TA­BLES THE COOL ITAL­IAN

Chris­tine McCabe dis­cov­ers tempt­ing tastes and a splash of style in Ade­laide

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Indulgence -

DE­SCEND­ING the stairs into a base­ment bar on a sunny Ade­laide day feels vaguely al­ter­na­tive, rather like en­ter­ing a mod­ern-day beat­nik club. Which is just as well, given the Fa­rina Kitchen & Bar takes cool as its cue with a squig­gly, al­most Pi­casso-es­que mu­ral scur­ry­ing around the walls, black and white bent­wood chairs, and low ceil­ings with ex­posed (but de­signer) light bulbs dan­gling above the ta­bles.

In an­other era, this would be just the place to re­cite bad po­etry and quaff cheap wine while cul­ti­vat­ing a goa­tee.

But cheery, white­washed walls, a long mar­ble-topped bar and friendly ser­vice quickly dis­pel any ro­man­tic no­tions of seedy, smoky bolt­holes and, as if to un­der­score the es­tab­lish­ment’s sunny dis­po­si­tion, sev­eral ta­bles are set on the pave­ment of the square above for those who’d rather dine al­fresco.

Fa­rina, which opened in down­town Ade­laide five months ago, is the latest of­fer­ing from the folk be­hind the city’s ac­claimed fine din­ing restau­rant The Manse, and has rapidly es­tab­lished it­self as one of the most talked-about eateries in town. For­mer Manse sous chef Mathew Goodlet heads the Fa­rina kitchen where hearty Ital­ian food, in­clud­ing piz­zas and small-plate tast­ings sim­i­lar to tapas, is the or­der of the day.

The lively wall mu­ral de­pict­ing kitchen ac­cou­trements, which takes three­d­i­men­sional form as it morphs into lamps and light­ing cords, also finds its way on to the bright-yel­low pa­per place­mats that, when flipped, re­veal the menu.

With drinks or­dered from a small but in­ter­est­ing se­lec­tion by the glass (a 2006 Tiefen­brun­ner Pinot Gri­gio from the Alto Adige in Italy, $8.50), hus­band-on-a-diet and ado­les­cent sons who haven’t eaten in at least 10 min­utes sug­gest a se­lec­tion of small plates to get us started.

Out they come, en masse, on a rather sexy Villeroy & Boch multi-tiered de­vice with bendy arms that has the look of a crea­ture from Dr Who but clev­erly avoids the prob­lem of clut­ter­ing the ta­ble with plates. There’s bac­cala (salt cod) and potato puree, served with cros­tini ($12); oc­to­pus with chilli, pars­ley, gar­lic and lemon ($12.50); goat and fen­nel-seed meat­balls ($12.90); and coniglio (rab­bit-liver pate, $13), the last-men­tioned a creamy and sub­tly flavoured af­fair, served with a condi­ment of finely chopped pick­led wal­nut.

The full se­lec­tion of small plates is avail­able all af­ter­noon for pa­trons pop­ping in for a quick drink and snack. Like­wise, piz­zas, a house spe­cial­ity, are avail­able at any time, but there’s been a hitch with the oven so they’re off the menu to­day and for the next month or so.

In­tro­duced when Fa­rina opened in Au­gust, the menu has a rather win­try feel but, now the restau­rant has bed­ded down, more sea­sonal of­fer­ings are on the way.

Dip­ping into the by-the-glass range again, we try a 2006 Scorpo Aubaine Chardon­nay from the Morn­ing­ton Penin­sula ($8.50) to ac­com­pany our sub­stan­tial mains. (The full wine list in­cludes plenty of pre­mium drops with a good se­lec­tion of Ital­ian and Ital­ian-style wines.)

My main of castagna fet­tuc­cine ($24) proves dark and mys­te­ri­ous, and if I were a beat­nik poet I might com­pare it with the for­est floor. The fet­tuc­cine has been made us­ing chest­nut flour and a melange of mush­rooms (straw, chanterelles, slip­pery jacks, but­ton and oys­ter) are cooked and pick­led, help­ing to cut the rich­ness of the dish’s thyme-flecked ragu. Son No 2 makes short work of his gnoc­chi e quan­cia di bue ($26); the dumplings are per­fect, softer than marsh­mal­low, smoth­ered in a rich sauce of braised beef cheek, thyme, nut­meg and red wine. Elder son, he of the hollow legs,

Check­list

Fa­rina Kitchen & Bar 39 Hindmarsh Sq, Ade­laide. (08) 8227 1007; www.fa­rina.net.au. Open: Mon­day to Fri­day, mid­day un­til late. Satur­day, 5pm un­til late. Cost: $50-$60 a per­son for three cour­ses. Much less if you settle for a cou­ple of small plates ($11-$14 each) or a pizza (about $20). Drink: Lots to tempt wine lovers, from pre­mium South Aus­tralian drops to qual­ity in­ter­state and over­seas la­bels. Rea­son to re­turn: Cool in­te­rior, friendly ser­vice and good, well-priced food.

Pic­tures: Brett Hartwig

Kitchen ta­ble: Din­ing at Fa­rina, top; multi-tiered en­trees, above left; fin­ish­ing touches from Mathew Goodlet, above

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