For quite some time we’ve been meaning to get to Ormeggio’s – that casually swanky double-hatted eatery up at Middle Harbour helmed by Italian talent Alessandro Pavoni. Celebrating the birthday of my significant other was as good an excuse as any to cross the bridge and take advantage of the great-value “Stressless Sunday Dinner” that now seems synonymous with this high calibre restaurant.
A 6-course degustation for $69. Can’t go wrong with that.
Dining at Ormeggio’s in winter would have to be a different experience than during the long evenings of summer; when the windows are thrown open and you’re made part of the multi-million dollar location. Enviable homes, shiny boats and a sparkling harbour. Nothing but a blanket of darkness in winter, so focus goes to what’s happening inside.
On Sunday it’s degustation only and it also means that you don’t really know what you’re going to get. No menu, you see. Once the kitchen is informed of any aversions or allergies that may apply to you, they choose from their current pool of dishes and tailor it to each table. Too easy, and no decisions to be made.
The only aversion at our table was one that involves raw meat. The meat in question refers to the Ormeggio take on vitello tonnato. Fine cubes of biodynamic veal spruced up with slices of young radish, toasted pine nuts, anchovy and tuna mayo. Soft textures caress the palate with sudden bursts of saltiness from the anchovy, tuna and capers; and then there’s occasional crunch from tiny potato crumbs. An entire bowl would have made me a very happy man.
For the non-raw meat lover there’s a pretty collection of lightly pickled garden vegetables, brought out nude and then lovingly doused in a warm and earthy bath of green pea emulsion. Winter may have been blowing a gale outside but there was a touch of summer going on with every spoonful of this.
The courses are spaced perfectly and give you about 15 minutes before the next course arrives. Perfect for me, anyway, as I’m not a fan of waiting about for anything.
A small cluster of confit duck tortellini makes the second course; served nude like the previous soup and warmed with a deeply rich duck consommé studded with chickpeas and baby radishes that sit like jewels in a bowl of deliciousness. Some sharp pecorino seals the deal.
A sliver of Patagonian toothfish is next; applied with the sous vide method and served with leek, some grilled onion and dabs of romesco sauce. I loved the addition of toasted and salted flaked almonds – a texture that went really well with the firm and silky cod.
Is it dessert time already? Not really. The fourth course has the outfit of a tiramisu but tastes nothing like it. What we have is baccalà, an Italian salted cod that’s poached in milk and delicately shredded. Nestled amongst it are crunchy polenta crisps and over the top is a luscious aerated Dutch cream potato dusted in Szechuan pepper and cocoa.
Our final savoury course was a 12-hour sous vide lamb shoulder; a small chunk of tender fattiness resting on a shallow puddle of goat yoghurt. Drops of almost iridescent mint oil freckle the yoghurt and lightly charred Brussels sprouts bring smokiness. The granulated element was a sprinkle of roasted coffee crumbs. Coffee and lamb. I’ll take that any day.
The dessert course. We’ve all had carrot cake but have we all had it like this? A firm and densely-textured cake that isn’t all that sweet. Most of the sugar is in the fennel seed ice cream and very thick vinegar caramel that sits beneath the cake. Some crumbs and farro cream join sprigs of chervil; colouring up the plate with freshness and texture variations. It’s all a little bit sweet and a little bit savoury and the perfect way to round off a special meal.