastas and vegetables with a curt page of veal and beef for the hard core carnivores.

Schiacciata Rustica: homade rustic bread with garlic and fresh herbs $7.50 + Flat white $4

We go for the Schiacciata Rustica, a light disc of warm bread studded with herbs and garlic. It’s pleasing but a little under-seasoned. The ravioli is delectable, large crescents of spinach and cheese sliding through a rich butter sauce. We were given a choice of tomato or butter but the waitress tells us the butter is easily her favourite so we go with her recommendation and offset it with an order of steamed organic vegetables which turned out to be rather pedestrian.

Ravioli di Magro alla Tirolese: handmade ravioli filled with baby spinach, parmigiano, ricotta and nutmeg in butter sauce (tomato sauce alternative available) $17.50

Lastly was the smoked proscuitto and mushroom pizza on a airy crisp base: a classic combination has been given an element of uniqueness with the use of smoked proscuitto and earthy sauteed porcini.

Verdure Biologiche: steamed organic vegetables, extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper $12.90
Speck e funghi trifolati: smoked proscuito scented with juniper berries and herbs, mixed sauteed mushrooms including porcini, fior di latte mozzarella, tomato sauce $24

Although we’ve been looking forward to digging into the gelati, we’re stuffed and already running late for a gig. We promise to return afterwards but as the gelati window closes at 11, we managed to miss this too.

As stalwarts go, Pompei will easily be around for us next year or next decade, so there’s no hurry for when we return for that promised scoop.

The Verdict
I didn’t realise until writing up this post that Pompei’s was meant to be a North Italian restaurant, and in reflection I didn’t spot a heavy featuring of meat, polenta or ravioli in the menu. Perhaps it’s a little at odds to be serving such hearty fare to a tanned beach-going, health conscious clientele. Regardless, at the end of the day Pompei’s serves simple Italian food done well. There’s not much more to enduring success then that.

a. 126-130 Roscoe Street, Bondi Beach
t. 9365 1233

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I remember the first time I spotted Caffé Sicilia and it’s not what you think.

I was flicking through a fashion editorial when I spotted the models leaning against the most beautiful black and white marbled bar, laden with fruit and rows of gold rim glasses whilst a couple of wisened chefs bustled in the background. It seemed intoxicatingly Italian with all the classic European stylings you’d expect: gold window lettering, black and white tiles, crisp white linen, marbled table tops, pressed steel ceilings, hanging lights and wooden wall paneling.

Complimentary marinated olives

Even in real life I’m entirely enamored with the fit out and as we sit down in the alfreso area and nibble on the complimentary olives, my eyes kept darting between the locals power walking past and the bakery station & bar area within.

Complimentary bread rolls + Warm 3 milks cheese: warm parcel of “3 milks” cheese dressed with truffle honey & walnuts (Normally $22)

A basket of round dinner rolls appeared, tucked snugly within the folds of a napkin; they were baked on site and surprisingly delightful, a nice change from the sourdough infatuation Sydney restaurants seem to have. The cheese parcel turned out to be one large wheel and whilst it was quite moreish, we struggled to finish.

Crudo of Tuna: yellow fin tuna dressed with lemon segments, Sicilian caper berries
& extra virgin olive oil (Normally $15)

‘Crudo’ is a simple Italian dish of raw fish, oil, salt and citrus, inspired by the fresh seafood caught from the Mediterranean.

Homemade Gnocchi Bug Meat:cooked with fresh Balmain bug meat, cherry tomato &
balanced with a hint of chilli & garlic (Normally $15)

Cathy’s entrée was light and simple so it was with great surprise when I was presented with mine. I had been looking forward to trying the new gnocchi and bug meat dish; I had envisaged it to be quite small and light so I was shocked when presented with a plated mound of red, white and green (how apt). This turned out to be my favourite dish of the night: the bite sized portions of Balmain bug and tumble of pillowy soft gnocchi stirred through with tomato and chilli was comfort on a plate and an entirely satisfying meal in itself.

Sweet & Sour Sicilian Rabbit slow cooked farmed rabbit poached with pine nuts and sultanas in a white wine & vinaigrette sauce (Normally $24)

Whilst the prospect of rabbit was intriguing I found this rustic dish to be too Wintry an affair for Summer dining.

Snapper “Acqua Pazza” with mussels, vongole & king prawns poached in a white wine, cherry tomato & parsley reduction (Normally $27)

Reverse meal size envy struck again when this time I was presented with my Snapper “Acqua Pazza”. The classic dish of fish in broth was presented on a mammoth platter with a generous wreath of shellfish surrounding the Snapper fillet.

Curiously, the menu at Caffe Sicilia stops at second course and despite being full I was lamenting not being able to finish off our meal on a sweet note. I needn’t have worried though, as we were soon presented with two small glasses of strawberry and pistachio Sicilian granita.

Complimentary Sicilian granita + Complimentary take away pastries

The texture of these little gems were more akin to gelati which was probably tailored to suite Sydney-siders’ tastes since Sicilians – the original inventors of granita – would protest that the ice should be much coarser though no one on our table was complaining (too busy scraping the glasses clean).

I saw a few tables gifted small parcels as they left and when we received ours we tore open a corner to peek inside and find two house made pastries awaiting to be devoured the next morning.

As I surely felt my stomach starting to high-five the bottom of my lung our waiter approached once again, this time with a cannoli and a moment later returned with a cheeky smile and an additional surprise: a bottle of home-made orange limoncello.

Ricotta Cannoli

Perhaps rather ironically I underestimated the generosity of the Sicilians and was quite surprised at how liberal the servings turned out to be. In truth I was a little saddened that all the waiters had lost their beautifully tailored white dinner jackets in favour of a more relaxed look, but luckily none had lost that cheeky Italian humour.

The Verdict
CafféSicilia prevails in many ways to become a little slice of the old world planted anew on Crown street. The menu features a lot of traditional dishes as well as classic Sicilian fare, although the kitchen may still be trying to find its Sydney connection. The pastry station here produces some fantastic baked treats so if you’ve ever rushed past, take a moment to sit down for an espresso and ricotta baked doughnut or do as the Sicilians do and have an almond granita to go with your morning brioche.

Food in hand dined as a guest of Caffe Sicilia.

Caffé Sicilia
a. 628 Crown Street Surry Hills
t. 9699 8787

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Walsh bay is a slick glass & sandstone version of residential Sydney: a patchwork of locals, tourists, apartments, commercial studios, old heritage buildings and wharves – all existing under an inescapable view of the Harbour Bridge. Once the clock hand ticks over to pre-theatre hour though, it morphs mid kick Matrix style into an every-woman-and-man-for-themselve frenzy as each group tries to play a suburban-sized game of musical chairs to get a table and down their food competition-style, before the prosaic 8:30 call of the loudspeakers draw the punters to their flip seats.

Cafe Sopra, the prodigy nestled within the Italian produce laden Fratelli Fresh’s walls is a clear local favourite and the first to fill up. Although dinner service starts at 6, try not to arrive a heart beat past 5:59 or else you’re likely to be the head of a long queue waiting for a table at this one Hat chain.

Italian Sour $12.50

We arrive in time to get one of the few remaining tables and it takes a moment to flag down a waitress zooming past. We start with a couple of classic apéritifs and then quickly over-order off their giant blackboard menu.

Chicken Liver Paté with cucumber, green bean and toasted Ciabatta $20
+ Campari & Blood orange $9.50

First is the chicken liver pate, a blushing pink served with a refreshing mound of onions, beans and cornichons. I’ve never had such a bright pate and Cathy informs us it’s a sign of freshness since pate browns as it oxidizes.

White Anchovy Panzanella $20

The simplicity of the Florentine salad go down well with the soft hits of anchovy, my only wish was for more pane in the panzanella.

Mussel Fusilli Insalata with eschallot, avocado, cucumber & tomato $20

Normally ‘special’ dishes denotes something imaginative or super fresh and punchy so I was drawn to the prospect of the quirky combo of mussels and avocado. Unfortunately the insalata was a wallflower: a few shreds of this and that tumble through a large mound of pasta that seemed to disappear within itself.

Meatballs with fresh tomato sauce and Tagliattelle $22

I’ve read about grown men crying at Sopra when they realise the meatballs have sold out, so it was best we secured a plate for ourselves and see what a heart-breaker three balls of meat could be. The meatballs were huge, topped off with a small grating of Parmesan; as we cut into each one I was in love with the fluffy texture bathed in a slight tartness from the fresh tomato sauce.

Whole baked Trout with Mint and Marjoram

As good as the meatballs were, the trout was the queen of the night. The rosy meat slid off the bones easily and each bite was a comforting mouthful of soft flesh, lemon, mint and marjoram.

Since over-ordering and ambitious eating has been our forte we decided to be consistent through the last legs of the meal; we couldn’t decide which dessert to have so egged on by the waitress, we just ordered both.

Chocolate Cannoli with honeycomb and fresh Mango $14.50

Two fingers of cannoli arrived with honeycomb filling and a tussle of mango cubes. It was a pleasant combination of flavours but we were disappointed the filling was only pipped halfway through and the cannoli having lost a little of its crispness by the time it arrived on our table.

Bluberry swirl Semifreddo with Minted sugar $14.50

Last to arrive was my semifreddo. My first and only was a smooth block of almond cream sandwiched between two wafers in Verona so this was something I wanted to relive again! The blueberries and mint here worked off each other’s sweetness but I found the water content in the blueberry swirl meant the texture became icy and a little grainy.

Three out of five

The Verdict
Exuding all the rustic, seasonal charm ladies decked in big earrings, felt scarves and resin bangles love: everything at Sopra is about classic Italian done with fresh local produce. It’s been an effective business plan and if their SMH Hat and latest opening on Bridge street is any indication, one which can’t keep up with ravenous demand. I’ve been to the Walsh Bay eatery twice (and failed to gain entry twice) and would say each meal has its hits and misses although I’m unsure if this is a sign of bad ordering or perhaps a personal inability to appreciate certain flavours. Regardless, the well-oiled machine has been pumping out winners close to a decade and I’m sure you’ll be able to find another gem between the aisles.

Cafe Sopra at Fratelli Fresh Walsh Bay
a. Shop 8, 16 Hickson Road Dawes Point
t. 8243 2700
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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

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With a to eat list expanding faster than my wallet can keep up with, it’s rare to find a place you love enough to revisit so soon but barely a couple of months had passed and here I was standing outside 10 William Street and feeling pretty excited.

As the rule of thumb goes if you have a hard time finding it, it’s probably going to serve up some amazing dosh. The exterior of this Fratelli Paradiso sibling is fairly spartan: a glass front with an open door luring you into the narrow wine bar within. The interior is fitted with a leather sitter which runs the perimeter of the front room, small green and white cafe tables provide a good rest for tired elbows whilst a collection of Thonet bentwood chairs and stools compliment the understated cream paneling.

Aperol Spritz $15

Our waiter revisits us a few times but noticing our alarmed eyes (a wine list which comes in a binder should freak out any casual wine drinker) he suggested we start off with “what everyone in Milan is drinking poolside this summer”. Moments later we were sipping away at a couple of Aperol Spritzes, made none too sweet, balanced out with the slight bitterness from a sliver of lemon and cradling a stirrer speared with two large green olives.

Olives $6

The olives were beautifully firm with a long drawn out taste that lingered on your tongue, so good in fact we had to order a whole bowl. Moments later our last member wanders in and settles down with a Spritz in hand. We eagerly signal that it’s time for the show to begin!

Seared tuna, sweet corn, leek $19

First to arrive is the tuna, decorated with the dark smokey cross hatch of the grill and resting on a bed of pureed sweet corn. A drizzle of olive of olive oil, a small bush of micro herbs, a line of balsamic and topped off with fried strings of leek: it was delectable and now I could see why this sold out the last time I was here.

Sopressa panzerotti (Cured pork neck with fried bread) $17

I had no idea what to expect with the special as all I heard was “pork neck” and “fried bread”; somehow I imagined a dish of roasted springy neck meat paired with a slightly oily loaf (don’t ask why). Instead what came out was a fanned out mat of cured pork neck shavings and a pile of light crunchy pillows of ‘bread’. We were instructed to wrap the shavings around the bread before popping them in our mouths, it was divine! We started pondering how these Italians turn the humble pairing of meat and bread into something so sophisticated and delicious.

After finally settling on a bottle of ‘textural’ French white (the lovely waiter left us the bottle for a moment so I could photograph it – so nice *sniff*) it was time to move onto the main attraction.

Pasta al forno $21

A simple dish of rigatoni swathed in the aroma of four cheeses: the different textures and contrast of savoury with sour (possibly from the Pecorino and Mascarpone) was cleaned up in minutes.

Angus sirloin, potato, rocket $24

The steak was simple but well executed, it arrived already divvied up with a small side of rocket and roast potato.

Maccheroni braised oxtail ragu $21

The dishes here are on the small side and we felt there was still room for more so we added an old favourite: the pasta with oxtail ragu. Spearing the maccheroni onto our forks we gobbled down the last of the al dente pasta and rich sauce before guiltily realising we overdid it a little. Sensing the stretch of our belts, the general consensus was to stand firm in the face of temptation. This means no dessert tonight.

Our waiter stops by and asks if we’ll be having dessert, he senses another flash of indecision and starts monologuing about the wonders of tiramisu and how after starting work here he ate one every night and gained three kilos. “The only tiramisu better than this is one” he declared, “I had at a friend’s house, they were first generation Italians and theirs was drenched in Marsala it was the best thing on earth”.

Tiramisu ‘Fratelli’ $7 & Moscato di Trani Rivera 08 Pugua $12

After such high praise and drool inducing talk we crumbled like the feeble-willed eaters we were and ordered the Tiramisu with a glass of Moscato. I momentarily slipped away to the Narnia-esque bathroom and came back to discover the dessert had arrived but some eager eaters couldn’t resist “sampling” the cream layer. Fratelli’s version was much wetter than most, with a generous layer of coffee infused cream & mascarpone on top to ensure each spoonful was as fattening (i.e. delectable) as the first.

It was amusing watching everyone’s euphoric reactions over the Tiramisu, they were so impressed it was only adequate we facebooked the news as fast as possible. Spread the word folks but maybe just amongst your besties, after all we’d like a spot at the table too.


The Verdict
It’s been a year since the brothers Paradiso have opened this little wine bar and 10 William Street has lost none of its charm. A varied and dense wine list coupled with the daily chalkboard menu based on using the freshest produce delivers a winning combination not enough Sydney-siders have cottoned on to. Don’t come with a full stomach and make sure you leave room for the tiramisu. My only word of warning is keep an eye on the bill, it adds up fast or you can just turn away and close your eyes to savour another sip. No one will blame you.

10 William Street
a. 10 William Street Paddington
t. 9360 3310

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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)

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My third Italian in 6 days and if the first two were to set some sort of benchmark then 121BC, the newest effort from the folks that brought you Vini and Berta, had a lot to live up to.

Thankfully this time I did my research and discovered that the actual entrance was located on a side alley, with the bar itself unmarked except for the vinyl lettering of cantina (cellar) and enotica (wine respositry) on the glass shop front. We loitered outside whilst the bar started slowly emptying itself of the first round of diners: leaving to make room for the 7pm sitting as the waiters methodically cleaned and reset the table.

Irata Offida Pecorino, Clara Marcelli

The four of us were here for the drink + dine offer created to celebrate the Crave food festival. We were directed to our place at the end of the 25 seater bench with an intimate view of the chef working his craft in that shoebox kitchen. Giorgio the manager/sommelier approached us to check if we were ready to start, and with an eager nod it all started to happen. First was the glass of Pecorino, made from the early ripening Pecorino grape which predates the well-known cheese, our waiter noted with a cheeky grin that it had hints of cider in the nose “if you close your eyes and use your imagination”.

Polenta fritta, pancetta, onion

To match our tipple, the polenta arrived on a wooden board, crispy bars of goodness paired with the soft aromatic onion and sprinkled with rosemary and chives. Cathy murmured that this was even better than the polenta fries we had at Bloodwood and I had to agree.

Lasagnetta cuttlefish and beetroot & Rosso 2009, Le Coste

Our glasses cleared away we were all next given a very dry red from Le Coste. Whilst a few of us decided this didn’t possess enough drinkability factor, none could disagree it was a perfect bedfollow for the Lasagnetta. Sandwiched between two thin sheets, it was studded with cuttlefish and beetroot cubes (who knew this was such a winning combination) with flecks of orange zest adding an extra zing to the overall dish.

The lone chef hard at work plating well over 225 servings that night.

Moscato di Pantelleria 2009, Pellegrino

Lastly a small pour of Moscato, wonderfully floral and densely sweet.

Rosemary custard, pears

I honestly thought the first two courses were hard to beat and didn’t think much of dessert until we were served these little glasses of rosemary custard. A sliver of poached pear, a sprinkling of salted walnuts sat atop the wonderfully creamy custard, infused with the familiar resinous aroma of the garden herb. One of us unashamedly licked her glass clean.

We hung around for a bit longer chatting before Giorgio approached us again to apologise and inform us that they had to make way for the third sitting. We thanked all the staff on our way out, surprisingly full and knowing nothing could better what we just had experienced: the four of us called it a night.


The Verdict
I know the holy trinity is meant to be impossible but the folks here have achieved it: with food and wine that’s good, fast and cheap there’s nothing not to love about this place except the queues. The waiters were chatty, knowledgeable and thoughtful even standing aside patiently whilst Cathy was composing a shot. Come early or very late but do come. Worth repeat visits to try the changing menu and perfect for late night eaters (opens until midnight Fridays & Saturdays).

121BC don’t normally serve desserts and the custard was such a winner I can only enthusiastically urge you to book a spot during the last week of drink + dine.

The Drink + Dine offer is available for the month of October but you must book.
3 courses + 3 wines for $40
Tuesday – Thursday for sittings at 6/7:30/9PM

121BC cantina & enotica
a. 4/50 Holt St (entrance located on Gladstone St) Surry Hills
t. 9699 1582
e. info(at)

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