First, the no booking thing. I really don’t get it. Your own table, your own companions, a choice of food and an assigned time to eat are the very fundamentals of a restaurant. They have been since the very first restaurants in post-revolutionary Paris.
Now, I would not, had this been my choice, chosen a wildly popular (at time of writing, who knows tomorrow?) restaurant on a Saturday night. But it was my daughter’s birthday dinner and her choice.
We arrive at 6.30 to be told a table will not be available for an hour and a half. An hour and a half. She really, really wants to go to this restaurant so we walk to a nearby wine bar.
I am accused of being old and grumpy. As charged but I quell my grumpiness. As it happened, we only waited 45 minutes. Only.
Once inside this tiny, packed, dark, noisy room – the lack of soft furnishings exacerbated by the volume of the music – we are shown a table for two which is tiny even for a table for two. And we will be four when the boyfriend arrives. All tables but one in the front are the same size. They knew we’d be four. With wine and water I’m not sure where the food is going to go.
It’s too dark to read the wine list, and almost too noisy to hear the suggestions. Then I remember the light on my iPhone. Very useful. Soon everybody’s using theirs.
Now to the best part. The food. I last ate chef Dan Pepperell’s food at Pinbone, which is now Buzo. It was good, but what I believe is called assembly food: good ingredients assembled rather than combined and cooked. He has either abandoned that style or learnt new techniques
It is, of course a share plate deal. And some of the best plated we shared were a wonderfully soft, creamy and deeply flavoursome smoked eel with leek and a burnt oil crespelle – the menu said crespelle I’m not sure it was there but who cares? Best eel I’ve ever tasted. A large, crisp on the outside and beautifully crumbed on the inside pretzel came with whipped bottarga; and I could have eaten a hug bowl of the rich and beautifully cooked lamb ragu with pappardelle had it been offered. There was more, and it was good.
As was the service. The dishes came staggered to the size of the table. The wine – the first Patrick Sullivan Haggis rose chosen by birthday daughter was terrific, the second a French cabernet franc chilled especially for us also very fine but I didn’t get the name.
Ultimately we enjoyed the food the wine the company and the service. But having reviewed restaurants in Sydney for over 20 years, I’ve seen fads in décor come and go. Nothing pleased me more in its departure than the last period of noisy restaurants and the re-introduction of carpets. But you don’t need carpets. A thick hunk of foam stuck to the underside of the tables helps a lot.
I’m old. But does anybody of any age really enjoy tiny knee-hugging tables, runway level noise and having to wait 45 minutes for the pleasure?
It’s called hospitality. Be hospitable. Let me book. Let me hear conversation. Let me see the menus. And give me a little room. Not too much to ask.