First published on 17 Sep 2008. Updated on 5 Apr 2011.
The tiny dining room with its black and white chequered floor, pressed ceilings and clutter of tables combined with down-to-earth, friendly and efficient service and Dan Puskas' superb $95 eight-course menu makes dining here the fascinating experience it is. And hey, it's still BYO so even though you pay more for the food than you used to (it was once $55 for three courses), you're still saving on the booze.
The best Sunday lunch spot in the west. The focus is on locally grown and sourced ingredients (even down to the wine) and they have local brewers - Scharers - on tap. If the roast chicken with bread sauce is on, order two. They churn their own butter as well, and their house-made ice cream is the best we've ever had.
It's a beautifully simple room with frosted glass deco-style lampshades, white walls and simple wooden furniture. Chef Giovanni Spinazzola has some superb dishes on his menu, like snapper carpaccio with blood orange or orecchiette with broccoli sauce. And order the cheese plate - figs (when in season) served with a slice of blue cheese, some thin slices of spiced Italian bread and a little dish of truffled honey.
Tables and punters alike spill out onto the street in a happy, cordial mess. Busy and buzzy, their BLT is VGI. They also do an excellent corn fritter and steak sambo and are using Golden Cobra - coffee bean of the moment - catering to all your caffeine needs. We love it.
Gutsy European food has hit Balmain featuring everything from chicken soup, snails in garlic butter and duck pate to a pig's knuckle served on a wooden board garnished with a pocket knife sticking out of the top with a selection mustards. Not one to try and tackle on your own (unless you really want to) but a definite must for the table. La Boheme is la bombe.
An authentic experience down to the stern Italian mamas serving you. Order the Margherita for the fresh zap of basil, sweet, juicy tomato and slightly salty, yet creamy buffalo mozzarella. No self-respecting pizzeria is without one. The speck in bocconcini is a must. A little ceramic dish holds little cubes of cured pork stabbed with toothpicks. It's then popped into the oven with a few balls of bocconcini which then melt all over the meat. It comes to the table scalding, melty, salty and delicious. Turn up on the dot of 6pm or risk a very long wait.
Giant pits of white hot coals and iron cages filled with chickens (frango de churrasco). Who would've thought all this was going on in a chicken shop in Petersham? Butterflied, grilled and eaten in either halves or whole with plenty of hot sauce, this is a glorious union of poultry and the open flame.
If it's the Greek experience you're after, you must try the Corinthian. Feeling bold? Order sheep's head - unless you're downright revolted by the idea of pulling the well-done brains and eyeballs out of a skull that still has teeth. But what this restaurant really does well is the simple stuff. All the food here is very basic, very traditional and very homely (aside from the skull, perhaps). You won't find anything tricked up, foamed or soiled here, just honest earthy dishes made with care, and it's cheap, too. For as little as $20 you'll go home full as a goog.
The degustation at this sweet Leichhardt local is fantastic value ($100pp for 9 courses, not including wine). For
a traditional French bistro to succeed in an area dominated by Italian restaurants, the team must be doing something right. Unassuming, casual with great service.
There's a lot to enjoy - the graffiti mural on one wall and touches of whimsy in the hand-drawn piscine placemats make it all the more enjoyable. The cooking is sound, though some of the combinations are something of a stretch.
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