Let's face it. Sydney is all about our harbour. And fine Italian cuisine has now been entrenched in our Sydney lifestyle for more than thirty years. The refined casual elegance of Italian food is so suited to Sydney. So, what spells out S.Y.D.N.E.Y. more than this stunning - Ormeggio at The Spit - harbour view and Italian food combination. When many people think of Ormeggio they think of Italian Chef Alessandro Pavoni. But there's more than one secret to the beauty that comes from that kitchen.
In 2011 Victor Moya headed to Australia with his wife Laura Ballester. Good friend Federico Zanellato (LuMi Head Chef) was then Head Chef at Ormeggio and let him know there was not one, but two positions going in the Ormeggio kitchen. An exciting proposition for the chef lovebirds. So, Moya says it was just a month after hearing this news before they arrived in Australia.
When Victor Moya arrived from Valencia Spain he bought with him a culinary CV that we rarely see in Australia. After completing his technical qualification he focused his attention working in gastronomic restaurants all over Spain. Of particular note is his experience in 3 Michelin star restaurants: Restaurante Martín Berasategui, El Celler de Can Roca (named the best restaurant in the world by British magazine Restaurant), and his time working in San Sebastian with Chef Pedro Subijana. Moya's love of Italian cuisine was born while working in another 3 Michelin star restaurant, La Pergola with Chef Heinz Beck. That's pretty high - and rare - credentials.
Laura Ballester has the same CV. So with the arrival of Moya and Ballester, Ormeggio impressively gained double the Michelin power. Since hitting the Ormeggio kitchen, Ballester gained a love of bread, and now manages the in-house Ormeggio bake. It's served with a marvellous creamy smooth house-made ricotta, and just about worth a visit to Ormeggio for that combo alone.
Erudite Brescian Pavoni, by the way, is no stranger to Spanish cookery either. Pavoni is a modernist cooking scholar. He introduced us to the Ferran Adria flavour wheel, where blue cheese matches with chocolate (they share flavour compounds), during the early incarnation of Ormeggio.
Now that these very talented chefs are collaborating on the Ormeggio menu, we see an evolution. The restaurant is still contemporary Sydney, as is the décor and its water-view setting. But it is more refined than the earlier Ormeggio. And it has lept forward with a new unique voice.
Unique is a word that should be used sparingly. In this case, it is the best choice of adjective. Think about the inclusion of the tomato sponge - (cooked in the microwave - light and airy) and served with buffalo mozzarella, extra virgin olive oil and basil - a Ferran Adria recipe. The Ormeggio menu comes full circle when the savoury starter of tomato is replaced with sweet hazelnut sponge to end the meal. Clever.
Other Ormeggio mouth teasers are Rice and paprika chip, sour cream, chives and incredibly light yet tasty Baccala fritters, dill mayo.
The Sunday lunch tasting menu with matched wine continues with a stunning dish of tiny harmonising flavour filled morsels: Charcoal mackerel, macadamia, rhubarb, grapes, samphire, herb juice. What a wonderful seasonal combination. Of course, while the Ormeggio creative team are skilled craftsmen, it all starts with their choice of wonderful produce. The addition of the juice from a laboratory beaker at the table, adds to the experience of this beautiful course. The juice sits in the bowl like a thick soup, the herb is flavoursome but not overpowering, and compliments the cured mackerel and its accoutrements beautifully.
Throughout the Sunday tasting menu each dish impresses with creativity, craftsmanship, beauty, elegance and of course stunning flavours.
Squid taglioni, Yarra Valley salmon roe, sea lettuce, fennel and bottarga di Pilu is astounding, intriguing and a contradiction. It is both powerful and light, contrasting yet harmonising in strong flavours and textures. That ping of the squid ink. That pop of the salmon roe. That wave of sea lettuce. The tide of the lighter local Australian bottarga.
Yet from biodynamic veal tonnato to aged duck breast or charcoal wagyu the star of the menu has to be risotto. Pavoni is renowned for it. Mayo has improved on the dish. Carnaroli rice is aged for 12 months and so when cooked retains its firm perfection. The just warmed red scarlet prawns are so soft and so sweet. The kale is dynamite. If you do one thing this year: eat this dish!
Three sweet encores follow the last savoury beef, a pre-dessert of passionfruit and coconut (the modern uptake of the sorbet palate cleanser now has itsy bitsy textural additons); a superb dessert of souped berries and earl grey mousse with the most complete wine match of the gastronomic Universe (yes perhaps I exaggerate but the berries and this wine are nearly interchangeable in flavour) 2014 Braida 'Giaconomo Bologna' Brachetto d'Acqui DOCG, Peimonte; and those finishing mouthfuls, petit fours.
That's the first wine we've mentioned yet six other Italian wines followed our welcoming Majolini Franciacorta. Not only is Ormeggio one of the best restaurants in Sydney, it also has an award winning wine list.
When it comes to Sunday, although we love the lunch, next time we're going to rock on in for the night time gig. Sunday night is the time that the chefs try out their new dishes; you get to taste them before they hit the menu. Not that there won't be lots of testing beforehand. On instagram Alessandro Pavoni posted eight pots of mushroom consommé being tested for a new dish. Still, that new menu premier is pretty exciting stuff.