You know the drill. We mention the pub has been taken over by young pub moguls James Miller and Jaime Wirth and you say ‘is it filled with ironic tatt and are they serving tacos?’ This time we say no. The two pub-guns who transformed such pubs as the Norfolk
, the Abercrombie
, the Carrington
and the Flinders
have sprinkled the fairy dust on the Forresters. But this time they’ve been a little more restrained. Downstairs is still a mess of plasma screens and guys in their Saturday night Good Shirt but veer left to be met with a world of delicious Italian.
The main inspiration for place according to co-owner Jaime Wirth is “Cal Neva Lodge – Frank Sinatra’s casino hotel on the border of California and Nevada – and some old-school Italian joints thrown into the mix.” You can see it in the walls, which are concrete set with river stones but not so much the soundtrack, which is more Little Eva than Rat Pack.
The food is definitely a cut above Wirth and Miller’s other digs. Scottish-born chef Dan Corbett has graced the kitchens of Quay
, Quarter 21
and Restaurant Gordon Ramsay in London and has put together a menu of Italian dishes that take in all parts of the boot. There’s a list of daily meats cooked on the rotisserie. Wednesday is beef night, Saturday is duck night and Sunday it’s a celebration of pig. And if you go for a sandwich (yes, there’s a sandwich menu), the Cuban will be filled with the rotisserie meat of the day.
For a menu this large (there are at least 51 things on it), the pizze are surprisingly excellent. The Margherita is reliably good with a thin, charred base covered in tomato and melted parmesan then sprinkled with basil leaves and injected with chunks of fresh buffalo mozzarella. Oh, and definitely try the ‘nduja, tallegio and mashed potato number. It’s carb on carb action here: the spicy Calabrese pork paste gives in to a layer of pureed potato and it’s all melted together with cheese. Amazing. Feeling flush? Have the Forresters got the pie for you. They’re calling it the Pay Day pizza: a $50 extravaganza of lobster, truffle and truffle salami. We'll be going back for that one. On pay day, and with an empty stomach.
If that mythical day is further away than you might like, why not just order a side of spaghetti with red sauce for $7? It’s actually big enough to pass as a whole meal if you’re not starving or you’ve shared a few snacks around the table. Go for tender pork and veal meatballs (also available in sandwich form – boo ya) or crisp polenta chips, all light and fluffy on the inside. Don’t miss the ‘poppers’ – little peppers filled with pork mince and deep-fried. Amazeballs. Sadly there’s a carbonara fail – the garlic is so burned you can taste it before it hits your lips –but mac’n’cheese is pure comfort.
Service is friendly, bustling and quick and there’s a wine list filled with crazy Italian gear like the Dettori Renosu bianco - an orange wine from Sardinia - which you really only find at the more progressive wine bars and restaurants around town. Most of it’s around the $40 mark, too, which means you can try a few different things. Or maybe just stick to a cocktail such as the Shaddupayouface – tequila, Campari, lime and pink grapefruit.
This is classic Italian bistro food the way it was meant to be – casual, affordable, friendly and fun. It’s great for groups, you don’t need to dress up and you don’t need to flash a big wad of bills to get the better service. You just need to turn up, order a beer and have a good time. That’s amore.
The Forresters are currently offering a unique Feed Me dinner in their upstairs restaurant area, Sit Down Dinners. Four courses for four people at $40 per head: check out the website for details and bookings.