GROLLA in Neutral Bay is one of my favourite “semi” local venues. Owners Paolo and Lek (also the Chef) invited me into their restaurant about a year ago and I fell in love with the food. I honestly can’t put a cuisine type to the venue. Lek loves to smoke, they make great burgers, pastas, pizzas, fine dining dishes and the desserts blow my mind. Their food also has some Asian and French influence and the best way to describe them would be that buzz-word “fusion.” Lek’s just an epic cook so they cook good food and it all works well together.
Their small venue is near Maccas in Neutral Bay and the above pic is mostly what you get. There is probably one more table on each side of the venue and behind me taking this pic is the glass entry wall that looks onto the path and Military Road. There is no parking directly out front but you can generally find plenty in the side streets, usually on the other side of Military Road. Their art changes and the above pic was taken a year ago, not long since opening. The venue now has different art, a liquor licence and is more established. They will soon be shrinking the size of the bar slightly which will open it up for a few more tables.
The one thing I have noticed on my multiple visits (with bestie Sam) is that Paolo and Lek treat you like you are in their home dining room. Paolo has joined us for dessert and a drink on both visits and we tend to talk more about Netflix shows than them promoting the venue and that makes me very happy. And he doesn’t need to promote the place – Lek’s food and their hospitality do it all splendidly without words.
The venue is regularly booked out for group bookings who hire the entire venue out and they do some semi-regular events so ensure you book. They have two nights of whisky and food pairing this and next month, are looking at wine pairing night and a little rumour I hope to spread is that they may have a truffle night before the end of winter. Fingers crossed.
The menu changes quarterly (approximately) and the standard menu does not have burgers on it. There is a separate burger menu you may need to actually ask for. I would call the eating style fine dining with comfortable flourishes. They occasionally have specials and their pairing nights have special dishes for the nights on hand. Those prawns below are a sample dish I tested before their first whiskey night – it was decadent as all hell and lucky Sam likes whiskey – I can’t do it. Give me gin and wine any day!
On my first visit about a year ago we inhaled the above (and below) three starters.
- Signature-Smoked Citrus Kingfish Carpaccio with yuzu olive oil, beet dust, radish and cured cucumber. Simply divine – a 5/5 dish. This one is still on the menu.
- Smoked Salmon Carpaccio with saffron lime mayo, flying fish roe and radish. I preferred the Kingfish but this mayo needs to be sold in bottles!!
- Garlic tiger prawn with avocado mousse, mango salsa and crispy egg pastry. Another 5/5 dish – it annoyed me sharing this with Sam.
On our most recent visit, of which everything is still on the menu, we started with the…
- Yamba prawn with pickled fennel, radish, watercress and a pesto aioli. This was only for the whisky evening so I am not sure if they will be bringing this to the menu.
- Fries topped with grated Truffle Pecorino. There are no words – it has truffle and pecorino, I usually just sit there and lick them all and then eat them. I have requested this on each visit. They also do a loaded fries but I would recommend this over that.
- Apple Wood Smoked & glazed chicken wings. Just divine – that marinade was heaven! We ate this on our first visit but it’s still going strong.
- Fungi Misti Tagliatelle, Gorgonzola cream. Mixed mushrooms of Porcini, Champignon, Shiitake and rocket, topped with Truffle Pecorino – if pasta’s your thing this dish will highly impress. We shared this more as an entree.
- Signature 7-hrs Smoked and Roasted Beef Short Ribs (gf) served with Grolla verde, mustard, pickles and roasted vegetables. This is was succulently served and a definite favourite dish of mine for 2017. The presentation alone was sublime and meat was cooked perfectly. Sam shaved as much off the bone as he could and then we may or may not have gnawed some off the bone.
I haven’t eaten the rest of the mains but they have a Pork Cheek and Jowls dish that I need to eat and a Roasted Ocean Trout Fillet that sounds like heaven.
The first time I visited I shot some pics and a video (below) of a decadent burger Grolla created. Said pics and video went viral – the burger became famous and the rest is history. Their crazy burger was a Beef Short Rib burger that was served with bone-in for photos on a bun topped with gold leaf. It was insane and I couldn’t get enough of it. They have removed the gold leaf now but the burger is still one of their signature dishes and people still visit just for the burger.
- Signature Smoked beef short rib – house slaw, lettuce, tomato, bbq sauce, mustard, pickles and cheese. I gave this a 4.6/5 when I first reviewed it on burger forums.
- Crunchy Battered Petite Prawns – house slaws, lettuce, tomato, mustard, pickles and cheese. This is their new burger and is somewhat Asian influenced. While it was delicious I suggested some fresh chillies on it and/ or coriander as it needed that Asian flavour kick. Maybe a sriracha slaw? Bring that on!!
They have quite a few more to choose from – you won’t be disappointed, Lek is an artist in the kitchen.
Sam and I have shared a dessert on each of our visits and they were both sublime.
- Mascarpone & Rhubarb Semifreddo with strawberry dust, pistachio, fresh berries, rhubarb and cardamom drizzle. I LOVE this dessert and I cannot wait to have it again!
- Cardamom Creme Brûlée & Pineapple Compote. “The pineapple was a work of genius.” Sam said it twice and I completely agree. Firstly the crack of that shell was the best I have ever had – just check out the video below!! Secondly the cardamon flavour was unique and added a new level to the brûlée but the addition of the pineapple was a perfect pairing and tasted AH-MAAAA-ZING. One of the best brûlées I have ever had.
GROLLA is a wonderful fusion venue in Neutral Bay. The hosts, Paolo and Lek, make you feel incredibly welcome and Lek’s food is fanbloodytastic. There really is nothing to fault and I can’t wait to dine back here again.
SCORE BREAKDOWN: 3/3 food, 2/2 service, 1/1 drinks, 1/1 venue & ambience, 1/1 cost, 1/1 toilets and 0/1 bonus
PH: 0490 533 023
256 Military Rd, Neutral Bay NSW 2089
HOURS: Tue – Sat for dinner only
BAR: Licensed bar
LOCAL DELIVERY: Yes
VEGETARIAN OPTIONS: Yes
GLUTEN FREE OPTIONS: Yes
KID FRIENDLY: Yes
*** JK (and any guests of Spooning Australia) were invited guests of the establishment and/or any PR agencies representing them. However, as always, if it was shite I would happily tell you as such.