Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Unreported Crimes (aka Buzo Trattoria, Woollahra)..

It happened just across the road from the police station in Woollahra, and still, I did nothing...I choke up when I think about. It's been a few days but the memories still haunt me. They follow me in my sleep and into my fretful-fist-clenched nights like a stranger's shadow through a dark, cold alley in my heart. I am a victim, it would seem. I didn't scream, I couldn't shout. There were people around who saw it all unfold, heck, it happened to them as well. But no one could say anything. No one did anything to stop them. I can't believe it, even now! Everyone just let it all happen. We were robbed. We were beaten. We were absolutely aggravatedly assaulted. Alas, it's true. Maybe you'd expect this sort of thing late at night or out in the Cross, but we were in Woollahra for God sake - and the most dangerous thing to happen around here is when Herringbone runs out of stock on its Waren Weave Trouser in beige. Look. I don't want to give them a bad name or anything, but Buzo Trattoria was the scene of all these heartless crimes - and I guess it's time you knew. 
Knew of crimes of Hatred. Hatred against bad taste and dull food, hatred against restaurants who are all talk and no walk, hatred against diets and hips and thighs. Hatred against it all. We were robbed like shmucks! Robbed of our hunger and beaten like a parsley and parmigiana frittata, and then smoked like the house smoked eel. We were assaulted by a menu more crowded with glorious flavour than neurotic thoughts inside of a Costanza head. Our boredom and dining dullness was embezzled. Our appetites were murdered, our desire was stalked, and our peace was most definitely disturbed. After a little chat with uber-chef and co-owner Todd at the scene of the crime, I even think they might be guilty of insider trading, as well.
The look on Dad's face says it all...Why, Hello belly-pleasure! Great food is the simplest thing to be happy about, and this night at Buzo tickled us a porkly proscuitto pink. 17 plate-crimes later and I could have sworn I saw bacchus winking at us from the heavens...If on the odd chance you have some chilled champagne handy, pop the cork on it and sink into its golden bubbles while you gather round to hear these foodie tales... 
Exhibit A was a proscuitto crudo w fresh ricotta + parmigiano. With sharp and perfectly fleshed pale pink proscuitto peaks this  looked like an edible cross between a lady's hatted head on Cup day and the Opera House died pink. Wonderfully parmesan-snow topped proscuitto was a cool meaty salt slap to the warm, gentle and creamy flaked ricotta beneath. We were all-a-sigh when the next dish walked into our bellies, and into our lives: the savoy cabbage w pine nut, raisin, pecorino + pangrattato! Jesus. Jennifer describes this as one of Buzo's most revered sides. It is a ragingly tart heap of moist cabbage sweetened by a swarm of raisins and rounded out by the pine nuts and pecorino, the breadcrumbs (which really do sound more impressive if you call them by their Italian name, pangrattato) add a rough, warm-oiled depth to all of this verdant salad-spiked coolness. The flavour is divine, strong and sure and rustic, it tastes like something someone's long dead grandmother came up with and passed down through generations - and I mean that in a good way!
Onto the tomino in cartoccio - the baked cheese in parchment w garlic, thyme + toast. Jesus Christ. This is your grilled cheese on tip top reinvented a little, and tasting entirely more divine. Peeling back pastry-like layers of browned parchment to reveal a beautiful baby of molten thyme-spiked and roasted garlic dappled cow's cheese, and then taking a silver blade into it and watching it drizzle and drip as it dizzying oscillates from toast to plate to toast to plate is a pendulum so mesmerizing I am swaying in front of the screen.
This is a fair and subtle cheese that gives itself up wonderfully to the thyme and garlic, and fully infuses itself from their flavour. The generous slices of sourdough on the side come heavily toasted with a sublime scent of semi-charredness and are sprinkled with oil to give the whole cheesey-garlic-thymed-breaded-smooth-on-crunch shabang the most toe wriggling taste you can possibly imagine in your wildest, hungriest moments. 
The cheese just keeps coming with a sweet offering of grilled figs, stracchino, mint + vin cotto: edenic orbs of slippery-fresh fig bleeding sweetness onto the plate and suffocating under melted stracchino in a dark-golden and rich vin cotto - peppered with a very subtly sobering smidgen of mint is the kind of mouth-kaboom life needs more of.
The house smoked eel, parsley + parmigiano frittata was as salty-heavy-eggy and full as the garfish carpaccio was light. Between dizzying forkfuls of all of this we still fit in a snail or two...
The pan fried veal sweetbreads w snail, swiss brown mushroom + vin santo is the kind of meal that would have made me wrinkle my 15 year old nose. I am clearly getting longer in the tooth, but a long tooth isn't such a bad thing when you are wrapping it around this garlic drenched delight of veal pancreas and thymus and snails. Dad and I loved this as much as the cabbage, but we are Lebanese and the presence of garlic in this dish tipped the balance very strongly towards our Middle-Eastern favour.
What? You think we're done? Pfft. You guys are welterweights, those were just the starters. The main event of the main events was for me the naughty, little porcini mushroom, proscuitto, truffle + parmigiano lasagne, the vincisgrassi - vincisgrazie more like it, because thankful I am for rustic layers of proscuitto-mushroom heaving pasta, baked in parmesan and trifled with truffle. My God. If this little italiano dish were a person I would do whatever it told me, it's like having Benito Mussolini on a plate. 
I got a little bit jealous over my boyfriend's reaction to Buzo's pappardelle w braised lamb, chorizo, tomato + parmigiano. Tomato spun kisses with slow-gently cooked threads of lamb and chorizo. Lovely, and light and rich all at once. 
Dad died over the pan roast spatchcock sugo del vinattiere (w grapes white wine parsley + garlic). Again with the Lebs liking the garlic, how predictable are we? This was wonderful, supple flesh inside and lolling in roasted juices and garlic. We didn't flip the bird, it flipped us. Add incendiary sides of fried potato, green beans + salad - all of which you really must try, and dinner was beginning to last as gloriously long as the Roman Empire.
Yeah. We had dessert. I know. We shouldn't have. There was no room , it was like Noah's Arc in our stomachs at this point, but still we strived, and we did, I am proud to say, prevail. This lemon-licked gelatoish cup was a pure and milky palate cleanser and we braced ourselves for what a kitchen that had already come forth with so much could possibly do next to our startled stomachs. 
The fading light says we have been at this table for hours upon hours, but you can still make out the lines of this smart-quirky-sweet date, pistachio + candied lemon tart w double cream. Not as sweet as most dates desserts are, this is tamed by the lemon and the cream.  
The warm baked chocolate w almonds + vanilla gelato - despite its failure to include any garlic, pleased all of us. A warm cocoa-heavy heart with almond flake crunch smooshes wonderfully against rich vanilla ice. I usually don't fancy heated chocolate desserts (apart from a hot chocolate), what you usually taste when chocolate is heated is an insipid floury-ness that dulls the chocolate rich-drown-punch - this was the molten exception. But my favourite...
The torta di verona - mascarpone, pandoro, blueberry + almond trifle. In fair Verona where we lay our scene...where civil blueberry stained cream makes civil hands unclean! So gorgeous. Invisible sweet Italian bread lacing into a barely there beautiful mascarpone and crowned with icing-sugared scorched almond flakes. Cool and sweet and white like snow. Such an innocent dessert that killed us all.
Oh My God. Buzo, where have you been all my life? Buzo happens at 3 Jersey Road, Woollahra (opposite the Cop Shop), phone 9328 1600, web here. Open for dinner from Tuesday - Sunday. The red wine and champagne we had were amazing, and the cosy upstairs and downstairs makes this the perfect place to come together around a table in Autumn and Winter. 

Buzo is simply stunning. Not many restaurants can go for so long (ten years) without dropping the culinary ball or getting a bit stale, but here you have it. A wonderful place owned by three friends who clearly know what they're doing. If you're keen on trying every new thing and sometimes get a bit disappointed by fickle Sydney fooding, this is a place to turn to for solid classics and a kitchen that does its own thing - and superbly. Jennifer who has been with Buzo for 7 years gets a massive thanks for taking care of us and helping us choose everything. It can hardly be called a choice when you've ended up trying 2/3 of the menu. Thanks to Todd for withstanding a table-side drilling and for all of the skill and dedication that is so obvious on the menu and the plate - thanks also to James co-chef and co-owner who we didn't get to meet, and also much thanks to co-owner Traci. Friends and business!? How do you get them to mix?
Buzo, baby. Even if they put me in the witness protection program, I hope that vincisgrassi can one day find me again, one sweet truffled and parmigiano day.  

Monday, March 28, 2011

Brave Nu World (Nu's Restaurant, McMahons Point)...

I don't know if it's a fact or not, but I have it on good authority (hearsay at the pub when I had an ear infection) that South Australia has more serial killers per capita than anywhere else in the world. And, factual or not-ual, that's how I like to picture them: taking a stroll through a vineyard, biting into a well aged brie, sipping an exceptionally spiced and full bodied merlot - and then grabbing their axes and secretly, gleefully offing each other. Chef Nu Suandokmai spent a fair bit of time in the old SA, which just might maybe perhaps be why his brand of authentic lime-sliced-chilli-snapped-tamarind-twisting-homemade-middle-kingdom-authentic-curry-paste-kaffir-laced Thai is positively, absolutely killer. 
This isn't Thai Fast Food, no, no. Not the kind of Thai we Australians think of if and when we think of thai. This is clean, schmicked up local, seasonal and largely organic produce which is lovingly put together according to middle kingdom recipes and plonked down on a lucky lively plate. It's authentic thai fine dining but elbowed in by a little French and Italian. Even though Nu's stands on a chandelier-light dappled sandstone corner on Blues Point Road, there's nothing to get the blues about. Life at Nu's is always wonderful.
This flaky crisp prawn wonton seed speckled with chilli-lime twine and a syrupy black-bean peanut-poked dipping sauce was the first hint we were onto a very good thing. Despite being fried, it was so delicate and light and full of discernible prawnliness. The sauce gave it a salty-sweetness that made the whole dish run the gamut of every kind of wonderful flavour. 
The rice paper rolls were reviving logs of chilled, sober crunch. Salady and textured with seeds and a little chilli. The sidekick pot was ridiculously fragrant and fresh: dip and bite and double dip (no one's watching). All of these pleasant tapas style dishes still couldn't prepare me for the gauzed glory of all that came next.
Nu's vegetarian (or chicken) pad thai w tamarind peanuts + lime in an egg net. Sometimes I am difficult to impress but just the look of this dish had me smiling and clapping like a 5 year old at The Wiggles. I was caught in the egg net, happily, and I hope I stay trapped here forever. This was just unbelievable. So contained, so sculpted, so ready for a good right cracking. I took a fork to the net and tapped hard. Once, twice, three times and the egg shell broke to release a warm and wonderful tangle of gently baked vegetables (pumpkin included) and perfectly textured rice noodle and egg. Threading fresh coriander with sparky sprouts and darts of fire-engine-red chilli through the glorious mass (before adding a squirt of fresh lime and a pretty peanut spattering)is pretty much the best Thai-related experience I think I have ever had. The lightness of this dish was amazing, it hovered off the plate in a fragrant fresh and not-at-all oily heady haze. The egg gave it a bit of richness but never too much - we were looking at ourselves across the table stunned. 
Thin slices of crispy barramundi + water spinach wok fried in Nu's chilli + kaffir lime sambal is basically a pescetarians crisp pork belly. Beautifully textured slices of fresh fish, rough and chewy chilli-licked edges tangled in fired green, oily in a good way and just magnificent to eat. Nu doesn't make the mistake of going so, so spicy that you can't taste anything else. This is one of his spiciest dishes but the chilli keeps its proper place and doesn't do a Gaddafi all over the rest of the dish.
Sweet like youth and gone twice as fast was the gaeng te po tamarind curry w king prawns, kaffir lime + water spinach. Oh-my-lord lovely. A rich, thick and furiously aromatic red curry swamp with lazy and unbeheaded prawns lolling around in all of that coriander smashed water spinach. The prawns were fresh in a way that made the flesh so perfect and salty soft and the tamarind is almost a physical presence at the table, it hovers all over this plate and draws you unrelentingly into the rich, round folds of coconut spiced oblivion. Jesus, Nu. Well done.
Nu's pedigree which includes having worked in some of the best French and Italian restaurants the whole world wide might explain why his dessert menu is a bit of a beautiful Brady Bunch of different influences. Don't be surprised to have to decide between a young coconut creme brulee or a tiramisu. The banana fritters w house made icecream + palm sugar dressing would have had my vote, but I was sadly outvoted on dessert that night. An amazing range of alco and non-alcoholic cocktails sits pretty with a full range of black and herbal tea infusions. Oh, and there's wine as well - most of it from alleged serial killer heartland.
Nu's is simply lovable, i'll be back as soon as I can. It happens at 178 Blues Point Road, McMahons Point. Phone 9954 1780 and Web with full menu and wine lists, Nu's history and bookings here. Nu's is also open for ladies and fellas who lunch, and if you do, it's here you should. Lovely service, swanky, comfortable interior and gobsmacking ethical and wonderfully flavoured homemade sauces, pastes, preserves, sorbets and ice cream. My boyfriend's mother who isn't that impressed by restaurant food said she's glad she's found this place, so you should definitely find it too! Thanks to Dan and Wendy for a lovely late night and to everyone at Nu's for the magic in the belly. 

As an Old Dog, please let me be the first to say that I simply and irrevocably, love Nu's Tricks. 

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Day Traders (aka Stockmarket Cafe, Leura)...

It is with great regret that I concede that we all have to be honest with ourselves, every now and again anyway. I don't want to shock you or anything, really I don't. So sit down and brace yourself for a big one. As it turns out, it kind of sort of seems that I just might perhaps on occasion be a wee bit of a... yuppie. A yuppie. Oh, God, can you imagine? Well, I said it. Said that Awful Dirty Y Word. I feel as though I only ought to whisper it very low and check over my shoulder before I do. Don't get me wrong, I don't have a problem with yuppies myself, I think we're shiny, lovely, empty, well dressed, great examples of trifling humanity - but the yuppie pride movement is still definitely a few decades away (at least). We're still a bit of a persecuted lot, it's true, we have to hide behind our soy green coffee lattes, our pricey woolen ponchos and our seriously overpriced mustard in this crazy little thing called life. Yuppiekind needs a break. Damn it!
And as such, I offer a wonderful tip of where you can get your wild and wanton yuppie on all in the comfort of a single Blue Mountains block - now you will have to travel up the M4 and through Penrith, but you can always pull the windows on your Beamer up and pump your surround sound and AC. So, CakeKnifeYuppieHeads, put your expensive jeans and designer sunglasses on and drop Juan the poodle off at doggie daycare - we're heading to Leura. We are. And after you've browsed in Megalong Books and bought something on modern art that you'll never even open again but will put on the coffee table for guests to see, after you've popped into Whisk and purchased a ceramic French cooking pot, after you've snagged some dark chocolate truffles and orange spiced coverture hot chocolate from Josophans - walked passed all those gimmicky tourist brekkie traps the time is here and the time is true for heading into Leura's true and tireless cafe stellar: Stockmarket Cafe.
Ah. Stockmarket. I have been coming to Leura with family, friends and Dan for years just to eat here. Right here. Right here in this tiny, wooden rustic coffee-sandwich-cake spot. It is always wafting with exactly the sort of aromas that say it's the weekend: strong coffee and freshly baked bread. With a Tetsuya trained chef as the genius behind this cosy cafe, the myriad of magic on each and every plate should be no surprise whatsoever, yet still, it is. 
The menu is painful: lusciously toasted panini such as the leg ham, tomato, gruyere w dijon and wild rocket or open rye sandwiches dancing with chargrilled chicken, tomato, lettuce basil + lemon chive mayo and homemade pies enough to make a yuppie yelp. We started with the roasted vegetable stack drizzled w yoghurt dressing. Well, it wasn't drizzled as such because (like any good yuppie) I asked for the sauce on the side. Beautiful seasonal vegetables, gorgeously oiled and voluptuously gentle: the mushroom was simply intergalactic. So fresh and woody and deep. Twirling vibrant green asparagus through the creamy-cool white dressing was beautiful. This dish was stunningly more than the sum of it's parts - it relies on nothing trickier than amazingly good produce paired well. If it's a little light for your palate, never fear. Meet the dish that Danny loves as much as me...
Stockmarket's famous BLAT - a saucingly sandwichy saga of bacon, lettuce, tomato + avocado w chive mayo (and if, you so choose - a fried egg). Bitching bacon, aching bacon, simply foresakenly baconly grilled in salty-crunch-fat-searing raging against shards of lettuce and dollops of pale green cream-cool avocado with whispers of chive-mayo'ed tomato all bundled for eternity within a beguiling poppy seed speckled toasted turkish. This BLAT is the stuff of urban yuppie legend. You hear about BLAT's this good all the time but you never really try one. If you only came to Stockmarket once and if you only ever ordered one thing, even if you're a Muslim vegan, make it this BLAT. It exists in a world of pure poppy spangled joy, beyond regret, cholesterol and calories. Become one with a Stockmarket BLAT and your life will suddenly start making sense to you again.
Shoestring fries w fresh rosemary and aioli (and mustard and yoghurt dipping sauce if you ask, nicely, for them). Oh my lord. These are the sort of chips to make you cross your legs. They're Stockmarket blue chip chippe stocks. They are burning and brilliant and entirely alive. Crunchy and golden and fired in a beautiful, quality oil, starry with sea salt and dancing in waves of burnt rosemary. They are light and crunchy-salted divinity. Dunk into dijon, absolve in aioli and yield them to yoghurt. Perfectly pretty painting pots of colour and flavour for your delectable hot chip canvas. These are some of Sydney's best chips. They're so elegant and refined but still everything you want a hot chip to be. They're stout, sure, crispy and true, none of those soggy, sorry chip-bastards that go all weak-kneed and wilted when you try to pick and dip them. No, these are like potato soldiers going bravely into battle inside your mouth. Salute them.
And salute the moroccan lamb pie w orange infused yoghurt, salad + fries. If you can say no to the chicken and leek with house made chutney, this is your other pie-hole bound pie option. Bold and steaming and gorgeously poppy seeded, full of deep, intense colour spiked flavour. Oh Pie God, you'll be chuffed. Healthier people who still pack a raging appetite would do incredibly well to go with...
...the open rye egg salad deluxe. A salad cyclone of sorts, this is a truly imposing structure of peppered boiled egg and fresh lettuce avocado capsicum spanish onion cucumber beetroot tasty cheese and tomato. Furiously, ragingly fresh but not at all dry, the rich avocado sliced cheese and egg give a beautiful, collapsing, comforting mouthfeel to all of that fresh, cool, calm and collected cucumberish crunch. Add the slight warm-sourness of a gloriously baked rye and you have whimsical wow on a plate. 
Factor in solid coffee, a range of teas to inspire both the hippies and the yuppies alike and sweet sticky treats that we were entirely too full to even contemplate on this day, and you have the perfect saturday or sunday morning experience. Try and snag the VIP-like window nook which can seat four (or just a romantic two), pull up with the paper, a magazine, a great book or a yuppie ipad 2 and just linger as long as you possibly can - if you're a good yuppie and you did your pilates in the morning, where else could you possibly have to be?
The Stockmarket Cafe happens at 179 Leura Mall, Leura. Phone 4784 3121. Open Daily from 7am - 2pm. This place is everything a cafe should be, it's one of the few places that I still go to years on. Somehow they have never dropped the ball and the quality has stayed as amazing as it did that first time I tried it. There are wonderful eggy breakfasts, pizzas and enchantingly rustic soup specials that will keep you coming back even once you think you've tried everything. Because Stocmarket doesn't have a view out the back, tourists tend to pass it by which makes it even more of a treasure for knowing locals. It's always busy but still private - even at the long communal table. The service is always warm and friendly, mountain people are usually lovely.
The Stockmarket cafe at Leura. This is the only Stockmarket that involves no gamble whatsoever and gives you guaranteed returns every single time: absolute and consistent foodie satisfaction, always, sideways and forever

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Eating In The Library (aka The Wine Library, Woollahra)...

Dana Banana, an otherwise blessed morsel of curly haired ebullience - is generally a lucky girl. She can usually get her way, in life, love and almost anything. And what a way it is! Quick mouthed and sharp witted with an old-man-in-a-Russian-bath-house sense of humour, she doesn't generally settle for the same things the rest of us do. Yes, Dana could can get away with almost anything: speeding fines, cover charges, scarily opinionated directness that has left many a law lecturer not quite knowing how to reply. The lot of it doesn't raise a single worry line on that smooth Mediterranean skin of hers, she's fine. There is however, one man in all of Sydney who seems resolutely impervious to Banana's charms. She can't win him over. Can't scare him. Can't stop him. He's the only one - possibly in the whole wide world.
This singular specimen of manhood, this kryptonite to Dana's Supermanesque feminine wiles works in the Freehills Library at Sydney Law School. With a shy smile, a bald dome and some seriously kitsch taste in heavily patterned shirts, he always manages to find Dana when she's molar deep into a juicy, crunchy illicit apple. Doesn't matter what time of day or how subtle she tries being. Doesn't matter if she's hiding behind a contract law textbook or under a table in the Thunderdome. Time and time again, he finds her and he warns her: no eating in the library. Time and time again, she gets busted doing just that. Poor Dana. I could tuck into oysters kilpatrick and a steak diane without getting busted. I could munch popcorn and soft shell crab all day long and he would never say a word to me, but poor Dana.... If she so much as imagines nibbling half of half of an almond sliver, there he appears. Stern, unimpressed and threatening. They must be connected in some deep and soulful way that keeps screwing up her ability to stay nourished while she studies - either that or it's CCTV.
Not one to back down, Banana stands her ground, argues for the right to an occasional apple: law school is hard, hungry work after all. What's a girl to do? If you ask me, Dana's been pulling too many hours in the wrong kind of library. She should get her tuchus out of Usyd and into Woollahra's itty, bitty sleek slice of Sydney-but-all-grown-up drinking and dining Pow-Wow-ring: The Wine Library. A dusky, styled, tinkling and buzzing little jewel box of a bar/restaurant space that boasts a full bodied and hot blooded menu to accompany a veritable ocean of plonk and doesn't need to rely on a water view to sell it? Is this Melbourne or Sydney? It's Woollahra, baby. So pull your socks up, brush your hair, tuck in your polo shirt to a beige type of pant, prefabricate some casually informed opinions on the property market, stocks and modern art and, in the words of my good man Swearengen, act civilized, even if you ain't. The Wine Library isn't a kid's club, and thank god for that.
If you're expecting a token bar menu, shame on you. You should know better by now. The Wine Library has a cosy, dark nook of a restaurant at the back of it's Oxford Street fronted bar and you just might need a solid understanding of the Dewey decimal system to work your way through the generously proportioned menu that runs the glorious gamut from black truffle through english mustard-smacked pork pie and all the way to a beguiling blood plum + pine nut tart. The menu is hot and heavy, get ready to froth at your made-up mouth...
The moment I locked eyes on a little saucy something they like to call the toasted Stracchino + Black Truffle Quesadilla I knew this was a menu to get lost in. Forget all of your culinary parameters. Forget the no bread and cheese stuff. Forget the way your nose wrinkles when you think of Chicken Liver Parfait. Throw caution (and cholesterol) to the wind, it's time to eat the way the gods intended. A menu this wild and reckless is a bit of a challenge, a bit of a come hither to your darker side. Man up and take it all on. This thin, savoury black-truffle tortured toasted cheese seraph-sphere was a warm, molten and sultry Once Upon a Time to what became an absolute fairytale of a meal. Salted cheese with a black truffle bass line booming from beneath a perfectly diaphanous and floured quesadilla quilt: if your gob isn't smacked then i'll smack it for you.
Once you've said cheese once, it's time to say it again with the grilled haloumi + lemon. Forget America and it's claims to be the leader of the free world. Forget Russia and its communism. Even forget Rome and its long, straight roads. History needs to remember Cyprus for inventing haloumi. Haloumi has done more for the pleasure of females all over the world than men could ever hope to do. Some men like haloumi, but ladies simply love it. This gorgeous Wine Library version is hellish: you don't want a haloumi that's smaller and perfectly cut. The more rustic looking square like shape should be a sign that you're about to embark on a truly epic cheese. Salty-squeaky-burnt-gorgeous. A squirt of lemon and you close your eyes and dream.
Danny, who is a partial to a good pate, went as gaga over the Chicken Liver + Vin Santo Parfait w Toasted Sourdough as a laid back surfer boy with a permanently sleepy nature and a Barry-White-deep voice can. Watching him smear thick and swriling knifefuls of pale, creamy pink onto beautiful bread that had a slight and subtle smokiness was nice plate drama. Given that animal's livers aren't the most appetisizing things i can countenance, i consider it a great compliment to the chef that the bite I tried honestly didn't make me want to wretch: must've been amazing pate.
We sparked up all of this bread and cheese with an exquisite saladish side of cabbage, white balsamico + Parmigiano w mint. Tart, fresh, ferocious and alive. This was a gorgeous melange of cool, crispy cabbage with little shards of creamy parmesan that lent little dollops of delectable depth. It left a tart and terrific sheen on the palate and the mind.
Cured artisanal meats...
Green beans + red onion moshing in a mustard vinaigrette...
And then we arrive. It hurts. It hurts to relive this and not have it in front of me now. Oh My God. Vishnu and Apollo and Buddha and Jarvier Bardem. Oh-my-every-god-there-ever-was-and-is: baked polenta, fontina + duck ragu (pasticciata). This isn't a dish, no, not at all. It isn't a meal or a main or any other such pedestrian thing. What this is is a portal into the inner recesses of flavour. Every full and fabulous flavour you could ever imagine must have crawled into this little white dish, lay down side by side and gone to sleep under a scorching oven for a sweet, earthly while. This salty, steaming, messy, cheesy, molten, tender-aching duck shredded spectacular in baked polenta is the kind of meal that makes me violently happy. Riotous and salty and creamy and textured and full and oozing and dripping and strong and rich and well baked and set and smooshingly satisfying. Steaming spoonful after spoonful and the whole table was getting into it. This is alive. Incendiary. It is a very wonderful thing to do to each and every taste bud you have.  
As is rita's eggplant parmigiana. Scorched devil in a pot. Layers of slippery baked eggplant drowning in cheese and tomato and burnt and scorched into its own inner self.
Lord help me. This was sweet like springtime and cosy and flaming like a fire inside on a blustery autumn day. The tomato had no acidity whatsoever, it was so full and flamed and gentle. I kept going between this and the ragu and all the while the circuits in my body were darting between my eyes and my hand my brain and my heart and my mouth and my toes.
I am surprised this menu didn't self combust. With an all day panini line up that features aged salami and mozzarella, spiced lamb, caramelised onion and gruyere, fennel pollen maionese and kippered herrings on toast, The Wine Library dining is absolutely anything you want it to be. The Brunch until 4pm section took the ends of both of my thumbs and raised them firmly and decidedly up. The idea of random huevos rancheros or fruit toast + butter or pikelets w blueberries well into the late afternoon tells me louder and clearer than anything else in this world ever could: there is a god, and he totally has my (pudgey) back.
Dessert? Duh. Treacle + Walnut Cheesecake. Scream, no one can stop you. This was a sublime little cylinder of heavy, sultry cream cheese sepia-sweet with sticky treacle and invisible walnut. Firm and glazed and glowing. Brilliant to lay into with a silver spoon and fork. Silver into cream cheese heart and spiked against perfect, crumbly-nutty-golden base.
A moussey detour into frothy chocolate and then...
The vin santo baked custard + caramel. There was no was something that sounded like this was ever going to taste bad. But the delicate little glass pot bearing baked custardly-caramel-kissed cloud swirls still surpassed every height of sweet-tooth imagination. Saucy and clinking and sweet and creamed. Ivory smudging into and against glassy caramel, luminous and luscious and so, so dainty. Not that the boys would describe it this way. Ahh. Dessert. What have I become, My sweetest friend. Every cake I love goes away in the end. When all else fails the only thing you really count on in this world is the ability of a phenomenal dessert to remind you why you are here and where you are going. Blood plum + pine nut tart and the raspberry and lambrusco jelly w vanilla ice cream are also there to show you the sweet, sure way.
Dizzy with wine. Drunken on soft caramel sugar with a belly full of polenta baked duck. Edges were blurred, shoulders were liquefied, sighs were rolled off the back of loosened throats and we all agreed that this was one of the most surprising and, I am sorry for the cliche, but also most seductive places to get your supper on.
The Wine Library is winning hearts, livers and mouths at 18 Oxford Street, Woollahra. Ph 9360 5686. The opening hours during Weekdays + Sat from 9am - 10pm with Sun from 9am - 12am make this a curious option for all day eating in a Sydney done to death with cafes and coffee bars. 
One of my favourite things about The Wine Library is that it isn't too trendy. Rather than trying to appeal to fickle youths (god how I sound my age and/or like Vincent Gambini in My Cousin Vini), they've gone for a classic and sophisticated menu and feel that doesn't march to the beat of how we are used to eating in Sydney. There are lighter options but this is really a place to go when you want a good, solid old-school meal that will truly break your heart with joy.
Special thanks to go to the wonderful Sabry who guided us effortlessly through the menu to a damn amazing meal and to Dan and Dad for waiting 5-10 minutes before being allowed to try anything so I could get the perfect photos. Extra special thanks to bibliophile JB for tolerating a library with no books in it.
Get into The Wine Library. Go on, do it, if only because you won't find many places in Sydney were you can eat something delicious at 10am or 3pm. 

The Wine Library: they're rewriting the book on how to eat out. Shhhh.