owner now offers a chance to spruce up the riverside destination
IL CENTRO: REVIEWED BY ANOOSKA TUCKER- EVANS
IF YOUR restaurant needed a makeover but was busy every night of the week, would you renovate? That’s the question we asked ourselves at Il Centro.
The city fine diner, loved by the corporate credit card-carrying set, was recently bought by Cha Cha Char and Jellyfish owner John Kilroy from longtime restaurateur Andy Georges, who had the Eagle Street Pier Italian for 25 years. Kilroy has vowed to keep the staff and menu the same, but the tired fit-out, well that can certainly go.
Terracotta tiles meet parquet flooring in a similar shade, while woven chairs tuck into wonky tables, that the professional staff fix with apparent regularity. The space is fine, but who wants to settle for fine when sweeping river views demand the venue should be truly spectacular?
The menu offers diners familiarity through the classics – think arancini, barramundi with octopus, seafood risotto and scaloppine, plus the signature sand crab lasagne.
Created in 1992 by then head chef Gillian Hirst, the dish has remained on the menu and is still a bestseller thanks to layers of butter-soft pasta, sweet crustacean and a bisque-like sauce.
Blushing pieces of duck prove difficult to cut with the blunt steak knife, but accompaniments of expertly crafted gnocchi – with that elusive quality that makes the pasta melt in your mouth – make the struggle worthwhile.
The tiramisu is another signature dish. But while its layers of marsalaspiked mascarpone and yielding sponge are delicious, the Leaning Tower of Pisa presentation needs an update.
The Italian-heavy, tome-like wine list is, no doubt, partly what keeps this time-stamped restaurant bustling.
It’s easy to see why Il Centro is such a favourite, but a freshen up would help it continue another quarter of a century.
FROM TOP Tiramisu, the dining room, and barramundi with octopus and celeriac puree.