I’ve said it many times. I love this city. Ok, I know I’ve slagged off Sydney almost as much but deep down she’s the only girl I’ll ever truly love. I was born in this state, I lived north of the border for a decade and somehow, as if by destiny, Sydney drew me back to its unplanned streets and inner city lifestyle.
In the twenty years I’ve been here I could probably count the times I crossed the Bridge to the northside. It rarely happens. Until recently. I’ve taken a liking to what I’m discovering north of that bridge and methinks this is just the start of it. Venturing beyond my comfort zone is something I hope to perpetuate now that I’ve set my sights on a land called the Lower North Shore.
Lunching at Sails on Lavender Bay reintroduced me to that cute high-brow village down on Blues Point Road. It also made me notice this cosy Spanish restaurant-slash-bottle shop I wish I had in my own village of Erskineville. Delicado Foods covers a few bases, thanks to ex Wildfire sommelier Ben Moechtar. Fronting the corner is a don’t-mess-with-me bottle shop that has the most insane selection of European wines I’ve seen for a long time. Floor-to-ceiling shelves of vino that would make any wino’s heart flutter. Strangely, anything I picked up lacked a price tag and knowing me I was man-handling a top-shelf rioja I couldn’t afford.
The deli component to this business is almost as impressive. Jars of Spanish goodies line the shelves, smoked meats and cheeses fill the chilled cabinets. Above the handful of indoor tables hang paella pans, over-sized decorative chillies and wooden ham holders. Visually there’s so much going on in here it feels like you’re in downtown Madrid or Barcelona. Spanish beats pipe through the speakers and the smells of coffee, jamon, queso, olives and fried squid transport me back to our Spanish travels.
Breakfast is something I know I’ll be heading back for but this particular visitation was all about kicking back with a Span-tini (Mahon Xoriguer gin & Palomino Fino sherry $16), a few tapas and raciones. The first plate was a pleasure to tuck into. Toasted white and rye sourdough, slow-roasted garlic and black olive tapenade (8.5). I would have loved if the Donatella Versace-coloured garlic cloves were of spreading consistency, but they squashed down into the bread nicely anyway.
The hands-down favourite at the table was this. Croquette (4.8) of beetroot and goat’s cheese, lightly drizzled with salmorejo. The crumbed and fried little nugget of heaven looked like any other but it was only when you took to it with a fork that it stood out from the rest. A creamy centre of fuchsia-coloured goat’s cheese, mild and earthy on the palate and balanced with the slight tanginess of the Andalucian gazpacho-like soup/sauce that came with it.
A lone scallop ceviche (4.5) came in the shell, this one was mine, knee-deep in citrusy juices and a generous dusting of smoked paprika. Red wine, sherry vinegar, lemon and garlic oil made for a quick and tasty shot of seafood.
It may have been forgotten about but after a quiet reminder we got our boquerones (9). Deliciously marinated ribbons of white anchovy simply draped over lightly-toasted baguette. At that point I was wishing I was drinking a Spanish beer, something I felt much more appropriate than a martini version.
Our small appetisers and tapas progressed to raciones, starting with a holy-crap-this-is-insanely-delicious plate of confit pork belly (two large hunks of it $30) with several pork & pistachio empañadas wedged between. Beneath the empañadas are plump compoted apricots, on top some braised radicchio and underneath everything a slick of almond jus. Pork belly lovers, this one’s for you. A fatty extravaganza you’ll be thinking about for days.
My racione plate was all about the red meat. A Rangers Valley black angus sirloin (35), char-grilled with some red capsicum, thin slices of carrot and zucchini. Somehow I failed to mention how I wanted the meat cooked so it came out medium. A little over-cooked for me as I prefer it slightly rarer than medium-rare but aside from that it was a fairly tasty piece of meat. I did need to reach for the salt, however.
The coffee’s at Delicado are nothing to turn your nose up at, especially when you can tuck into a wedge of ricotta & pear cake (8.5) to share with it. Two very thin layers of hazelnut sponge, centre of vanilla-scented ricotta and some welcomed heavy-handling of powdered sugar. That was one cake of champions and a lunch worth crossing the Bridge for.