At first glance, this contemporary Italian fine diner seems stark and devoid of character. But the more time you spend in it, the more you find the food and the interiors are in perfect harmony. In both, purity and simplicity with clean, bright flavours win out. Chef Jonathan Barthelmess serves flash fried southern calamari alongside pieces of fried eggplant sliced so thin they resemble cellophane and topped with a tiny dice of juicy, luscious tomato and a scanty chiffonnade (very fine strand) of basil. A salad of fat, meaty rounds of ox heart tomato, ripped Italian buffalo mozzarella (the Italian air freighted stuff has more flavour than the gear they make in Australia), sultana-sized black olives and a couple of basil leaves is poetry on a plate. There’s also a very attractive Tuscan soup we’ll be going back for.
The staff are all-star, too, from the incredibly knowledgable waiters to the sommelier who’s willing to work with you on choosing the right wine in your price range (there’s a fantasic range of Italian drops as well as an interesting cocktail list including something called the Spaghetti Western we’ll be going back for). There’s nothing like sitting on the balcony here when a storm’s rolling in. You can smell the rain coming, yet the deck is protected from the extremities, making it exciting and pleasant all at the same time. Star Sydney firm Frost designed the space (Vince Frost and Co. are responsible for the design of Damien Pignolet’s book French, too).
The seafood here is exceptional (owner Tim Connell is an ex-seafood industry veteran, specialising in oysters). Seared tuna is served with slices of orange, sugared almonds and fennel. Black pepper risotto studded with lumps of tallegio cheese is a revelation.
Never listen to anyone who puts the words ‘… and if you’ve got room for dessert’ in a sentence. It doesn’t matter if there’s room – desserts are made purely for enjoyment, have no nutritional value whatsoever and should be ordered at all times. What’s the point of going out to a super special dinner if you don’t have a sweet to close? Coast’s desserts are ace. The highlight are the baked strawberries served with sweet balsamic and Jonathon’s version of baklava with whipped ricotta.
Coast is a quiet achiever in a world of Sydney fine diners screaming: Me! Me! Me! But they achieve big things with minimal hype. Bravo.
Sydney's best outdoors restaurants
The great outdoors: There's nothing like sitting on the balcony when a storm's rolling in. The flagpoles on the Pyrmont footbridge tangle and flap as the breeze blows over the bay. The deck is protected from the elements while remaining completely open, making it the perfect dining spot, looking right over Darling Harbour. Star Sydney firm Frost designed the space at this modern Italian fine diner where the food and the interiors are harmonious in terms of purity and simplicity.
What to order: The menu is fresh, simple Italian utilising excellent Aussie seafood. The beautifully balanced tomato, basil and Tuscan oil soup is a firm favourite - sweet tomatoes hightened with the slight peppery tang of basil - as are their fresh shucked oysters with varieties changing from day to day depending on availability. We're also fans of the grilled quail with farro and balsamic.
Inside knowledge: Ask for a table on the balcony for the harbour breezes.