As Sydney gears towards summer, long Sunday lunches with friends become the norm.
Located in Walsh Bay near the Sydney Theatre, Café Sopra Primavera is part of the Fratelli Fresh food store where you can eat in a warehouse space as you watch with shelves getting stocked with food products by energetic staff with the word PERSONALE printed in red on the back of their T-shirts.
Awarded one hat at the 2011 Good Food Guide Awards, Executive Chef Andy Bunn places emphasis on freshness and flavour, a combination that serves up a litany of winning dishes.
The menu is displayed on a giant blackboard but as we are a group, we have pre-selected the set 4 course menu. At $60 a head excluding beverages, there is a choice of 5 Antipasti, 2 Secondi, 2 Terzi, and 2 desserts. All the dishes are shared banquet-style, and served at a comfortable pace to allow for a leisurely lunch with friends.
Antipasti (5 dishes)
The simplicity and flavours of the Bocconcini with vine ripened tomatoes takes you back to Italy. The freshness of the ingredients is key to this first starter and the almost stringy texture of the bocconcini is good enough to enjoy on its own.
The Roast pumpkin salad with red capsicum, coriander, chilli and aged balsamic is more than a scattering of dressed iceberg leaves. The addition of roast pumpkin and sweet aged balsamic makes is a robust salad.
Arancini with taleggio with mixed herbs and lemon are easy to pop in the mouth while sipping on a Pinot Grigio.
The Frittata with goats curd and baby basil is creamy yet light. The texture of the goats curd compliments the slightly runny egg. I apply a little restraint with this dish. I could have easily had one for myself.
Affettati misti, the mixed plate of cured meat includes generous slices of ham, prosciutto and salami.
Secondi (2 dishes)
First dish of the Secondi is a generous serving of Lamb ragu with conchiglia, chilli and rosemary. This is no ordinary pasta dish. The lamb pieces are so tender they break as you pick them up with your fork. The chilli adds a welcome kick to this hearty and comforting dish.
Served with scissor tongs, Crisp polenta with oyster mushrooms and gorgonzola sauce oozes with flavour. The combination of chip-like polenta and a piquant sauce makes this dish a winner.
Terzi (2 dishes)
Our plates are cleared and after a pause to digest, a large serving of Roast pork belly with bitter greens makes a grand entrance.
Succulent pieces of pork belly are perfectly cooked, tender and flavoursome, topped with a crackling that elicits an encore. Pork is not a meat I like to eat or order in restaurants, preferring it in cured varieties but this dish will always be remembered as the one that converted me.
I feel a little sorry for the Dory with tomatoes, pickled cucumber and capers when it is served after the pork belly. On its own, it deserves applause but somehow loses the wow factor due to its predecessor. If you enjoy the strong flavours of John Dory, you’ll love this dish. The freshness of vegetables remind you of summer.
Fini (2 dishes)
The first of the desserts is served, an enticing piece of Tiramisu. However, one taste and it is confined to the least impressive of all the dishes. I find it a little too watery for my taste and light on coffee and Marsala. Most tiramisus don’t stand a chance when compared to the one my Italian chef friend makes, he who guards his methods close to his heart.
We become acquainted with the Eton Mess, a dessert traditionally served at Eton College in the UK for its annual cricket game. The ‘mess’ looks like a girlie dessert but the men happily tuck into it with approving noises. The mound of strawberries, meringue and cream is delicious and sweet enough to make up for the lacklustre of the tiramisu.
Happy Birthday Biscotti
With the arrival of dessert, I realise that no one in our group has arranged to wish our friend a Happy Birthday. I quietly ask our waitress if we could have a candle, and she presents him with a plate of biscotti with a candle secured on half a lemon, a lovely touch for a last minute suggestion.
Pinot Grigio (L) Wine Cellar (R)
The four course set menu ($60) is in essence 11 dishes that leave you more satisfied. Despite our hearty appetites over a long lunch, there is ample food left over which we are offered to take home in containers.
With the emphasis on freshness and flavour, generous servings, good service, a casual ambience and a relaxed café style environment, Café Sopra offers great value for money and is recommended for long lunches with good friends.
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