A homey new Surry Hills restaurant offers classic comfort food with room for improvement
If you're a fan of Baffi and Mo, the cute café that's had Redfern all a tremble over the past few years, you'll probably be very excited about Orto Trading Company - the same folks' foray into restaurant-land. It's got Surry Hills all sweaty-handed and queuing for their take on classic British comfort food. There are flowers poking out of antique soda bottles hanging over the bar and fresh herbs growing out the front in pots. A popcorn machine sits behind the bar, distributing welcome corn for every guest. If you're looking for a large dose of cute, Orto is the place for you.
The first half of the menu reads like the contents of Ratty's picnic basket in The Wind in the Willows. The Welsh rarebit fondue is a mustardy cheese lava, kept active by candle light. Only an evil genius could turn a what is ostensibly a sandwich topping into a delicious 70s science experiment. We say lose the crudites and give us more bread for dipping, though. An individual toad in the hole (a classic British dish of sausages cooked in batter) is a little blacker on the outside than you might expect from a restaurant, and the sausage needs a fat injection to keep it juicy. The same goes for the mince around the Scotch egg. A Scotch egg, if you haven't had the pleasure, is a boiled egg wrapped in mince, then crumbed and deep-fried. Here, it's served with a sweet pear pickle. It's god's gift to beer snacking – and handily, there's an accomplished beer list. Share the enormous beef and Guinness stew between two or risk loosening your belt a few notches. Or don't order it at all - the beef, heirloom carrots (al dente - not ideal in a stew) and overworked, buttery potato dumplings all wander around the plate together without ever really bonding.
It wouldn't take much to transform Orto from OK to great: just a bit more precision in the kitchen. Drop by for great beers and some excellent quaffers (they have an awesome red on the list from Barossa winery Teusner called the Dog Strangler). Add a few snacks and your outlook is sunny.