Black Bottle

Jackie McMillan
21st Oct 2023

There are two ways to cook calamari chef Raphael Szurek explains when I praise his cooking, either very fast or slow. He’s opted for the quick method in grilled calamari ($24) where translucent white loops mingle with Brazilian kiss peppers, chorizo and lemon puree under a tapioca cracker. It’s a faultless dish and a fine way to kick off Sydney’s al fresco dining season. 

We’re dining in the Victoria Street courtyard of Black Bottle. It’s a Sunday evening and we were lured in by both the reputation of the chef and the fact that the bar offers five buck BYO in Darlinghurst! Szurek, who trained under Paul Bocuse, does not disappoint across a trio of plump prawns flambeed in pastis ($12) with just the right amount of chilli. We scoop them onto thick-cut, crusty grilled bread. Also from the well-priced snack menu, a pot of pickled baby octopus ($12) in preserved lemon is enjoyed the same way. 

Celebrating the seasonal bounty of spring, West Australian coral trout ($44) catches my attention from the short list of four mains. The crisp-skinned, flaky white fish sits on shaved asparagus, green beans and sugar snaps in a burnt lemon butter that makes the crisp greens extra delicious. Carbohydrates are not forgotten with texturally perfect pillows of gnocchi tucked within this eye-catching cornucopia: it made for a wonderful dinner.