Syracuse when old school is the new school
Syracuse has been an eternally good performer serving up solid Italian and winning every wine award under the sun! It disappeared for a while after a blue with a well known food writer and the venue subsequently sold.
Our CBD does not stand still these days, with new restaurants, celebrity chefs, artisanal coffee shops, cool bars, eating houses and food court franchises galore opening and closing quicker than our politicians expense accounts. What’s cooking now? I wondered on my way to Syracuse.
The room is still incredible and the wine list probably still one of our best. What excited me the most on this visit was the youthful enthusiasm and energy we experienced with the food, wine selections and service. This team seems to be really enjoying what they are doing, based on my recent experience!
The menu appears to be a modern Oz version of a classic wine bar with new electric and refined small plates. The odd awesome sounding dish for two and some mature dishes no doubt for local judges and peace keepers located nearby.
We started with Jed Blanc de blancs Mendoza, Argentina, served with a Roasted parsnip and apple soup, chestnuts, rosemary - lovely autumn flavours, harmonious and bright.
Next we had an unusual dish of Cauliflower panna cotta, caramelised yoghurt, green olive, rye. This artfully forest floor styled panna Cotta was a riot of texture and acidity all of which was necessary for this fine, rich example of vegetarian gastronomy. Perfectly matched to the crisp and flinty Terzini Pecorino, Abruzzo, Italy.
The next dish was equally refined and deftly presented, Very slowly cooked white polenta, wild mushrooms, toasted oats, mushroom gravy. The wording of the menu seemingly at odds with the elegance of the presentation. The flavours were true and delicious, we just felt it was a very similar in flavour and texture to the previous dish.
Next up was a refreshing version of surf and turf! Hervey Bay scallop sashimi, lemon, black garlic aioli and puffed beef tendon where the perfectly sweet scallops and chicharone esque beef crisps teamed up with savoury unami rich black garlic mayo made from fermented and roasted black garlic. It’s great to see and taste a sensible use of this outstanding ingredient. This was partnered to an elegant Adega Algueira Brandon Godello, Ribeira Sacra, Spain.
This dish was followed by the only miss of the night, a take on, I think, of a Japanese crab cake with a touch of Japanese humour ‘Umami’ crab stick, lemon and saffron butter. The cake was fashioned into a Californian seafood roll dipped in an ok tempura batter and deep fried, but it was the presence of the saffron butter that appeared to be more mayonnaise and too pungent with saffron, which we found very rich with our Evesham Wood Oregon Pinot Noir.
Next we had the Smoked duck breast, moscato soaked raisins, fennel and vanilla, apple, foie gras. The perfectly smoked duck, sliced and artfully presented alongside boozy rasins, aniseed fennel, fresh apple and foie was perfection with Domaine de la Charbonniere, Cotes du Rhone, France.
Our final savoury course was Flinders Island wallaby sausage, beetroot pickled in watermelon, lardo. Wallaby and other indigenous proteins are enjoying a trendy comeback, but used in these type of dishes their wild gamey notes supported by more fat and texture of a well made sausage you can see there is a good argument for more indigenous foods on our tables. These fine snags were partnered with sweet n sour flavours of beetroot and watermelon and our world class Torbreck 'The Steading' GSM, Barossa Valley.
The service throughout was mostly faultless in terms of relaying the right elements of wine and food service. The only miss being a response to where the Pecorino wine was from, our waiters response being Italy when we were looking for a more precise regional Abruzzo and also being told to use a spoon for soft polenta seemed too literal for the edible art presented. Small detail when the food, wine and ambience are so special, but if you’re chasing awards it is something to be aware of!
For dessert, a Cherry Bombe, chamomile meringue, limoncello and a Cannoli, sweet potato custard, malt crumbs, spiced milk chocolate kept the spirit of adventure running through the entire menu.
The Bombe was served with a test tube of limoncello, because we needed more alcohol, but it did add some acidity and warmth to the very sweet cherry, perfectly matched to Mitchelton’s Botrytis riesling.
The sweet potato Cannoli was very good indeed with the intellectual reinvention filling of sweet potatoes and vanilla Chantilly. Just too large a serving of more creamy goodness for our pallets, but helped wonderfully by the Alasia Moscato D’asti.
We experienced some very good cooking indeed which just needs some more textural debate. A small criticism when you consider chef Hugh Sanderson's creative kitchen is performing miracles out of Melbourne’s smallest kitchen. However, the whole experience from start to finish was underpinned by the inspired wine choices of venue manager Patrick Berry.
Both gentlemen and the team are refreshingly humble and talented. In a town of rock star chefs and sommeliers these talents and this venue should be, again, on our restaurant hot list!
What Wilson says - A food and wine lover’s playground surrounded by history.
When can we go - Monday to Friday: 7am till late; Saturday: 6pm till late;