Matthew Evans shares his favorite dining moments of the month
Photography Angela Brkic and Stephen Baccon
Roasted mushrooms at A Little on the Side
You’d never, ever, find this café without being told. Unless you’re usually trawling Ivy for coffee. But now the secret is out, so it may be even harder to get one of the seats on the two tiny decks at this sunny corner diner with the even sunnier attitude. The food is very good, thanks to ex-bills 2 chef Lisa Campton who’s doing a fresh take on brunch and lunch, often inspired by Mediterranean. A dish to savour is the richer than rich than rich roasted field mushrooms with butter and salsa verde. Wash them down with excellent Grinders coffee and plan on moving in around the corner.
A Little on the Side Café, corner Ivy Lane and Boundary Street, Darlington. Ph: 9698 7767
Flourless chocolate and hazelnut torte at Chelsea Tea House
Avalon’s tea house has spent over half a century doing light refreshments for those trawling, or lucky to live on, the northern beaches. Now, however, with an overqualified chef fronting the stove, there’s more than a little magic on the minuscule café menu. Perch on a fold-up chair in the front courtyard, find a polar-fleece blanket if it’s cool, and order up big on the chocolate torte. A ripper of a dessert, it arrives with a flavour as comforting as a hug, with a wonderful crumbly outside and a gloriously squidgy, hazelnut-scented middle. The ice-cream on top is just a bonus.
Chelsea Tea House, Shop 2, 48 Old Barrenjoey Road, Avalon, Ph: 9918 6794
Choux puffs with foie gras at Claude’s
It has taken the better part of a decade, but now there’s a second appetizer at this 28-year-old temple to gastronomy in Woollahra. And, despite a recent change in chef and owner, they’re still offered as a free gift to diners during the cooler months. Chui Lee Luk, the former second chef, has stepped up to the plate as arguably Sydney’s most talented new head chef. Her impossibly fine, crisp choux pastry orbs slowly dried in the oven, then filled with an esoteric pate made from duck foie gras. The mix is sharpened with Madeira, the effect like a bubble of pastry that explodes on impact with the mouth, the moussey textured pate engulfing the senses in the way a hot bath soothes the soul.
Claude’s, 10 Oxford Street, Woollahra. Ph: 9331 2325
Pizza with speck and fontina at Pizza Mario
There aren’t many pizzeria in Sydney that can boast a sign that looks like it’s come straight from the streets of Naples, the home of wood-fired pizza. But this little, oft-packed gem in the courtyard of the Republic apartments in Darlinghurst not only has the sign, but also the goods to back it up. A favourite is the sweet mozzarella and pungent fontina topped pizza Bianca (meaning white, hence no tomato) where slivers of speck are laid like fine linen over the top after it’s baked. The slow-risen base is thin, soft and scorched, the flavours as resonant as a Neapolitan in dialect.
Pizza Mario Republic, 248 Palmer Street, East Sydney. Ph 9332 3633.
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