Anthony Huck­step makes friends with Syd­ney new­comer Bert’s.

delicious - - CONTENTS -

IF ONLY I’D WORN A white linen shirt, chi­nos and penny loafers with no socks. Who am I kid­ding – I’ve barely got a paler shade of black in my wardrobe. While din­ing at per­haps Merivale’s bold­est bid out­side Syd­ney’s CBD, there is a sense of lux­u­ri­ous hol­i­day din­ing. Cer­tainly the prices sup­port the no­tion.

Bert’s Bar & Brasserie in The New­port ho­tel em­bod­ies the chutz­pah of ex­trav­a­gance from a time and place that some older Euro­pean Aus­tralians may re­mem­ber, yet de­liv­ers it with all the ex­u­ber­ance of Aus­tralia’s culi­nary youth.

Out­side, it feels very thongs-and-board­shorts Aus­tralia, but once through the thresh­old there’s a real sense of grandeur – with a kind of ca­sual ca­chet, mind you.

Wait­ers, a sea of them, are decked out in white jack­ets, ties and white aprons as they bounce around an enor­mous venue dom­i­nated by dou­ble-white table­cloths, emer­ald-green up­hol­stered chairs and booths, a walk-in wine cel­lar with a list that em­bod­ies breadth and depth from home and abroad, and a gi­ant bar over­look­ing Pittwa­ter in Syd­ney’s North­ern Beaches.

Ex­ec­u­tive chef Jor­dan Toft (Coogee Pav­il­ion) and head chef Sam Kane lead a team in an open kitchen that’s re­ceived as much spit and pol­ish as the din­ing room.

Al­though the project was 12 months in the mak­ing, Toft had only three days in the kitchen be­fore the doors swung open, but you’d never know. There’s con­fi­dence, clever tech­nique and a gen­uine re­spect for the pro­duce on the plate.

A seafood smor­gas­bord of Aus­tralia and New Zealand’s deep blue jew­els – in­clud­ing live pipis, lob­sters, mud crabs, prawns and a few fin­fish – is on show to lure your taste­buds in, but the vast menu cov­ers just about all bases and puts a Euro­pean ac­cent on lo­cal pro­duce. A gen­er­ous plate of cru­dite and bagna

cauda of­fers a med­ley of crisp, fresh raw turnips, car­rots, fen­nel and cel­ery yearn­ing to take a dip in a stel­lar an­chovy sauce. Then pick­led cher­ries part­ner a solid

paté en croute where pas­try sur­rounds a del­i­cate pork and game ter­rine.

A canopy of crisp vine leaves hides a splen­didly cooked New Zealand ha­puka that’s still opaque in the cen­tre, al­low­ing its broad scal­lop­ing flesh and rich, sweet flavour to play off nicely against pre­served and salted lemon. Then a lick of peach puree sup­ports a slab of pork rib chop. Caramelised on the out­side, part­nered with crack­ling and blush­ingly pink in­side, it’s a great ex­am­ple of how some­thing other than pork belly can be the porcine hero on a plate.

Now there’s sim­ply the choice of head­ing to the bar for a re­lax­ing night­cap or two, or let­ting the fresh mango, fin­ger lime and dried co­conut pavlova knock you over.

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